For many wine lovers (myself included), the experience of wine may be quite new. I became interested in wine only a few years ago. I had no real background or experience. I've just been curious. Growing up in Southern Ontario in the Niagara Region, the local wines my aunts consumed were basically just 'plonk' with soda water thrown in for the fizz-effect. Twenty-years later, the wine industry in Ontario has grown and has stepped beyond its bulk wine image as California, Spain and many other Old and New World wine-producing regions.
This wine book is a great overview of the history of wine in the last 100 years - exceptionally fascinating years considering the majority of wars, revolutions, political and international strife in our world. And of course, politics, economics, war and trends have all changed the world of wine and our experience of wine. (Prohibition, despite not fully coming into effect in New Zealand did have a substantial influence on the future of New Zealand wine.)
What makes this book exceptional is that it isn't written by one author. Several wine authorities, ranging from Masters of Wine to well-respected journalists and critics have all lent their hand in telling the story of the wine revolutions in the world. My personal favourites: John Radford and Andrew Jefford. (The only wine authority I missed was Jancis Robinson - although Hugh Johnson provides the Foreword... Otherwise, the representation of authors with their respected subjects/essays are quite good.)
The first section of the book 'Wine Revolution' discusses wine in the realm of politics, trends, geography, economics etc... The following sections, 'France', 'Old World' and 'New World' explores the historical 'ups and downs' of the major wine producing regions of the world.
The one thing missing (besides Jancis Robinson) is an overview look at Eastern European wine and wine making. I would have loved the chance to read about the historical crisis in the times of Greece, Romania, Hungary, and other Baltic-Slavic-wine-producing lands. Although there is mention of Hungary within the first section in respect to politics and economics as well as food trends, the Eastern Bloc wasn't given ample mention. (I guess I'll just have to be satisfied for now with 'The World Atlas of Wine' and keep looking...)(I won't lie... the lack of Eastern Europe kept the book from being five stars for me...)
For the most part, it is fascinating to read about Franco's influence on Spain and Spanish wine in the eyes of the rest of the world and how Salazar created such a bureaucratic hold on Portugal and the wine market.
The big stuff is covered here so I won't quibble about missing the other stuff. Basically, this book is a coverage of the Western World of Wine and its "Wine Revolution". (I will quibble some more... it would be nice if the Western World would finally shake off its ego to see there is more to life than just the WEST...sheesh... I'm done now.)
The essays are packed and to the point. There is a great balance between history and wine history. It isn't as in-depth as other reference books dedicated to specific regions but it will compliment your library of wine books. Still, there is enough here for continual perusal, making it perhaps one of the better coffee table books for fellow wine lovers when they drop by.