Monday, May 14, 2007

Two Short Book Reviews

The missus has recently returned from a trip to the US, where she picked up two pocket books for me, Hugh Johnson's Wine Pocket Book 2007 and Tom Stvenson's Wine Report 2007. She also bought some wines, duh, that I picked out from the Table and Vine online catalog.

Wine Pocket Book 2007

The Wine Pocket Book is an especially convenient shopping aid and I've made surprisingly good shopping choices with it. Each country has its own vintage chart and an alphabetical list of regions and producers, along with a rating and a concise description that manages to pack in a lot of useful information, such as whether the producer makes old world wines or modern ones. It won't help you avoid buying an off wine from a good producer in a good vintage, but overall, I think its batting average - for me - is around .750.

Glancing through the book, I see the chapter introductions were (finally) updated. They all look promising, but Germany's is especially interesting, discussing how warmer vintages and better winemaking are rationalizing the German predikat system by making it a description of style and not necessarily of quality.

Johnson has written a special chapter comemmorating thirty years of the Wine Pocket Book, which seems to be a companion piece to the "2007 Agenda", a regular feature. Taken together, they are a fascinating, thought provoking distillation of some of the most interesting debates going on today. Also included is a long list of recommended sherries, some of which I've tried (and deserve being listed), some which I'd love to taste.

To sum, minor facelifts and tweaks for an old warhorse that had never needed a major overhaul.


Wine Report 2007

This is more of a book for reading. Each chapter is devoted to a wine region, written by a regional expert, and contains commentaries on recent issues, some 'gossip', vintage charts and various lists of outstanding and value-for-money producers and wines. There are also chapters on wine and health, bio-dynamism, auctions, wine on the web and others, again written by experts on the subjects. There are some very big name contributors, including Clive Coates, David Peppercorn, Julian Jeffs, Serena Sutcliffe, Tom Cannavan and Tom Stevenson himself. Israel's own Daniel Rogov is there, and he got three local wines into the 100 Most Exciting Wine Finds list at the end of the book: Flam Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (mediocre wine, IMHO, Flam's little fall from grace), Margalit Special Reserve 2003 (excellent wine) and Carmel Cabernet Sauvignon Kayoumi, 2003 (haven't tasted it).

It's one of the best examples, these days, of printed material that you can't get online.

And look, ma, the Villaine Bouzeron 2005 is listed by Clive Coates as one of the most exciting finds in Burgundy!

2 comments:

Jan Schultink said...

How would you compare Oz Clark to Hugh Johnson?

2GrandCru said...

I haven't read Clark very extensively. I usually browse through his pocket book at B & N while on the road in the US, focusing on whatever it is I've bought or intend to buy during the current trip. I should really buy Clarke one of these days and compare them more thoroughly. However, I'm quite a fan of the old school of British wine writing (Johnson, Jeffs and Robinson for that matter), relishing their understated wit, so I would probably prefer Johnson. All other things being equal.

So, from my limited experience, I think Johnson's book is better organized. Clark is alphabetical all the way through, which is convenient in some circumstances, but since I usually limit my shopping to 2-3 countires, Johnson works out better for me.