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Wine: A Life Uncorked [Hardcover]

Hugh Johnson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Oct 2005
As the author learns about wine, so do we in this book full of candour and wit and fine writing. What makes one wine better than another?' and other fundamental questions, whether human or cultural, technical or historical, addressed in a wide-ranging and autobiographical book based on the author's enormous experience of the pleasures of wine. Tasting, keeping, savouring, cellaring, choosing, understanding, comparing, buying - the world of wine filtered through the vast knowledge of one of the greatest writers and practitioners, renowned throughout the world.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson; 1st edition edition (13 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297843788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297843788
  • Product Dimensions: 3.7 x 19.5 x 25.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 608,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Hugh Johnson began acquiring his wine knowledge as a member of the Wine and Food Society at Cambridge University. When he came down from King's College in 1961 he became feature writer for Vogue and House & Garden, writing, among other things, wine columns for both magazines. In 1963 he became general secretary of the Wine and Food Society and succeeded the legendary gastronome André Simon as editor of Wine and Food. At the same time he became wine correspondent of The Sunday Times and started work on his first book Wine (1966), through which he established himself at the age of 27 as one of the subject's foremost writers. His rare talent for making the most complex subjects readable has led to a remarkable sequence of books.

After a year as travel editor of The Sunday Times he became editor of Queen, and in 1969 James Mitchell of the newly founded publishing house Mitchell Beazley asked him to write The World Atlas of Wine. First published in 1971, this book has been translated into 14 languages and sold over four million copies. The sixth edition, fully updated and co-written with Jancis Robinson, was published in October 2007, and a concise edition is to be published this September.

Hugh Johnson's vast knowledge of wine is condensed into his Pocket Wine Book, an annually updated guide to everything worth drinking, which, year by year, is the world's best-selling wine book. This year the 33rd edition of the book is published. In 2005 he penned his memoirs, entitled Wine - A Life Uncorked, which became another best-seller.

In 2007 Hugh Johnson received an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list. His OBE was awarded for services to winemaking and horticulture. In April 2004 Hugh was honoured with the title of Chevalier de l'Ordre National du Mérite, one of the highest tributes bestowed by the French Government. The medal was presented to Hugh for his significant contribution to the appreciation and understanding of France and its wines.

Product Description


'Johnson's erudition and love of language are apparent on every page... reading Johnson is a delight... Johnson's take on the wine world is intelligent, questioning and thoughtful.' (Tim Atkin OFF LICENCE NEWS )

'a masterpiece, richly composed' (David Sexton EVENING STANDARD )

'Johnson is still the only modern wine writer who makes memorable statements and writes quotable lines.' (DECANTER )

'This is partly a book of personal anecdotes about wine, and partly a travelogue of the wine world... This will sit neatly on the bookshelf beside Johnson's other major wine books, and certainly helps to put them in context.' (WINE INTERNATIONAL )

'With more than 40 years' experience, there is not much Hugh Johnson doesn't know about wine. The author charts the journey of wine from grape to cellar in this very readable personal history.' (SAINSBURY'S MAGAZINE )

'the urbane Johnson's wry elegant prose speaks of a more gracious, timeless world in which discrimination and imagination are free to roam. I suspect that Johnson's informative tome will be required reading in 50 years time for a broad brush perspective on wine in the late 20th century.' (Anthony Rose THE INDEPENDENT )

'Scholarly and discursive.' (Victoria Moore THE GUARDIAN )

'These memoirs have been well worth the wait. What sets him apart is his literary style. He can write - really write. He enthuses but doesn't gush, is opinionated but not dogmatic, and is a master of the succinct put-down... a celebration of wine and a life spent considering it.' (Joanna Simon SUNDAY TIMES )

'...his most charming and engaging book on wine... should be sipped with undiluted escapist pleasure... gloriously moreish ... he is at the peak of his powers, and paragraph after paragraph unfolds with such deft economy, such adept marshalling of detail, such intelligent use of elision, such polished narrative brio and ... such a keenly expressed sense of wonder that one's interest never flags... the choice recollections of one of the most fortunate and thoughtful wine drinkers in history.' (FINE WINE MAGAZINE )

'Every page contains what might be called numerous 'felicities' which add up to an incomparable lesson...' (Nicholas Faith HARPERS WINE & SPIRIT )

'... using his cellar as a reference point, Johnson muses about subjects as varied as decanting, the First Growths, wine scores, terroir and his own efforts at wine making. As ever, his prose style is a joy.' (Tim Atkin THE OBSERVER )

' eagle's eye view of the 40 most hectic years in the history of wine; some of the most intricate, allusive and mulitlayered tasting notes ever written; a clutch of deft gastronomic epigrams and a gale of common sense about good and great wines.' (Andrew Jefford EVENING STANDARD )

'Hugh Johnson has lived through the explosion of interest in wine connoisseurship and been one of its most influential proponents. This book charts his personal progress through the field. Part memoir, part travel-writing, and deeply imbued with the love of the vine.' (INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY )

'his best book yet... elegant, easy-to-read style... a brilliant introduction to the world of wine... place yourself in the trusty hands of one of the world's great experts, still at the top of his game after some 40 years.' (Jamie Goode DAILY EXPRESS )

'a beautifully written, passionate paean to the poetry of the bottle. And it manages to effortlessly combine memoirs of a 50-year career with often scathing critiques of today's world of wine.' (GOURMET TRAVELLER )

'enlightened, fascinating and funny... delightfully opinionated... every chapter is riveting... this is a book to sip and savour.' (Charlotte Lessing THE LADY )

About the Author

Hugh Johnson has been tasting, buying, promoting and writing about wine for over 40 years. He has been, amongst many other appointments, secretary of Wine & Food and editor of the Wine and Food society, Wine Correspondent of the Sunday Times, Wine Editor of Gourmet, a director of Chateau Latour, Wine Consultant to British Airways. He has been President of the Sunday Times Wine Club since 1973 and the Circle of Wine Writers since 1997 and the Hon President of the International Wine and Food Society since 2002. He has been honoured by the Academy du Vin de Bordeaux, the German Gastronomic Academy and by a doctorate from Essex University. His many practical books on wine from Mitchell Beazley have been bestsellers all over the world. His STORY OF WINE won every major wine book award in Britain and the USA.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bon Mots from the (English) Ancien Regime 4 July 2006
If you are expecting an autobiography of Hugh Johnson, you'll be disappointed - this is his jottings/ramblings on wine and anything biographical is almost coincidental. It is not his life story. It is, of course, beautifully written and from this aspect streets ahead of his competitors. This is not a book full of gobs of blockbuster fruit flavours, but of understated, evocative prose. But at times it does teeter on the brink of becoming pompous - all those black tie dinners with the wine aristocracy drinking impossibly ancient bottles, and endless comments on the very old bottles he has in his almost medieval cellar at his mansionly home. On the subject of Robert Parker he is also pretty outspoken, and perhaps needlessly so, and it begins to smack a little of jealous snobbery. If the wine world is full of sheep, perhaps not all the blame should be heaped upon the anointed leader. But just as the book becomes a bit too crusty, he gets back to the real business, and there is nobody who writes better about wines and travels amidst the vineyards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Journey with Bacchus as Polestar 20 Mar 2012
This edition of Hugh Johnson's biography falls inconveniently between two types of book : too big for the library shelf but too small for the coffee table ! Gloriously illustrated, very well written in a semi-colloquial style, it is like being taken by a favorite Uncle round his favoured haunts. There is far more about wine than there is about HJ himself although the reader may glean much information about the author inasmuch as he wears his preferences on his sleeve; for example the pleasure that a particular wine may bring in pleasant circumstances - drinking in congenial company out in the garden under an apple tree, or at a restaurant table in view of the sea - often bears no relationship to cost or ranking. This is extremely good news for most of us who do not have cellars to age wine for decades, nor the inclination to overspend on first growth clarets and "Grand Cru" Burgundies. He also declares a penchant for crisp white wines, and in particular believes that Reisling has been much under-rated over the years. This is surely a matter of one man's opinion.

I do not feel qualified to comment on his criticisms of Robert Parker's percentages of perfection. Perhaps they do represent a lazy man's best chances of obtaining good wine, although seldom best value for money. Like Johnson, I would always look further afield, hoping to find something special that Parker's steamroller overlooked. I believe there is always an element of personality in any assessment of wine, however scientific the approach may be, and that simply working from the average does not always help an individual to find his or her best choice.

This book is an excellent companion for wine-buffs of whatever distinction, but if I had to have but one volume in the same price range to keep me informed it would not be this but the latest edition of Hugh Johnson's outstanding "Wine Atlas of the World" written in collaboration with Jancis Robinson. Actually... I believe it is worth owning both !
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hugh Johnson 28 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As close to an autobiography as you'll get from Johnson. Born into money and privilege, his adventures in wine-making are of interest, but otherwise it's mostly mild conceit.
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