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on 16 March 2005
C J J Berry was a master on winemaking. I have bought and read most books on winemaking. This is the one I always turn back to. If you have to buy one book on homewinemaking this is the one! He begins my explaining the concepts and techniques of winemaking in easy to understand terms. He also explains the science behind the process but he is never confusing or condescending. I have never come across a problems which has not been solved by his troubleshooting section and his procedures are comprehensive but easy to follow. The remainder of the book takes you through a wine making year with suggestions, recipies and leaves you confident enough to experiment successfully. All recipes are in metric, imperial and US measures. He leaves you feeling that country wines from fruit are nothing to be ashamed of and that you should not worry about trying to emulate wines you can buy. Having said that, many of the wines stand comparison to anything you can buy. First published in 1960 it has not dated and will remain a reference for all authors to aspire to. It is an invaluable reference for both beginners and those more advanced wine makers.
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on 15 December 2004
I got into wine making about ten years ago, having used a few home brew wine kits. I then wanted to try making my own from scratch. Sure enough this book was recommended to me as a starting point. Well, I have now made over 100 gallons of wine in those years since biying the book, and not one bottle has been spoilt, all of them drinkable, and some of them that good that my friends were amazed that I made them, and hadn't bought it from a supermarket! It has plenty of tips, recipe ideas, etc in very easy to understand guidance. Starting off with the basics this gives you enough to progress on to bigger and better ideas. I can now adapt and make my own recipes for home made wines with ease. Although a little old fashion in his ways, he makes home brewing a pleasure and not a chore.
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on 24 February 2002
I've yet to find a book that can come close to First Steps in Winemaking, which is excellent for both beginner and established brewer alike.
Some might argue the style is a little dated, but I rather like the 1960's oulook on life. A sound investment for anyone thinking of taking up this rewarding hobby.
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on 18 June 1998
C.J.J. Berry is a legend to winemaking hobbiests worldwide as the man who had a winemaking recipe for just about any ingredient. For literally tens of thousands of home winemakers, this is the only reference book they ever had or needed.
When it first appeared, the layout of "First Steps in Winemaking" was quite unique. After an admirable discussion of the basic principles of home winemaking, Berry then presented his recipes on the basis of the month in which the principal ingredients are readily available at market or are typically harvested in the British home garden. There are three things wrong with this format.
Firstly, citing harvest months for various ingredients geographically limits the accuracy of the format. Harvest times for any crop will vary greatly around the world, but they can differ from Britain's calendar by six months for gardeners in, say, Australia. Berry's treatment works fine in the British Isles and many other places, but certainly this is not universally so. In his later books, Berry abandoned the calendar-month format of "First Steps...."
Secondly, at least in developed countries, there is no longer a need to be tied to calendar-month availability of ingredients. Advances in cargo transport and refrigeration over the past 50 years have made dependency on local crops a thing of the past. Almost any ingredient can be found in the modern supermarket or produce center at any time.
Thirdly, Berry's presentation of recipes by month results in dependence on the index in order to find recipes for a particular ingredient. This is perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the book's layout. An alphabetical listing of recipes, as he used in subsequent books, would have been more convenient.
In defense of the author, however, I must point out that Berry never anticipated his book would have worldwide appeal. Nor, it would seem, that it would remain popular for so long. Certainly he would not have quoted prices for ingredients and supplies had he suspected as much.
Are these shortcomings fatal? Not in the least! This is still the classic reference to the subject and ought to be in every winemaker's library. Indeed, if you could only buy one book on the subject, only Terry Garey's "The Joy of Home Winemaking" could challenge "First Steps...." to a coin toss.
Buy it. Read it. Make wine. You'll love yourself for it.
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on 22 August 2009
As I write this I have two demijohns bubbling away in the kitchen; in one carrot wine is well on the way, in the other blackcurrant wine is almost ready for bottling. With my tea I had a very pleasant glass of rhubarb wine. All come from recipes contained in this book. Through its advice on pretty much every aspect of wine-making I've produced wines I've been more than happy to share, rather than hide and sip furtively.
If you're interested in making your own wine, this is the book to get.
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on 8 October 2009
A good, easy to understand book with clear explanation in laymans terms as well as more advanced information. I had three other books on wine making which left questions unanswered, this book gets top marks from me.
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on 4 May 2009
I disagree with one of the other reviewers who said that ingredients should not be listed by season as, (he/she said) in the modern world, we can get any ingredients at any time. (I have more sympathy for the other major reason given: that there is geographic variation in the seasonal availability of local ingredients, but what's wrong with learning how your seasons differ from seasons in the UK?) The joy of this book is that it not only shows you how to make great wine but it also sensitises you to nature and the seasons. In this era of global warming, when the environmental impact of food and drink is a big issue, I take pleasure in sourcing ingredients on my doorstep. (I should also say that it makes good economic sense too, what with the credit crunch!)

My first attempt was bramble wine (brambles are know as "blackberries" outside Scotland). It was absolutely delicious, as good as anything bought, and didn't last long. My next attempt was rose hip wine. It was perfectly drinkable, but not as good as the bramble wine. I am now making nettle wine, and can't wait to taste it!

This book is a timeless classic. If anything, it is more relevant now than when it was first published. Highly recommended!

P.S. Do try and source most of your ingredients locally! It's cheaper, environmentally better, and much more fun!
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on 7 June 2009
An updated version of this fantastic beginners guide to making wine from the early 60's. Sadly this edition has done away with pictures of the author sterilizing his equipment in shirt and tie while puffing on a pipe, and units of measurement such as the "saltspoonful" have made way for the 1/4 teaspoon, but it must be said these changes make it easier to follow for a modern audience and the book maintains it's charming enthusiasm for its subject.
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on 27 September 2016
I started wine making 25 years ago, learning from this book. I then packed it up for years and only lately came back to wine making. I bought a couple of other books but had very disappointing results. I now have another copy of the book and love it, It gives lots of explanations that are important to know in a well written style, although properly old-fashioned. As a reference book I use it all the time. The recipes make some good wines too!
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on 4 December 2011
A nice book, conveniently organised by the month when the main ingredients are available. A lot of good recipes, but many use grape concentrate which kind of defeats the object of country wines for me. Not as good for the beginner as some other books that are available.
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