The New French Wine: Redefining the World’s Greatest Wine Culture by Jon Bonné

Bottles from Chateau Lafleur and Château Grand Village, from The New French Wine
Bottles from Chateau Lafleur and Château Grand Village, from The New French Wine

Redefining French wine was never going to be light work – and this two-volume opus weighs in at more than 3.5kg. But the hot-pink spine gives some clue to the lively voice inside that has made Jon Bonné one of America’s most-awarded wine writers. The first book is a guide to the regions; the second a guide to producers. Dense pages of text are broken up by photography and colourful maps; winemakers are helpfully filed under headings such as “Benchmark” and “Name to Know”. A definitive guide that’s still personal in style. Best savoured by the glass, rather than all in one go. £112, Ten Speed Press

Vines in a Cold Climate: The People behind the English Wine Revolution by Henry Jeffreys

Drinks writer Henry Jeffreys is such a good storyteller – his writing can make me laugh and cry in the space of a thousand words. I can’t think of a better person to chronicle English wine’s exciting and, at times, eccentric emergence. And Vines in a Cold Climate is a page-turner – brimming with colourful anecdotes and characters amassed by Jeffreys on his travels around some of the country’s 900-plus vineyards in his old Mercedes: the secretive billionaire, the record-label boss turned natural winemaker, the indiscreet French investor. You don’t even need to know a great deal about wine to enjoy this Bill Bryson-ish book; in many ways it’s less of a wine guide and more of a portrait of England and Englishness. £16.99, Atlantic Books

The Oxford Companion to Wine 5th Edition edited by Julia Harding, Jancis Robinson and Tara Q Thomas

You won’t find a wine pro in the world who doesn’t own a well-thumbed copy of the Oxford Companion – this scholarly text counts FT columnist Jancis Robinson MW among its editors. The new, expanded edition features entries on countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Finland – places previously considered too cold for quality winemaking – as well as Gabon, Senegal and Uganda. Techie subjects like Blockchain and DNA profiling get a look-in for the first time; sustainability is more of a focus. It also delves deep into the mysteries of flavour science – or what makes a wine delicious. Don’t open a bottle without it. £50, Oxford University Press 

The Complete Bordeaux Vintage Guide: 150 Years from 1870 to 2020 by Neal Martin

Château Malescot St Exupéry in the 1940s
Château Malescot St Exupéry in the 1940s

Bordeaux specialist Neal Martin is one of the world’s foremost wine critics – his scores for the website Vinous have winemakers quaking in their boots. What’s less well-known is that Martin is also a massive music geek. This is just one of the passions he brings to the table in this unusual wine book, which marries in-depth analysis of every Bordeaux vintage from 1870 to 2020 with cultural landmarks from music, movies and politics. I learn that one of the finest vintages in living memory, 1982, coincided with the release of “Rio” by Duran Duran; 1929 was as memorable for the wines as it was for the Wall Street Crash. 1987 may have been a lacklustre year for Bordeaux but it did produce Withnail and I; and I wonder how many people have tasted three bottles of wine from the same year the world first heard the Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner? £35, Quadrille

Corker by Hannah Crosbie

What wine should you choose on a first date? Or for a ride in the back of a limo? Which grape makes the best canned wine? And which bottle should you use to woo your future in-laws? These are the kind of knotty questions tackled by Corker, the “deeply unserious” debut from wing-eyed wine writer Hannah Crosbie. Crosbie’s experience as a wine waiter, writer and east-London supper-club host led her to deduce that people were more often worried about matching wine to situations than food – so the twentysomething has come to the rescue with her own witty suggestions. Illustrated with sleazy monochrome photography that could have come straight from the pages of Vice, it’s funny, original, irreverent – but also sneakily informative. £16.99, Ebury Press (spring 2024) 


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