Each year I enjoy putting a list together of the best wine books I read through the year. This year is no exception, and these books are each fabulous. Here are my 2018 Wine and Spirits Books, in alphabetical order. Happy shopping for your wine lovers. Regardless of the level of knowledge and interest, if you have a book lover in your life, who also loves wine, there’s definitely something in this list that will tickle that person’s fancy.

And just a thought, as I’ve just completed a couple of travel flights… People around me were reading more books and spent less time on personal devices, than I’ve seen in a l-o-n-g time. Did I see a new trend back toward holding the real deal in their hands, and turning pages? Perhaps… I had a book, BTW… Kevin Begos, listed below… an exceptionally crafted message, which would have been lost on any electronic devise. We are – as humans – less able to now read, since our attention span has have been diminished, given how electronics have us going here, there, and everywhere… We’re – as people – less able to focus when reading, for example. Brain Health and Wellness.

2018 New Wine Book Releases

Brut Force ~ Peter Stafford-Bow

He’s at it again, Ladies and Gentlemen… Going to go down as the funniest wine book/novel of 2018. Listed as “The further, staggering adventures of a professional wine buyer,” our author tells backstage tales of what it’s like inside the wine industry, as his character Felix Hart continues his antics.  His first book is Corkscrew, for which I laughed myself silly reading it.

There’s now an audio version of the Corkscrew book, is you like to listen to books while driving. Link: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598

I expect the same from Brut Force, as I’ve just begun this next journey. I’ve been receiving many sample book copies at the very end of this year, so reading has been shy of voracious.

I want to savor this one. Based on Peter’s first novel, this one is going to take me chuckling into the end of the years; after Christmas, really. This is when I’ll no longer have to busy myself with all of the holiday duties and festivities.

Corkscrew was the funniest book I’ve ever read; and, as a wine novel, it made it even funnier. Join me in the merriment during the last week of the year. Quoting other reactions:

“Wine lovers and teetotallers alike will weep with laughter.” Buckinghamshire Bookworm Monthly.

“Felix is back! Hold on to your Pinot and buckle up.” American Goblet Magazine

I fully intend to double back, when I’ve finished my copy. We can compare notes t that time!

DRINK PINK: A Guide to the World’s Best Rosés ~ Larry & Ann Walker

They now have got “writing duo” on their list of accomplishments. Larry and Ann are obliging the rapidly expanding US set of rosé devotees, with their timely new buyers’ guide. And the authors bear a message for these new American enthusiasts. Pink wine tastes just as good in December as it does in July.

As the US Rosé market heats up,  authors Larry and Ann Walker offer a “how-to” manual for the coming revolution.

For one, pink wine is arguably the most food friendly wine.

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition ~ Deborah M. Gray

How to Import Wine, An Insider’s Guide ~ Second Edition is critical for those wanting to break into the business; and it’s also important for those already in the business, because the nature of the wine industry is ever changing. We just have to keep up or bow out. Since the 2011 publication of the first edition of How to Import Wine, tectonic changes have fundamentally reshaped the US wine business landscape. This comprehensively revised edition puts this new environment into a manageable, actionable context. Novices and veterans alike will be able to identify dangers and new opportunities, in such areas as:

  • Federal and state regulations
  • Evolving distribution practices
  • The impact of social media
  • How to appeal to newly emerging, Millennial trendsetters

Passions – The Wines and The Travels of Thomas Jefferson ~ James M. Gabler

As I began to read the Preface of “Passions…” it occurred to me that if reincarnation is a possibility, what better way to write one’s autobiography than to come back as an author and just get it done. Here’s what made me think this… See what you think. As James has explained, Thomas Jefferson was America’s first oenophile.

James M. Gabler: “This is a biography of Thomas Jefferson at leisure, enjoying two of his passions-wine and travel. I have tried to capture Jefferson in the act of living and to let him and his contemporaries speak for themselves. The Journeys you are about to take with Jefferson are, for the most part, based on original sources: his letters, memorandum books, receipts, and the correspondence and diaries of his contemporaries. In addition I have personally followed his footsteps throughout Europe and the United States. These experiences have allowed me to contemporize what he saw and drank.”

Napa at Last Light ~ James Conaway

An important book on the critical political issue regarding Measure “C” in Napa Valley, this past 2018. I believe this book came out just in time, because it certainly made everything clear to me, leaving me knowing which way the wind should blow. If this book had anything to do with Napa’s Measure “C” (for agrotourism expansion) being defeated, and I think it did, I’m thrilled. It’s already too darn busy in Napa Valley, turning into a Disneyland of wine… You can buy a ticket, but then try to find a place where you can even fit into the squeezed spaces. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you know what I’m talking about. Kids love it; parents are frustrated by it, after the money they’ve had to shell out just to get in.

This is, no doubt, the most controversial book I’ve ever read about our beloved wine business. Because this business is so agriculturally based, and I’ve been personally involved in all agricultural preservation since the 60s, this book meant a lot to me. And, it’s given even more insights into what we’re all doing in the business of water management on wine’s behalf.

Napa at Last Light will really make you think. James Conaway has pulled out all of the stops, I believe, to prevent a potential on-coming freight train of destruction, in this 25-mile long valley of diminishing capability for expansive continued growth.

Romancing the Grape ~ Relationship Selling for Hospitality Professionals ~ Lynda R. Paulson

I highly recommend this book to any and all tasting room managers. If you don’t have a tasting room manager who is so invested (and why not, I can only wonder), then get the book for yourself, tasting room personnel. Odds are, if you practice what’s in the book, some day you will have the skill-set to manage tasting room personnel.

Romancing the Grape will make a huge difference in your career. Working in a tasting room is more than a glorified part-time employee. It’s a bonafide sales job, and you’re invited to be and excellent professional. You’ll gain all of the knowledge and confidence to become that shining star!

Tasting the Past ~ Kevin Begos

This book is the quintessential wine history book, for the last 8,000 years. Tracing all DNA evidence, Kevin Begos has created the most currently documented history of wine, as it exists, in the most masterful way possible. This wine book, just like wine, is far from dry, and carries all of the excitement of a 1945 Margaux Bordeaux.

I had a history teacher years ago, that literally put me to sleep in each class, under the spell of her monotoned voice, droning on each day for 45 minutes. As I read Kevin’s book, I thought about her and was wishing Kevin Begos had been my history teacher. Silly, I know, but so true.

With a lifelong career in published writing, Kevin is a masterful storytelling, and his new book is just so well written, and so filled with exciting moments of wine’s ancient past, it just captivated me and never let go.

Subtitled The Science of Flavor & The Search for the Origins of Wine, there is a lot going on in this truly engaging book, if you love wine and you love the origins of all life forms – or you know someone who fits that profile – this is a very important book to have in  a wine library.

[PHOTO: from publisher Algonquin Books]

The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine ~Patrick Alexander

SOMMs, Start Your Engines: And I say this after knowing that SOMMs have a boatload of details to learn… Do I need to throw on another layer?

Ah… yeah…

This book is like point-counter point, reaffirming, just another connection… Albert Einstein’s brain has been studied. Results… It’s the amount of connections in his brain that gave him his genius. A network from one concept had many links/memories; so, the quantity created more images than average, with a massive amount of thoughts for the best recall. You may already know this, or not. Either way, it’s a great refresher, just like The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine.

For someone just starting out with wine, this is like speed dialing.

[PHOTO: from Karen MacNeil’s Website]

The Wine Bible ~ Karen MacNeil

This book should be in everyone’s Wine Book Library, because it’s a great resource for any research.

If you’re even thinking about become a sommelier, do yourself a favor and begin in earnest with The Wine Bible. You’ll become familiar with wine regions of the world. Here’s just a nibble of Anjou-Saumur and Touraine, for instance:

The middle Loire is probably the most fascinating and least well-known part of the valley. This is where the Loire’s best sweet and medium-sweet wines, sparkling wines, and red wines are all made, along with many terrific dry wines and rosés. While several grape varieties are grown, the leading white grape is chenin blanc, the leading red, cabernet franc. (p. 264)

This is a book for all times; mostly, though, it’s a book for right now; if you’re the least bit thirsty for wine knowledge, as well as the liquid manifestations…


Vineyard ~ Sonoma County ~ George Rose

This year’s quintessential coffee table book, for any book lover. Dan Berger has best described this beautiful book: “VINEYARD Sonoma County” is a celebration of the beauty of winegrowing throughout one of California’s most diverse wine regions and is the culmination of the photographer’s twenty-five-year career spent living, working, and documenting the dramatic seasonal changes of Sonoma County Wine Country. The volume includes a foreword by Alder Yarrow, publisher of the prestigious Vinography.com wine blog and an introduction by noted wine writer and mutual friend, Dan Berger.

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course’s Latest Edition ~ Kevin Zraly

The regions of wine covered in the 2018 edition, have immeasurably expanded in a continuing anthology of wine grape varieties, bottles and glasses, how to read a label, wine aromas and tastes, and a 60-second wine expert, for instance.

Kevin’s new book (the one to the left in this photo) is massively expanded and really well done. I was immediately relieved in by his explanation of “Kinds of Tasters.” He references Janet Zimmerman’s article “Science of the Kitchen: Taste and Texture...”

I never knew about Janet’s SCIENCE OF THE KITCHEN: TASTE AND TEXTURE article (so, now I know the original source of explanation for my palate). Finally we can all understand the specifics of tasters, from non-tasters to super tasters… I’m a super taster, and that’s not a bragging right. It’s a curse. I eat very little as a result. Kevin has condensed Janet’s taster types. I’m thankful it’s in print, because there are those who just don’t understand and think we’re immediately born with a palate. Trust me, I’ve had to develop mine over the years, and it’s still ongoing.

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition of the Master Guide ~ Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack

If ever there was a wine book of the times ~ like the times right now ~ Madeline Puckett and Justin Hammack have nailed it with Wine Folly: Magnum Edition of the Master Guide. It’s a hard copy and it’s going to be a quintessential guide to have in any wine library. Completely visual with wine graphics and charts, bottles and maps, varietal characteristics for some old and some-new-to-you Wines to Explore, etc… This is the compilation of a massive endeavor, a book of the times, and an adoring audience so ready for quick sound bites to solidify the skeleton their fleshing out. It’s also a quick reference for anyone with great knowledge of wine and just wants quick navigating of facts and figures…

Wine for dummies, 7th Edition ~ Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan

Jam packed with a life-long learning of wine, wine veterans Ed McCarthy (Certified Wine Educator) and Mary Ewing-Mulligan’s (Master of Wine), Wine for dummies continues to deliver Wine 101 in a fun and appealing way. They get you going, if you’re just beginning in wine, teach you how to buy wine – which can be intimidating, given the thousands of brands – inspire you with the history of “old world” and share “new world wines” knowledge (which have less history). They then wrap it up with “When you’ve caught the Bug,” and what to do with the knowledge they’ve shared.

As their own personal experiences have expanded, so has this easy accessible, wine related subject. Always an apropos book for someone just starting out in wine and wants to read and learn in sound bites, Wine for dummies delivers the most up-to-date info from their personal experiences and learning.

My favorite part of the book? Appendix A ~ Pronunciation Guide to Wine Terms. It begins:

Name or term = Pronunciation

Agiorghitiko = eye-your-yee-tee-koe

This is a wine encyclopedia, or sorts. It’s also the kind of book you can read in soundbites, and pickup nuggets of wisdom each time you turn a page. Or, use it as a reference, when you need to pronounce something that you have no idea it even existed, like Agiorghitiko. You know someone who will love this one, right?