The Dabbler recommends: Books about booze

Henry combines the typical Dabbler’s two main passions: reading and drinking…

One simply cannot have too many books about booze. I’ll even read those books about supermarket wine with titles like Easyquaff and Fruity! that were all the rage a few years ago. In particular I like ones from secondhand bookshops by old buffers whose entry for California simply say ‘apparently some enterprising colonial types have planted vines. The wines are not undrinkable.’ See my post on Faugeres. Sadly today new wine books are in short supply. Faber & Faber dropped their list years ago and Mitchell-Beazley’s range is not what it once was. The last great wine book they published except Hugh Johnson’s Atlas was Andrew Jefford’s The New France. Here are some books that I cannot do without plus a few newer ones that have caught my fancy. It goes without saying that all them are better sampled with a small glass of tawny port.

The Wild Bunch: Great Wine from Small Producers by Patrick Matthews. This one is out of print but thanks to the internet you can easily get hold of it. I reread it once a year and always notice something new. It was published in the mid 90s and examines the hidden wine revolution of small dedicated growers making their own wine outside the classic regions. In his quest for idiosyncratic wines, Matthews preempts the whole natural wine movement by a decade. If you want to know why wine is so exciting, read this book. The author’s curiosity makes him great company; as a reader you feel that you are learning with him rather than being lectured. The prices makes me a little melancholy: Ch. Musar at £9, Tahbilk Marsanne at £5.79. I wish an enterprising publisher would commission Matthews to write an updated version.

The Oxford Companion Wine by Jancis Robinson and her team of wine elves. If you are even slightly serious about wine you need a copy of this book.

The Quest for Wine and Love or How I saved the world from Parkerisation by Alice Feiring. Ignore the awful title, cover and the attempts by the publisher to turn this into an Eat, Pray, Love of wine, there is a brilliant book here fighting to get out. Feiring is furious about the increasing homogenisation of wine. If you wonder why premium wines are often undrinkable and Rioja isn’t what it used to be, then you should read this book. I am looking forward to what she does next.

Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book. The best of the wine guides.

Non-wine booze books

101 Whiskies to try before you die by The Dabbler’s very own Ian Buxton. This looks like a Megaquaff book for Scotch but it’s actually an opinionated, engaging and witty guide to the diverse whisky world.

World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom. If the Buxton book is the 12 year old malt that whets your appetite then this is the 18 year old aged in oloroso casks and packaged in a wooden box that marks the start of a serious whisky habit.

The Hungover Cookbook by Milton Crawford . Inspired by P. G Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis this is an amusing guide to what to eat the next day after a night on the Bristol Cream.

Publishers and authors, please let me know if there are any that you think I have missed. I would love to be proved wrong about the lack of quality wine books out there.

Henry Jeffreys also blogs bibulously at World of Booze, and The Lady.

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About Author Profile: Henry Jeffreys

Henry Jeffreys was born in Harrow, Middlesex. He worked in the wine trade for two years and then moved into publishing with stints at Hodder & Stoughton, Bloomsbury and Granta. Under the name Henry Castiglione, he reviewed books for the Telegraph Under the name Blake Pudding he was a founder member of the London Review of Breakfasts website as well as a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury, 2013). Since 2010 he has been writing mainly about drink under his own name. He is wine columnist for the Lady magazine, contributes to the Guardian and was shortlisted for the Fortnum & Mason drink writer of the year 2013 for his work in the Spectator. He is writing a history of Britain told through alcoholic drinks called Empire of Booze. He blogs at Henry’s World of Booze.

3 thoughts on “The Dabbler recommends: Books about booze

    February 29, 2012 at 09:46

    Had a friend who, over one winter, read And Quiet Flows the Don, The Don Flows Home to the Sea and Virgin Soil Upturned, in the snug of the Britannia Inn at Elterwater, at the same time becoming the Langdale Valley’s fives and threes champion. Would that count as books on booze?

  2. Worm
    February 29, 2012 at 09:50

    Apart from the world atlas, which is a peerless production in my view, I very much enjoyed Hugh Johnson’s Wine: A Life Uncorked as a good intro into the habits of a wine fiend, It’s a pleasing bedtime read, and a hardback copy is only 1p on amazon

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