144 of 147 people found the following review helpful
Some reference books sit on the shelf, forgotten, hoping to be used someday in the future when someone has a desperate need to know how to calculate the third log value of an arctangent.
This book is as far removed from that fate as a Petrus is from a White Zinfandel!
At least once a week I have opened up this gorgeous wine tome and looked up the answer to a question, or read more about a particular wine I was enjoying. With over 3,000 entries to choose from, you can explore the ancient roots of wine in Iraq and Egypt, or learn about new vine-growing techniques winemakers are using in Washington State. The information is clearly written, well illustrated, and not overly technical.
Jancis Robinson, the editor of the tome, is well known in the industry for her knowledge and fluency in wines of all types. Combine her amazing knowledge with fantastic photographs of each wine region, and even reviews of various personalities in wine, and you have a book that you'll keep on the coffee table and actually read often! Be warned - you can lose guests in its pages for hours.
The book is great for a beginner. Confused about Beaujolais Nouveau? Want to know how a White Zinfandel differs from a Red Zinfandel? The Oxford Companion to Wine has clear, concise descriptions of all wine types, explaining their histories, their characteristics, and where they're found now.
The Companion is also a boon for experienced drinkers. It goes into the fine details of how wines are grown, and how various winemakers use different techniques to bring out the best in their particular grapes. There are maps of wine regions, and insights into what makes certain wines unique.
Great as a gift for your favorite wine drinker, but buy one for yourself, too! The book is a wonderful reference tool to have around the house. With its lovely photos of France, Italy, and Spain, it serves as a wine-lovers guide to places to visit or dream about, and wines to drink while doing so. Highly recommended as the only wine book you should ever need.
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 1999
The sheer breadth of what this astounding book offers is almost too good to be true. I just started out learning about wine and I wish this had been the first book I cracked open. Jancis Robinson shows her immense talent as an editor and should be commended. If you're learning about wine, this is the book to get. If you already know about wine, get it anyway. You won't reget the purchase.
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
As a wine industry professional and card-carrying wine geek I can say that this is the single best wine reference book out there. If you're a beginner look elsewhere, but if you're someone who needs to know the grape parentage of Huxelrebe or the history of Chateauneuf du Pape then this is the book.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2006
I use the Oxford Companion constantly! Wine terms and references can be a bit confusing at times and that's where this book comes in. This book is organized in alphabetical order so if you see a wine related term or word that needs some splain' just refer to The Oxford Companion to Wine.
I don't recommend this book for the wine novice because it can be intimidating. It is essentially an encylopedia/dictionary and over 2000 pages and as heavy as a half a sack of bricks. I think that if you gave this book to a beginner it would be overwhelming and might dampen their interest and we don't want that to happen. I use this book as companion to the wine text book I am using at the moment. I sit down and read my assigned text and then follow up by refering to the Oxford Companion. I can't tell you how many times the light bulb has gone off after reading the Companion.
The book reveals info on grape types. winemaking techniques and terms, wine regions, vine training methods, oak barrels, wine pioneers,wine producers, maps,photos and illustrations. Even though it is jammed packed with wine info I don't find it to be stuffy. I find that Ms.Robinson's (editor) personality comes through.
Over the years I have purchased a second copy because I take pages out of one so that I can carry a few pages with me on topics that I know I will encounter during the day (I work in the wine industry). Yes there is also the abridged version of the Oxford Companion but I prefer the original.
While this is not a cover to cover read (which I have attempted)I think you will find it to be a welcome edition to your wine library and an excellent reference tool.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2000
Thirty years ago this book could not have been written. With the increasing ascendancy of the New World wine makers and in particular the influence of the Davis campus of the University of California, viticulture and oenology are now rigorous, scientific and commercially oriented professions. This is reflected in the "Oxford Companion to Wine" which has to be the most comprehensive, authoritative and accessible resource dealing with all aspects of the world of wine.
Jancis Robinson who edited this encyclopedia of wine is a highly respected wine writer and educator. She is also very well credentialled, holding the prestigious title of "Master of Wine".
The real power of this book as an information source is the very effective use of cross-references. Its great fun to see how far one reference will take you on subjects of particular interest to the reader. It would be good to see this book published as a CD-ROM. Hyper-linking all the cross-references would make it even more powerful.
The changes in the wine business over the past generation have seen the previously exclusive, "clubbiness", almost snobby world of fine wine appreciation opened up to everyone. It is books like this that have provided the sources of knowledge which give people the confidence and curiosity to pursue their interest and enjoyment of wine.
France is the traditional home of fine wine. The French approach to wine making is still dominated by practices and methodologies that go back centuries. It is interesting to see in the "Oxford Companion" the strong contrast between the empirically rigorous New World (particularly USA and Australian) methods and the mystery (or mystique) that even today, shrouds much of the French industry.
One of the best illustrations of this dichotomy in the Companion is the entry on "Terroir". This French term encapsulates the mystique that defines a particular vine growing area. It goes well beyond the issue of soil and microclimate but instead embraces everything that makes a particular wine unique.
In the "Companion" the terroir debate seems to come down on the side which believes the term is used to cover vagueness and explain characteristics that are otherwise difficult to explain. This allows sometimes ordinary wine to be passed off as something special.
Compare this to the innovative, scientifically supported approaches used in the New World. A good example is the development of "Canopy Management" the varying techniques used to optimize the yield and ripening characteristics of a grapevine.
Similarly we have see the arrival of "flying winemakers" from Australia into regions like the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France. They have introduced stainless steel fermentation vessels, temperature control and meticulous cleanliness, to what was previously a very rough and ready local business. They are now producing some of the some best Merlots, acknowledged by even the French.
This book will no doubt become the definitive reference book on all matters to do with the world of wine. It will be of the highest value to both the wine professional and the enthusiastic wine lover.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2001
This is a great source of information for many aspects of wine. There is a lot of narrative information about wine producing countries, wine producing appellations, varietals, technical growing information, production (as in fermentation or grape crushing), storage, consumption (glasses, bottle aging, etc), and history (people, wineries, wine gods, folklore, myths, etc).
Other nice features: Articles frequently reference each other, with the article heading in bold for easy reference. There are great appendixes with wine stats (production, etc).
The only thing I didn't like about the book is that there is no pronunciation guide, which to me is a big negative. Overall, I doubt you will find a better (or even close to better) single source of wine information anywhere else. Why didn't I give it 5 stars? It's not exactly a classic, just a great data source.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2005
This book is a superb no-nonsense overview of wine from around the world, and is certainly more of an encyclopedia than any of the other "wine encyclopedias" of which I am aware. Topics covered include the known science and chemistry of wine, global geographic distribution of varietals including details of wine growing regions that may not be as widely known to many readers, several thousand types of wine, and the history of wine growing regions. In my opinion this book is unparalleled as of yet. These comments are for the first edition of the book, however I suspect the second edition is even better.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2000
Wine lovers of the world rejoice! This book is the best English encyclopaedia that one can peruse on the subject of 'Wine'. It has been painstakingly researched and meticulously indexed by Robinson, with the end result being a compelling volume that is rich in history, depth and information of 'all topics wine'.
The second edition which went on further to update readers on topics ranging from controlling bodies, prices & investments, new global markets, statistical overviews and vintages.
Worth every pence!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2003
This encyclopedia is extensive and very good. It is also very heavy. You may want to get a primer on wine (e.g., "Wine for Dummies") before getting this as a reference, but this is one for your shelves. It covers many aspects of wine and to a great deal of detail in some areas, which is welcomed. Almost all of the information is current. What little is not current is insignificant in size and importance. Take at a good look at this reference.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2002
For a novice like me with long but limited wine knowledge this is a perfect companion. I consider this THE enceclopedia for all wine related questions. It would be hard to find a more comprehensive compendium on wine. Equally recommended for the beginner or evryone who needs answers to his questions regarding wine. KEEP IN MIND: This is an alphabetic enceclopedia type of book.