February 3 2011
To say that 2010 was an embarrassment of riches for the wine book reading enthusiast would be an understatement. The fact is, there were so many good wine-related books published last year that 2011 wine book publishing could take a hiatus and come back in January of 2012 fit, tan and rested.
From Reading Between the Wines by Terry Theise to Opus Vino curated and edited by Jim Gordon, 2011 had it all – from manifesto to magnum opus.
Despite this, the furious clamber for “new” continues unabated and there is to be no resting on the laurels for wine book publishing. Yet, regrettably, with 2010 as a high-water mark, it would seem the tidewaters are ebbing back to pre-2010 wine book quality publishing levels—as indicated by a review of future publication dates on Amazon.com, the types of wine books that hook a broader audience are slim and moving back to the formulaic.
In careful analysis (read: scratch paper and pen in the kitchen), I’ve determined that there are approximately 11 (give or take one) categories for wine publishing, and unless in the hands of the truly gifted, each of these categories of wine publishing are mostly a snooze fest save for the “General Interest” category.
The general interest category is usually where the large publishers get it right – books like The Billionaire’s Vinegar or The Judgment of Paris represent enough of a story angle to hook the mere curious.
One could argue whether the following four books truly fall into the general interest category, yet of the dozens and dozens of new wine books that will hit the shelves and e-readers this year, here are the new titles that are guaranteed a slot on my nightstand:
Why? Last spring I spent a long weekend in the Finger Lakes (FLX) visiting with many of the personalities that figure into Dawson’s book (disclosure: I visited the FLX with Dawson as one of my hosts). Usually a writer puts a patina on their subject to make them ready for a story. With these folks, no such writerly propping up is necessary. This should be a fascinating glimpse into an under-acknowledged, world-class wine region as told by its people.
Why? One of the downsides of the internet is that historical memory lasts about, oh, six months – quite an annoyance and a sensibility I can share with wine industry veterans who live in one year cycles and for whom the new guard and the “we invented it” mentality is about as charming as a rock in your shoe.
This story looks to tell the tale of Randall Grahm and other notable California Baby Boomers from the 80s who brought the California wine business into modern times, and getting deeper insight into those who went before is always a good idea …
Why? Besides the pithy title? This book by a scholarly publisher is destined to miss most wine enthusiast’s radar unless the publicity machines cranks up, but I’m a sucker for a writer that can take commonly known events and put them into fresh context and I have faith in Veseth, the author of a number of other books where he takes broad current events and puts them through a fresh lens of view. Veseth’s book promises to answer the question of, “How globalization and market forces are changing the way wine is made, sold, consumed, and perceived.” Good enough for me to go on … Veseth currently blogs at The Wine Economist.
Voodoo Vintners: Oregon’s Astonishing Biodynamic Winegrowers by Katherine Cole
Why? Okay, admittedly, this doesn’t come close to being a general interest wine topic, but if you take a straw poll of online wine enthusiasts approximately two in five would be interested, and the other three would argue about what a waste of time and money the book is, so that’s close enough for me. That said, the author Katherine Cole has a strong writing voice (Matt Kramer’s wine writing counterpart at The Oregonian) and I’m very fascinated with BioDynamic wines – one of the first I encountered happened to be a Sineann Pinot Noir (OR), a wine so alive, and precocious that it stands as a BioD exemplar in my mind.
Close to making the cut, but not able to make the alliteration work in the headline:
Naked Wine by Alice Feiring
Why? It may be 250 pages that could be summarized in 500 words, but gloriously, you can rest assured that the other 80,000 words will have poetic eloquence and be a punch in the gut to prevailing wisdom. Next to Randall Grahm, Feiring is the domestic wine world’s other savant provocateur. And that’s high praise in my book.
A Discovery of Witches by Deb Harkness
Why? Not exactly a wine book, but Dr. Deb’s of the Good Wine Under $20 blog (and a Professor of History at USC) is poised to be one of the breakout authors of the year. Her book is receiving an incredible amount of advance PR the likes of which mean certain bestseller status until word-of-mouth takes over. Online wine writers need to support their own and Deb is good people.
The Finest Wines of California: A Regional Guide to the Best Producers and Their Wines by Stephen Brook
Why? Carrying the weight of the branded book series from The World of Fine Wine, I’m going to guess that Brook will venture off the beaten trail to find the gems in California wine that are still awaiting their spotlight and I’ll be happy to learn about them from this writer of crystalline prose.