Following the second edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine (1999), a contributor, Cass, has edited a book on the wines of U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Not surprisingly, some of the cross-references in this book refer to the general volume.
The North American volume begins with 15 essays of three to five pages on a variety of topics, two written by Robinson and one by Cass. Other contributors to the essays and the text include professors, owners of wineries, a sommelier, and wine writers. Robinson, who is British, writes an evaluative essay on the quality of North American wine and believes "that the very best wines reach as high a level . . . as the best Europe can produce." An essay on trends and demographics notes that eight percent of the North American population drinks wine but they drink ten percent of the wine produced worldwide.
The A-Z entries take up about 75 percent of the book and are written by nine contributors, including Cass, whose writing is particularly lively and amusing. Describing Jack Cakebread as better known for his football photography, with winery finances supplied by the family auto body business, Cass writes that Cakebread winery has been "accorded artisan status rarely associated with football or with fender replacement." In addition to entries for wineries, geographic areas (counties, states, regions), organizations, wine terms and grape varieties, and people associated with viticulture are also mentioned. Although some of the entries are long and detailed (California is more than 10 pages long), references are not included. Four 4 page spreads of color photographs are interspersed with the text. Line-drawn maps of wine-growing regions of the U.S. are not very useful because they indicate only elevation, cities, rivers, and lakes.
Two pages of "classic" American foods with wine suggest a Colorado Chardonnay with alligator or Livermore Semillon with lima beans! The comprehensive, useful index lists names of U.S. wine licensees and American Viticultural Areas (as designated by the Wine Institute) as well as people, techniques, and so on that are mentioned in the text. In both the index and the Note to the Reader, Cass mentions that the ownership of wineries changes daily and the information is current as of spring 2000.
The Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America stands alone as a current resource for wine enthusiasts. Used in conjunction with the second edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine, it will provide a comprehensive look at a popular and important industry in the U.S. Recommended for public and academic libraries with an interest in oenology. (An online version of The Oxford Companion to Wine is available at Wine.com [http://www.wine.com].) RBB
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About the Author
Bruce Cass brings years of internationally recognized expertise to this remarkable project. He has taught wine classes on the Stanford University campus since 1972, helped found the Society of Wine Educators, and was the editorial consultant for James Halliday's Wine Atlas of California, which won both the Julia Child and the James Beard awards as Best Wine Book of 1993. He is a respected wine judge in international competitions both at home and abroad. He lives in San Francisco, California, where he runs the non-profit Pacific Rim Wine Education Center. Jancis Robinson is one of the world's leading authorities on wine and the editor of the acclaimed Oxford Companion to Wine. Now in its second edition, this bestseller has won numerous awards, including the Cliquot Book of the Year, the James Beard Award, the Julia Child/ International Association of Culinary Professionals Award, and the André Simon Memorial Award. The first British journalist to have passed the notoriously tough Master of Wine exams, she is now the wine columnist for the Financial Times and writes a regular column for publications in eleven countries on five continents, including The Los Angeles Times. She lives in London, England.