Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean (Bloomsbury USA, 2006)
My very favorite wine book informs novice and expert alike. Above that, it’ll have you laughing aloud from beginning to end. MacLean is a wonderful writer who transcends the genre by setting aside pretension and wine snobbery--and she's won four James Beard Awards, along with many other accolades, in the process. Her enthusiasm is so contagious, by the time you finish this book you'll be filling out job applications to get a job in the industry. $22, hardcover.
The Accidental Connoisseur: An Irreverent Journey Through the Wine World by Lawrence Osborne (North Point Press, 2004)
In this memoir, the "irreverent" tag is a euphemism for Osborne’s hilarious scorn. Whether having lunch with Robert Mondavi or drinking with an Italian winemaker so enamored of Bob Dylan he named a wine after his song "Visions of Johanna," Osborne will have you busting a gut. This Brit is the Hunter S. Thompson of the wine world. While radical leftist Italian radio blares in the background, the author shares a horrible wine with its psychopathic winemaker, observing, “I smelled at once an odor of fungus, straw, and simmering insanity. It tasted even worse.” A fabulous tale and lesson in wine. $14, paperback.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace (Crown, 2008)
Wine geeks will love this true tale of how Hardy Rodenstock, a European pop music magnate who comes across like a sinister Bond villain, became embroiled in a fraud scheme involving bottles of rare and outrageously expensive wines. A cache of these wines was billed as having been owned by Thomas Jefferson--one bottle brought an auction price of $156,000--unleashing a series of international lawsuits and police investigations. This is a glimpse into the world of rare and expensive auction wines and the subculture of wealthy eccentric collectors. $25, hardcover.
To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle by George M. Taber (Scribner, 2008)
“Cork or screw-top?” It's one of the most discussed topics among wine geeks in the quest for the perfect bottle closure. Taber's book is the definitive examination of a dilemma that's dogged both the industry and wine buyers for years. Beginning with the history of the cork, the politics of the industry in Portugal and Spain, and moving on to the invention of alternative closures (that will hopefully eliminate the disastrous effect bad corks have on wine), this book explains it all. Only for diehard oenophiles. $26, hardcover.
The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil (Workman Publishing Company, 2001)
Before you die of boredom reading one of Jancis Robinson’s or Hugh Johnson’s pedantic and tedious wine tomes, try this book. MacNeil is accessible to the novice and informative to the connoisseur. $19.95, paperback.
Windows On The World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly (Sterling, 2008)
The perfect primer for the wine novice. It's the largest-selling wine book in history, mainly because it's used as a manual by restaurant professionals across the country. $24.95, hardcover.