For the rest of 2017, my focus switches onto the upcoming festivities rather than on the usual great value entry point wines.
One of life’s little pleasures at this time of year combines a fireside armchair and a good book, so here are my suggestions for Christmas books for wine lovers.
Starting with Wine Trade Royalty
The Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2018, by Hugh Johnson, published by Mitchell Beazley, £12.99 www.octopusbooks.co.uk draws on Johnson’s 41 years writing this book to provide a slim volume that is as authoritative yet practical as ever.
It’s not just the facts on 600 wines and growers it contains that impress but the insights and opinions that also fascinate – such as why the 2015 vintage made everyone happy.
Equally interesting is Johnson’s take on the common ground that exists between sancerre and albarino, gewürztraminer and torrontes or chateauneuf and garnacha.
And something similar for beer
As a sister publication, Pocket Beer Book (3rd Edition) by Stephen Beaumont & Tim Webb, published by Mitchell Beazley, £12.99 www.octopusbooks.co.uk treads a similar path.
Over 2000 top beers from 60 countries grace its pages along with details of the effects of different grains and different hops.
Good to see, too, that its “Can’t Miss Breweries” section includes three I rate highly – Tempest at Tweedbank, Adnams of Suffolk and Harvey’s of East Sussex.
Treading the same path as this website
More specific advice (albeit about wine) comes in the thoroughly enjoyable 2018 The Best Wines in the Supermarkets by the engaging and shrewd Ned Halley (£8.99: Foulsham).
Halley’s feet are firmly on the ground as over 15% of the 500 wine reviewed are under £6 but, nevertheless, he still finds 26 wines that merit a (maximum) 10 points.
I, for one, would raise a glass to any guide that heaps praise upon Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Cotes du Rhone White and Asda’s Extra Special Douro – both ten pointers.
The things you were frightened to ask
I spoke in a previous web post (a few weeks ago) about Simon Woods and his advice concerning tannin.
That – and much more – can be found in the delightful 101 Wine FAQs by Simon Woods (£9 at www.simonwoods.com) with lots of down to earth advice here to “de-snootify” wine and heighten enjoyment.
Neat tongue in cheek stuff appears there too – like suggesting silver spoons (for those insisting one in champagne bottle necks preserves bubbles) can be acquired at www. overpriced-bling-for-gullible-people.com.
On to coffee table books
First on my list there is Oz Clarke’s World of Wine (£30: Pavilion Books).
Written in Clarke’s lively yet incredibly well informed style, the book oozes with the man’s passion for his subject.
His description of “twisted, tortured” Cȏte-Rȏtie vines “struggling to survive on barren slopes yet still ripen its tiny crop” is almost poetic.
Finally to an encyclopaedia
A warm welcome please for the new – and substantially revised – edition of Larousse Wine by David Cobbold and Sebastian Durand-Viel (£45: Hamlyn)
This is an encyclopaedic volume with beautifully illustrated, and profound, observations about winemaking, the people who do it, where it works best and the results that propel all those factors into the headlines.
Among its useful asides, it provides matches for seven styles of cheese and for over sixty specific cheeses.
They are liaising with a charity to help provide bicycles for rural Africa and have set out the details of the scheme on a special website.
Five pence from each bottle of selected Nederburg wines (recognisable from special neck labels) will be donated to this cause until the end of January.
Happily both wines are well made, tasty fare and my assessments of them appear below.
I often think that 2017 56 Hundred Nederburg Pinot Grigio (£5.75 at Tesco) is one of the best pinot grigios at its price point with neat honeysuckle influenced red apple and peach fruit, a twist of tangerine acidity and touches of allspice.
Almost as good is the raspberry, cranberry and violet influenced 2017 56 Hundred Nederburg Pinot Noir (also £5.75 at Tesco) with its earthy – but light – texture, good acidity and suggestions of clove and liquorice.
Subscribe for FREE!
Do you want every review I write, direct to your inbox, absolutely free?