I've been asked a lot recently about the best books to get when trying to learn about wines or to get a certification that deems you an expert on some level. This was something that I had to look up. I hadn't realized that it had been about 9 years since I took my first Sommelier exam with The Court of Master Sommeliers. My books were old, some tattered, and all had rings from the bottom of a red wine glass. Don't judge me! Let's just say that the books were definitely well used. Initially, I thought that my books would have been outdated because so many things were changing in the wine industry. The use of technology has definitely changed the wine making process. But after flipping through the books, I was reminded that the wine still had the same bases...the grape and geography. Geography plays a major role in the taste and quality of the grape. Therefore, one key resource for any wine library is a wine atlas. The one that I have is a pretty large coffee table book with maps in full color that show the key factors that manipulate the taste of the grapes. Mountains, nearby rivers, and limestone are just a few of nature's "ingredients" that impacts the growth of a grape. Once you know the geography of the region where the grape was grown, you can actually taste it in the wine. I remember learning about limestone that was in the Loire Valley. After that, I could always taste it in a Sancerre (some of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs). Knowing geography made the blind tasting portion of the course just a little bit easier (still hard but at least made my guesses make sense). I'm serious, had they paired wine with geography in high school, I would have aced it! Only in Italy, I guess.
A second must- have book for your collection is The Wine Bible. It is a classic resource that gives characteristics of varietal and shares information about what grapes are grown in specific growing regions. Additionally, the book shares information about growing seasons, climates, geography, and identifies some of the top wine producers by region. A final book that I would suggest as a staple when learning about wine is Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course. It's a textbook that is for a person who wants more than to be the hit of his office party. This book is for the person who is a little more serious about their wine game.
There are so many books that you could get that will help you with your wine knowledge. But all books need an accompaniment. Experience is a good teacher. Experience the lessons with wine. A good bottle of wine can help you remember a lot of what you learn from the books. Or make you forget. I can't remember.
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