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The 10 Best Wine Books of 2020

Brush up on your wine knowledge.

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Much like a glass of wine can transport its drinker, a great wine book can do the same. For Erica Davis and Catherine Carter, co-founders of sparkling wine flight club The Sip, it’s the ultimate form of escapism. “Not everyone is a Champagne enthusiast (yet), so it’s interesting to read and talk about sparkling wines in other contexts, such as science and history,” says Carter. Whether you’re interested in learning about wines as a beginner, curling up with a memoir and a pour of your favorite vintage, or diving into something nerdy, here are the best wine books to read today.

Best Overall: 99 Bottles

"99 Bottles: A Black Sheep's Guide to Life-Changing Wines" is the ultimate modern wine guide. André Hueston Mack, legendary sommelier and founder of Maison Noir, penned this literary ode to the 99 wines that have changed his life, pairing his personal favorite wines with anecdotes, recommendations, practical pointers (think, ordering wine at a restaurant and diversifying your home collection), and his musings on being a Black wine professional. The wines in this book range from everyday accessible bottles to more esoteric and rare, and there’s a certain quality to Mack’s writing that consistently draws you in. “You can flip through and read about a certain wine and feel his experience,” says Regine Rousseau, a wine expert and author. Plus, this book makes a great gift for anyone who’s passionate about wine.

Best for Beginners: Wine Simple

Wine Simple

Amazon

Renowned sommelier Aldo Sohm of Le Bernardin (and his own eponymous wine bar) is perhaps one of the most laid-back, entertaining wine experts in the fine-dining world. His book, "Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier," is both a reflection of his personality and a testament to the philosophy that wine doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating to be understood and enjoyed. Through bold illustrations and approachable explanations of winemaking processes, terroir, grape varieties, tasting and more, this book is a refreshing gateway into the world of wines from a professional. It will also look great on any bookshelf or coffee table.

Best Love Story: Love by the Glass

Love by the Glass

Amazon

There’s a lot to learn from wife-and-husband Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who are best known for their weekly wine column, "Tastings," in The Wall Street Journal. Their memoir, "Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage," shares with readers both their love story and their love of wine. As one reviewer puts it: “Their writing is wonderful, but it took me about a year to figure out that the column is really about life, and that wine is just a vehicle for them to write about other things.” This book traces Gaiter and Brecher’s major life moments through a wine-focused lens, perfect for those who appreciate education along with anecdotes and life lessons.

Best Reference: The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste

In "The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe," co-authors Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay take a deep dive into Europe’s vast terroir and history of winemaking in a digestible, straightforward way. The book explores everything you need to know about Europe’s great winemaking regions and how the fruits of their labor (pun intended) should taste and feel. Whether you’re an enthusiast or industry professional, Parr and Mackay do an impressive job of teaching geography while connecting various wine regions with its respective flavors and character. This book is the epitome of modern wine reference.

Best History: The Widow Clicquot

"Hands down, my favorite book on wine is 'The Widow Clicquo​t,'" says Davis. Author Tilar J. Mazzeo, Davis adds, does a phenomenal job at tracing the story of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin—also known as the Grand Dame of Champagne, or the Widow (Veuve) Clicquot. Madame Clicquot was widowed at just 27 years old when her husband, François Clicquot, passed away in 1805 and was left in charge of his various entrepreneurial endeavors. She opted to focus on the wine sector of their business, and through her ingenuity and leadership, the brand evolved into one that we know and drink to this day. “[Through this] enlightening biography, you understand why she is the queen of innovative thinking in business," says Davis. She also describes this book as “a great roadmap for businesswomen everywhere on how to just smash the glass ceiling.”

Best for Experts: Amber Revolution

Simon J. Woolf, an award-winning writer and expert in orange wines (also known as skin-contact or amber wines), spent six years and countless hours of tastings and research in writing this book. Today, "Amber Revolution: How the World Learned to Love Orange Wine" is one of the most compelling books for experts on all things orange wine, particularly those produced in Slovenia, Georgia and northern Italy. Be prepared for a serious history lesson as Woolf explores the story behind this sector of the wine industry and its long journey of survival through the years.

Best Memoir: Wine Girl

Sommelier Victoria James, who became the youngest in the country to earn certification at 21 years old, tells her story in this gripping memoir, "Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier." Her story is one of trauma, persistence, passion and well-deserved successes, chronicling her childhood and prodigious wine career, including her experiences of working in the alluring, yet toxic restaurant industry. All in all, you’ll learn plenty from James about life and wine.

Best Poetry: Searching for Cloves and Lilies

Regine T. Rousseau is a force within the modern wine industry—not only is she an expert in her field, but she’s also a poet and businesswoman whose mission is to make wine approachable for everyone. Rousseau’s book of poems, "Searching for Cloves and Lilies: The Wine Edition," is a collection of works that are steeped in emotion and introduces readers to the people who have shaped her life. Even more, each poem is paired with a wine selected by Rousseau, who has a knack for choosing the perfect bottle for any subject matter or feeling. So, immerse yourself in her poems with a nice glass of wine.

Best Regional: Wine, Moon and Stars

A pioneer in biodynamic farming, Gérard Bertrand is a winemaker in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and began making wine with his father at the age of 10. Bertrand’s award-winning wines are the product of his vision and passion for natural winemaking, with his practices educating and influencing fellow winemakers in France and beyond. His memoir, "Wine, Moon and Stars: A South of France Experience," explores how Bertrand honors and preserves the natural world while connecting his craft with spirituality.

Best Travel: Adventures on the Wine Route

Take a tour of France’s top wine cellars through wine expert Kermit Lynch's "Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer's Tour of France." From Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south to the Loire and Rhône valleys and beyond, Lynch transports readers into his world of wine through his signature, approachable fashion. When this book first came out in 1988, it made serious waves and won the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Book of the Year award; still, its stories of the wines, countryside and winemakers are timeless. As an update to the original, this edition features a new epilogue along with a list of Lynch’s 25 most memorable wines.

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Céline Bossart has spent the last seven years of her career dedicated to learning about the industry through books, tastings, classes, travel and more.

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