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Wine 101 is a FREE OnLine Wine Education Course Includes: Dionysus vs Diogenes | Why Wine? | Wine & Health | Social History | Sensory User's Manual | Wine Growing | Wine Making | Varietal Profiles | Sparkling Wine Consumerism information on Bottle Shapes and Sizes, Reading Labels, Selecting and Buying Strategies, Recommendations for Corkscrews and Glassware, Serving Order and Temperature, Cellaring, etc. Taste includes the compiled Wine Tasting Notes from our monthly panel, Reports on public tasting events and a Food & Wine section with Pairing Suggestions and even some wine-friendly Recipes. Aftertaste includes one section we call "Wrath", serving our Opinions and Editorials, and another we titled "Bacchanalia", with our Reading List suggestions and pages of Links to additional wine information. About contains information on Site Conventions used, stories of the Group Formation & Website Genesis, Acclaim & Awards, Biographic Sketches of our Tasting Panelists and Contact & Sponsor information. Return to the starting point.

Here are books that served as background, many of them used as primary sources of information for the content of this web site. Many are works of reference, some presented more as entertainment, but still offering much educational material despite the less intimidating format. They are listed in my subjective order from most-to-least important as the answer to "What books should I have in my wine library?" Clicking on the title or cover of many of these will open a new browser window on Amazon, where the books may be purchased. (We thank you for each sale, which contributes to the growth and maintenance of the Professional Friends of Wine site, as well as your personal wine education.)

Oxford Companion to Wine, compiled and edited by Jancis Robinson (Oxford University), is our favorite source and reference for wine information. It is the most ambitious, comprehensive and authoritative wine-themed encyclopedia yet published. Entries cover a wide range of common and technical topics addressing nearly every aspect of wine appreciation, commerce, culture, history, production, service, variety, etc. Over 3,000 entries, alphabetically arranged, explain matters from the obvious to the obscure, presenting a much wider scope of subjects than previous similar reference volumes. Each entry is contributed by one or more of 70 top experts from their particular field or specialty of wine study. Charts, illustrations, maps, and photographs help to illuminate throughout. If wine interests you beyond idle chatter, this is the one reference you should own. Academie du Vin, Wine Course by Steven Spurrier & Michel Doraz (GP Putnam & Sons). At its core, this is one of the best of all wine appreciation text books. It presents a logical and organized approach with chapters on chemistry, consumer issues, the vine life cycle and physiology, as well as the requisite geography, viticulture, production, and variety description categories. Hopefully, recent editions have incorporated developments and discoveries in the nearly three decades since first published, since some of the finer points and details are either inaccurate ("excess of glycerol will also help the formation of fine 'legs'') or out-dated ("Ampelography ... is imprecise", etc) and the wines used as examples are now relics. Even in its original, obsolete edition, it is an overall excellent guide to appreciating and understanding wine.

Wine Grape Varieties in Californiacover "Wine Grape Varieties in California", various authors & contributors (University of California) is a general primer on wine grape characteristics, as well as a collection of detailed profiles of 36 separate varieties. Each includes such detailed information as the source or origin of the variety, descriptions of the vine, leaves, and fruit, clonal information, viticultural practices, winery use, etc. As a field guide, this book is invaluable for any Californian growing grapes or making wine from them; it also provides first-rate background for greater depth of perception in the wine consumer.

NOTE: Any information about similar English-language publications for wine grapes grown in Asian, Australian, European, South African, or South American countries would be greatly appreciated. eMail Jim LaMar

Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours by Julia Harding, Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz (published in England by Allen Lane/Penguin and in the USA by Ecco/Harper-Collins). This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date tome on varieties of wine grapes grown throughout the world, includes vine morphology, viticultural characteristics, typical sensory descriptions, etc., along with images and charts. Unique among the references I've found, the researchers combined DNA fingerprinting techniques and historical records to trace parentage and reveal familial relationships between varieties. Excellent explanations of the various reproductive terms, processes and results, such as crosses (natural versus man-made), clones, and hybrids. In addition to the hard cover version, there is also a Kindle version at considerable savings, but the format makes the familial charts hard to follow.

The Great Wine Grapes dust jacket for "The Great Wine Grapes" by Bern C Ramey (Great Wine Grapes, Inc.). This large, artistic format, contains portraits of sixteen white varieties and fourteen red, beautifully photographed by the author's son Timothy B Ramey, accompanied by calligraphic typography covering the style, history, geographic extent and commercial outlook of each grape, along with viticultural profile by Dr Lloyd Lider. Although the book is out-of-print and some content is out-of-date, used copies are available periodically and the volume is worth adding to any wine library, if strictly for the beauty of the photographs and calligraphy.

The late Bern Ramey was a member of the first graduating class of seven from the UC Davis School of Viticulture and Enology, along with Peter Mondavi and the late Joe Heitz. This book took over twenty years to complete.

NOTE: Many of Tim Ramey's photographs are reproduced, with permission, on the pages of PfW's Varietal Profiles section, but these do scant justice to the dramatic beauty of the originals. Tim Ramey Photography is located in Chicago, Illinois.

The World Atlas of Wine, by Hugh Johnson (Simon and Schuster): Beautifully design and organized, includes lots of photos, drawings, graphs and charts, in addition to maps covering geography, topography and rainfall, not to mention the author's impeccably well-written text.

Without regard to political boundaries and borders, nearly all wine-growing and producing locales are beautiful. Grapevines are rather like humans in their preference for climates rendered temperate by coastlines, elevation, or riverbank.

I believe that the traditional wine education curriculum focusses much too heavily on geography, while somewhat down playing the roles played by both grape variety and wine making science. Until thirty years ago, this was the valid way of learning about wine. In the past three decades, in both the vineyard and the winery, great technological changes (some would credit these as "improvements" what others would denigrate only as "shortcuts") simultaneously made wines more sound and palatable, but less unique to appellation of origin. So, I find this emphatically geographic approach outmoded and provincial, slanted to the promotion of wine commerce and the perplexity of wine consumers.

Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine Cover of Vineyard Gerald Asher (Chronicle). My favorite wine writer has an informal and personal style that puts wine in context and the reader in places and with people, giving topics heart and soul, while serving lessons between the lines that are very entertaining and seldom dry; this collects essays from Gourmet Magazine, where Mr Asher began as wine editor in 1975, and adds previously unpublished articles. See also these Asher titles which explore the heart and soul of understanding wine rather than explaining the details ...


A Vineyard in My GlassCover of Vineyard In My Glass.  by Gerald Asher (University of California Press): Mr Asher presents wine essays so comfortably the reader scarcely realizes they are gaining knowledge and insight in addition to being amused and thoroughly entertained...

On Wine Cover of On Gerald Asher: An older offering that may be more difficult to obtain, but as with a rare aged wine, worth seeking out.
A Companion to California Wine: Cover of A Companion to California Wine. An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present by Charles L Sullivan (University of California Press: Berkeley). Since the early 1980s, Mr Sullivan has established himself the leading historian for any topic relating to wine in California. This book is an excellent example of the breadth and depth of his research and expertise. Wine Myths & Reality Cover of Wine Myths & Benjamin Lewin (Vendange Press) is a very well-researched and thorough work with content much less provocative than its title. Topics are explored with more depth and logic and with less dogma and opinion than many other works that attempt to explain wine complexities.
A History of Wine in America, Volume 2: From Prohibition to the Present by Thomas Pinney looks at how historical events of the 20th Century and how politics, economics, and social progress affected the spread of wine production across the United States and also the patterns and growth of consumption among its citizens. Wine: An Introduction, Cover Wine: An Maynard A Amerine and Vernon L Singleton (University of California Press): Very good general wine book, THE text for introduction to wine appreciation where understanding is more important than romance; available in both hardback and paperback editions. How to Test and Improve your Wine Judging Ability, Cover of How to Test and IMprove Your Wine Judging Irving H Marcus (Wine Publications 1974): Just as the title of this paperback promises; unpretentious, direct and to-the-point with suggested exercises that remain useful and timely.
North American Pinot Noir Cover of North American Pinot John Winthrop Haeger (University of California Press) explores what was long held to be the underdog terroir for this variety. Vineyard and producer profiles are compared and contrasted to Burgundy; very scholarly. The Winemaker's Encyclopedia, by Ben Turner and Roy Roycroft (Faber and Faber): This thorough and invaluable reference is loaded with information, but succeeds by limiting its scope to topics concerning or surrounding wine production (unfortunately out of print). Although organized as more of an how-to manual than a reference, Turner's The Winemaker's Companion has some similarity. Kevin Zraly Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 30th Anniversary EditionCover image of Kevin Zraly's Winedows on the World Wine Course is designed as an introductory course on wine for restaurant wine service for the beginner. Although it heavily emphasizes basic characteristics of the worlds' wine growing regions and geography, it also touches on sensory physiology, viticulture, and wine production and is overall a very good basic book to be used as a prelude to further study.
Wine: A Basic Course by Tom Forrest (Thunder Bay Press 2003) contains many beautiful full-color photos of wine processes and regions. The small format (5.5" x 7.5") makes it more suitable as a travel guide than a bookshelf addition. As with many books of this type, it could use more in-depth explanations and fewer specific vintage wine references, which render the material outdated soon after publishing. Commonsense Book of Wine, by Leon Adams (Houghton Mifflin Company 1964): This well-meaning primer claims to "untangle(s) the mysteries of buying, storing, serving and enjoying wine" (but also barely explains or even completely ignores some important topics). The Joys of Wine, Cover of The Joys of Clifton Fadiman and Sam Aaron (Harry N Abrams, Inc. 1974): Another large format, loaded with a very entertaining mixture of facts and topically illustrative fiction; essays, short stories, photos, drawings, maps, charts, instruction, etc. Unfortunately, this one is out of print, but The New Joys of Wine, essentially the same book updated in 1990 with newer vineyard and vintage info, may be easier to find.
The Supply, the Care and the Sale of Wine, by André L Simon (Duckworth & Co): dated material (1920s), but interesting from the perspective of a merchant and in the historical context. Wine Tasting, by Michael Broadbent (Christie's Wine Publications): Another good, basic wine appreciation text, although somewhat more high-toned, less commonsense than Leon Adams' title. The Physiology of Taste, Cover of THe Physiology of Taste by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin translated by MFK Fisher (North Pointe Press): French lawyer's 1825 thesis made up of "meditations," as opposed to chapters, on wide-ranging elements and concerns in gastronomy; considered a classic among gourmets and foodies; available as hardback or paperback. Can be especially interesting to read while eating...

Updated December 30, 2015
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