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10 Christmas book ideas 2010

Tom Cannavan, 12/10

Inevitably there's a whole flood of wine-related books hitting the shelves in December to tap into the lucrative Christmas market. Here's a run-down on some that have landed on my desk. There's a link to Amazon UK against most titles. Buying a book using these links earns wine-pages a small commission. Amazon currently has free delivery on all orders.

Inside Burgundy
Editor: Jasper Morris
ISBN: 97809510632
Publisher: Berry Bros & Rudd
Price: £50.00
buy from Berry Bros for £50.00

Before the 10 new titles, worth touching briefly on my current Book of the Month, given that it is one of the best and most important new books on the much-covered subject of Burgundy and its wines in a decade. Full review in our book reviews section.

Liquid Memory: Why Wine Matters
Author: Jonathan Nossiter
ISBN: 1848874553
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Price: £14.99
buy at Amazon for £7.64

Jonathan Nossiter came to fame with his wine-related documentary movie, Mondovino. In the same agenda-driven genre as Michael Moore, it interviewed high-profile wine establishment figures, mainly for the purpose of undermiming them, whilst celebrating the 'little guys' of the wine world. All well and good, and what serious wine lover would disagree that 'Wine Matters', but unlike Moore there was something about Nossiter and his movie that I didn't like much: it seemed sneaky and mean spirited. Nossiter says this book is not a follow-up, but it explores the same themes as he searches for 'terroir' and the 'soul' of wine within a wide cultural context. For me it is only partly successful, being at times too self-absorbed and at others the writing style verging on 'pseuds corner' material. Not a bad book, and an important one perhaps, though not as important as Nossitor thinks it is.

Grands Crus Classés
Editor: Sophie Brissaud
ISBN: 1844007421
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Price: £40.00
buy at Amazon for £15.20

Make no mistakes this enormous and weighty tome is more coffee-table browser than serious reference work, but is is beautifully produced with 400 photographs of Bordeaux's top Châteaux and foodies will enjoy the recipes matched to each estate's wines by chefs including Thomas Keller and Paul Bocuse. You may not learn a lot from the information here, but at Amazon's newly decimated price it is a buy.

North American Wine Routes
Author: Dan Berger and Tony Aspler
ISBN: 0520259564
Publisher: Pavilion
Price: £25.00
buy at Amazon for £21.25

Another coffee-table book with its large hardback format and extensive full-colour photography and illustration, but one with more substantial research behind it. It really is a complete guide to touring over 400 US and Canadian wineries, with extensive maps, practical details and informed opinion about what you can expect at each venue. The book presents the information as 76 different wine tours arranged by region, and works both as a travel guide and a highly browsable diversion.

Biodynamics in Wine
Author: Beverley Blanning MW
ISBN: none
Publisher: International Wine & Food Society
Price: £7.50
buy from IWFS for £7.50

The polar opposite of the two books above, this slim, A5-sized, unillustrated monograph is written by UK Master of Wine Beverley Blanning. It is a serious and objective look at Biodynamics, in which Beverely explains the processes, preparations and intended benefits of Biodynamic winemaking in considerable detail, as well as taking testimony from world-wide practitioners including Randall Grahm and James Milton. One for serious geeks or those bewitched, bothered or bewlidered by this intriguing subject.

Author: Christopher Fielden & Javier Hidalgo
ISBN: 1906502633
Publisher: Grub Street
Price: £14.99
buy at Amazon for £9.74

Well, they don't come more esoteric than this: a whole book, 160-pages, devoted to one unique wine style, Manzanilla Sherry. Ex-wine merchant and writer Christopher Fielden is joined by local expert Javier Hidalgo of the eponymous Sherry house in a deeply researched book in which this wine's origins and history are explored in detail, before each of the leading bodegas is introduced, complete with tasting notes. There are even Manzanilla-friendly recipes in an equisitely obsessive little book.

Grogan's Companion to Drink
Author: Peter Grogan
ISBN: 0753522225
Publisher: Virgin Books
Price: £25.00
buy at Amazon for £14.00

All manner of grog is featured in Grogan's Companion, a hard-back subtitled 'The A to Z of Alcohol', which pretty much sums things up. It is exhaustive in covering everything you need to know about booze from why a wine bottle is the size it is, to the ingredients for the Spanish tipple 'Calimocho'. There's a nice sense of irreverence ("Blush: Californian name for rosé, usefully identifies the crappiest ones.") in one of those books like cricket almanacs or Guinness books of records that keep you browsing happily for hours.

Pocket Wine Book 2011
Author: Oz Clarke
ISBN: 1862058954
Publisher: Pavilion
Price: £9.99
buy at Amazon for £6.23

Slugging it out each year with the Old Master, Hugh Johnson, Oz's version of the annual Pocket Wine Book probably wins on approachability. Johnson is erudite and essential, but Clarke's enthusiastic, passionate and fun style really does comes through even in a book such as this, essentially a densely-packed, A - Z treasure-trove of information on wines, regions, producers and styles. Great, great value and a useful companion.

Pocket Wine Book 2011
Author: Hugh Johnson
ISBN: 1845335678
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
Price: £10.99
buy at Amazon for £5.50

Maestro Hugh Johnson and a coterie of expert contributors still boast the best-selling annual wine guide, so why change a winning formula? Now in its 34th edition, Johnson's style is a little more studious and the book perhaps feels a little more densely packed, making it every bit as useful for the wine buff. You pays your money and you takes your choice between Hugh and Oz.

250 Best Wines
Author: Oz Clarke
ISBN: 1862058962
Publisher: Pavilion
Price: £6.99
buy at Amazon for £4.61

In the age of Kindles and i-Phone Apps surely the days of a printed book like this are numbered? Don't get me wrong: it is beautifully produced, terrifically detailed, well indexed and cheap - and a flurry of 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon proves people like it, but for how long the wines listed will be available once you have studied your copy is a moot point. Expertly done, and the retailer directory is very useful.

The Finest Wines of Bordeaux
Author: James Lawther MW
ISBN: 1845136071
Publisher: Aurum Press
Price: £20.00
buy at Amazon for £12.00

Part of a series of titles co-published by The World of Fine Wine magazine, this is similarly styled and of similarly high quality as others in the series on Champagne and Tuscany, already reviewed very positively on wine-pages. 90 illustrated profiles of the people behind Bordeaux's greatest wines form the bulk of the book, and Bordeaux-based MW James Lawther brings both freshness and intimacy to his subjects, getting very nicely under the skin of what shapes the people, estates and wines. Another very worthy title in this series.