Useful update in the rapidly evolving South African winery development. Insufficient illustrations - scope for photos of the extraordinary scenery - even with quite a basic camera there is a magnificent panorama at many of the vineyards. Factually accurate and sufficient detail. Helped me to be more authoritative when running a South African wine tasting. Arrived as scheduled.
South African wines are not necessarily at the forefront of many wine buffs' minds when pressed, yet they may be missing out on something with a tremendous heritage that became overshadowed during the country's past apartheid times.
The term "New South African Wine" refers to the time after 1994 when democratic elections were epoch-changing in the country and freed from international restrictions the country's wine producers needed to help re-educate the wine world about a wine that had often been forgotten. Despite its past glories and heritage there was a bit of an uphill battle that still exists today. Even now, nearly 20 years on, South African wines can be a bit of a "best kept secret" for many, and the author of this book manages to convey a tremendous amount of information in an engaging, knowledgeable manner. Despite the book's clearly pro-academic leanings and lashings of notes and an extensive bibliography, this remains an accessible book for the enthusiastic "amateur" wine drinker as well as the researcher or industry insider.
Despite looking forward, instead of backwards, the author still provides a great historical record too, going right back to the start of the country's wine industry from 1652. Such historical information helps establish the industry's heritage, pedigree and sets the scene for its more recent developments. This book is big on details. After a look at the various grape varieties and styles it is time to start focussing, with chapters dealing with the different wine-making regions individually. It feels as if you are getting a great mixture of wine guide, geographical primer and even a bit of a history lesson all rolled into one, and that is no bad thing either. A little bit of something for everyone if you will.
This review book was based on a pre-publication draft so it was not possible to comment on its physical design and layout but as an information source this book certainly had it all. The information is allowed to speak for itself without it being hectoring or overtly political and for such a potentially sensitive subject area that is an appreciated omission. Reference, of course, is given to the changed political landscape in the country in context, but it thankfully leaves the deep political analysis to other books.
The only slight concern is the price point that might, even allowing for the inevitable online discounts from certain vendors, price it outside of the reach of the impulsive consumer. The book's quality and breadth of information makes it a valuable resource but something of this calibre is deserving of a wide audience. Should you be serious about wine, you should be serious about considering this book as a possible fount of knowledge.
Working in the world of commercial wine buying I confess to being pretty critical of a great many wine books and whilst I might buy them to read I feel disinclined to post reviews, as negative criticism is all too easy and sadly too prevalent these days. On the other hand when a book shows such meticulous research and is written with such care and thoughtfulness as Tim James work is, then I feel compelled to say how much I admired it. I leaned a great deal reading this and found it very informative. It makes for a useful reference work but it also highly readable. Published in 2013 it is about as up-to-date as can be expected for a printed book and the author's knowledge of the current wine scene in South Africa is impressive. Some better and more informative maps wouldn't have come amiss but that aside I can't fault this work. Paper, print and binding by the University of California Press is aesthetically pleasing too.