Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Wine Encyclopedia you can trust

Everywhere you turn these days, there's some new forum you can peruse for wine information. There are countless blogs (good and not-so-good), there are streaming videos at YouTube or at winery websites and there are articles at online sites that sell wine.

And yes, there are still books available that can provide the reader with information about a particular wine or often a large group of wines. While you should be able to trust what's written in a book (especially given the time necessary to write and edit the book as opposed to a blog that's often composed in a manner of minutes), we know that there are too many mistakes in too many wine books currently in the marketplace.

So where does the average wine lover turn to for the most intelligent and insightful information on wine? The best and easiest to understand work that I've encountered as of late is the Oz Clarke Pocket Wine Book 2013. This book has been published for numerous years and it's updated for each edition (something that you would think would be the norm for a wine book, but I can tell you that it's not), so the information is quite up to date and accurate.

But more than that, it's a great way to educate yourself about the world of wine and much of that is due to Clarke's manner in which he presents his material. I first met Oz about ten years ago after hearing a great deal about his knowledge regarding the wines of the world. Sometimes people in that position are a bit much to handle, as their egos constantly need to be fed. Well, that's certainly not the case with Oz, who's quite funny and has a wonderful sense of humor. He's actually a classically trained actor who performed in numerous productions of the plays of Shakespeare and he's got a great palate, as evidenced by his being the youngest ever person to win the title of "British Wine Taster of the Year," way back in 1973. Perhaps it's the various avenues that Oz has taken before winding up as a wine writer and critic, but whatever the recipe, it's been a winning one, as he has become one of the world's most respected wine personalities, all the while maintaining his humility.

A few notes on the book. This is in encyclopedic format, so the entires are easy to find - they are also well organized. You'll find entries on producers (more than 4500), wine regions and grape types. A star  system is used to rate various wines and for each wine highlighted, recommended vintages are listed. This last feature also deals with vintages that are meant for current consumption and those that need a bit more time in the bottle. 

Here's an example of the entries from just two pages under the letter "N": Napa Valley; Navarra; Navarro (the California producer as opposed to the Navarra district of Spain); Nebbiolo; Nebbiolo d'Alba; Nelson (a wine district in New Zealand); Nero d'Avola; Neuchatel; Neudorf (another wine zone in New Zealand) and New South Wales. That's a lot of ground to cover and it's only two pages from the "n" section of the book!

There are some more detailed entries for famous wine zones (Napa Valley, Burgundy) as well as grape types (Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc). These full-page entries are very informative, with lists of the best producers that work in these areas or with these grape types. Add to that vintage charts - both for relatively recent releases as well as older wines - and you've got quite a lot of bang for your buck. This is especially true, given the price of $14.95 ($17.95 in Canada).

Well done, Oz!

Oz Clarke Pocket Wine Book, Pavilion Press, 368 pages