56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2000
Great 'Bible' for wine lovers. A comprehensive encyclopedia of wine ranging from types of grape and regions of wine production to detailed discriptions of the qualities of different grape varieties. This book is a must for the wine lover or the interested novice. One small criticism would be the over attention to detail in the history of each wine region and not enough comment on the actual flavours and qualities of each grape variety/growing region. Otherwise a top notch publication.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This guide is invaluable and has just about every wine term, grape variety, vineyard profile covered. It is very well written and authoritative. I bought a secondhand one (2000 edition), so some of the producer profiles are a bit out of date but worthwhile nonetheless. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough....
60 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2002
Thirty years ago this book could not have been written. With the increasing ascendancy of the New World wine makers and in particular the influence of the Davis campus of the University of California, viticulture and oenology are now rigorous, scientific and commercially oriented professions. This is reflected in the "Oxford Companion to Wine" which has to be the most comprehensive, authoritative and accessible resource dealing with all aspects of the world of wine.
Jancis Robinson who edited this encyclopedia of wine is a highly respected wine writer and educator. She is also very well credentialled, holding the prestigious title of "Master of Wine".
The real power of this book as an information source is the very effective use of cross-references. Its great fun to see how far one reference will take you on subjects of particular interest to the reader. It would be good to see this book published as a CD-ROM. Hyper-linking all the cross-references would make it even more powerful.
The changes in the wine business over the past generation have seen the previously exclusive, "clubbiness", almost snobby world of fine wine appreciation opened up to everyone. It is books like this that have provided the sources of knowledge which give people the confidence and curiosity to pursue their interest and enjoyment of wine.
France is the traditional home of fine wine. The French approach to wine making is still dominated by practices and methodologies that go back centuries. It is interesting to see in the "Oxford Companion" the strong contrast between the empirically rigorous New World (particularly USA and Australian) methods and the mystery (or mystique) that even today, shrouds much of the French industry.
One of the best illustrations of this dichotomy in the Companion is the entry on "Terroir". This French term encapsulates the mystique that defines a particular vine growing area. It goes well beyond the issue of soil and microclimate but instead embraces everything that makes a particular wine unique.
In the "Companion" the terroir debate seems to come down on the side which believes the term is used to cover vagueness and explain characteristics that are otherwise difficult to explain. This allows sometimes ordinary wine to be passed off as something special.
Compare this to the innovative, scientifically supported approaches used in the New World. A good example is the development of "Canopy Management" the varying techniques used to optimize the yield and ripening characteristics of a grapevine.
Similarly we have see the arrival of "flying winemakers" from Australia into regions like the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France. They have introduced stainless steel fermentation vessels, temperature control and meticulous cleanliness, to what was previously a very rough and ready local business. They are now producing some of the some best Merlots, acknowledged by even the French.
This book will no doubt become the definitive reference book on all matters to do with the world of wine. It will be of the highest value to both the wine professional and the enthusiastic wine lover.