Summer is a great time to drink wine, read, and read about wine. Yes, I know, you’re sooooo tempted to just stock up on, like People magazine and trashy novels, for example, and just let your brain fry along with your skin—and sure, why not? But—if you grab one of the books described below, which talk about wine but also about culture, history, and sociology, you’ll see that reading about wine is a great way to pass time. Plus, come September, you’ll be the educated wine lover amongst your friends, all sharp and ready to show off your new knowledge. Check out one of these reads, all stellar offerings published within the last few years, and spend your hours away poolside or upon the sand ingesting some serious wine knowledge while relaxing, and even getting a good laugh.
American Wino, Dan Dunn, 2016
In this wine-soaked, male version of Eat, Pray, Love, beer and spirits writer Dunn visits winemakers in all 50 states, and chronicles his personal mid-life crisis. Dunn actually didn’t have much wine knowledge when he set out on this journey, so the reader learns and explores with him. I mean, what goes better with existentialism, than wine? This is a funny page-turner that could easily go into your beach bag.
For The Love Of Wine, Alice Feiring, 2016
New York wine writer Alice Feiring is a proponent of natural wines and has a subscription-based newsletter on the subject. This book focuses on traditional aspects of winemaking in the post-Soviet Georgia today, and how that culture is threatened by modernization and commercialization in the global wine market. You may not know that Georgia didn’t even have a commercial wine industry until it was occupied by the Soviets, who made Georgia their primary source of juice. This book’s an engaging read that not only reveals how geopolitics impact winemaking, but offers tidbits of knowledge about oenology and even a few Georgian recipes.
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The New California Wine, Jon Bonné, 2013
Bonné is one of the country’s most authoritative wine writers, and this book is a pioneering study of the current generation of California winemakers and the state’s winemaking history and terroir. After outlining the influence of Prohibition, the rise of Napa Valley following the 1976 Judgment of Paris, Bonné moves on to discuss the current scene, including lesser-known California appellations (as in, beyond Napa and Sonoma) and the urban wineries that have popped up in Berkeley. With a hardcover and beautiful photographs throughout, it’s a book to read a chapter of here and there, to slowly familiarize yourself with California’s best vineyards.
Thirsty Dragon, Suzanne Mustacich, 2015
Bordeaux, once the preferred wine of the British elite, has in recent decades found a new fan base: amongst the wealthy in China. Mustacich tells the fascinating story of how the Chinese became the world’s biggest consumer of Bordeaux wine from the region’s top, most expensive and prestigious chateaux. This book is a well-researched, narrative-driven look at the futures market for fine wine, and at the international wine market.
Natural Wine, Isabelle Legeron, 2014
If you’re getting into natural wine (meaning, organic, biodynamic, and minimally doctored wine), or curious about what it is, Legeron’s book is an excellent and thorough introduction. Legeron is a London-based Master of Wine and founded the RAW Wine Fair, an annual tasting with natural winemakers from around the world (it started in London and has also launched in Berlin and will debut in Brooklyn this year). Legeron’s hardcover book is a well-done, fact-based, explainer on what natural wine is, with lots of beautiful color photos.
Hungry for Wine, Cathy Huyghe, 2015
Huyghe writes about wine for Forbes.com, and her book explores the cultural and political underpinnings of wine across the world, in regions like Israel and South Africa. It uses wine as a lens for investigating society, revealing that fermented grapes are full of not just alcohol and flavor, but also sociology, history, and personal stories. Huyghe offers wine pairings for each chapter—can’t you just picture yourself, relaxing on your patio or in the living room with the window open, sipping Pinot Noir and reading a chapter?
American Wine: A Coming-of-Age Story, Tom Acitelli, 2015
This is a historical, thorough study of how American wine emerged as a world player. Factual and exhaustive, it sets the stage with Prohibition, then delves into the rise of important Napa Valley figures like Robert Mondavi, and those who followed him; it’s an ideal book for readers with a historical mindset.