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The Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America Hardcover – November 9, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (November 9, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019860114X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198601142
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,415,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Waiting on Petite Sirah hoping for elegance is like marrying a stripper in the hope of witty conversation in old age."
This is the wonderful kind of wit that you find throughout this book. Bruce Cass, Jancis Robinson and the other fine wine writers who are responsible for the book's substance all appear to have a tremendous love of wine but don't need to deify it. I laughed out loud several times as I read descriptions of wines and wine characters.
The Wisdom is even more amazing. There is a wealth of factual information and interpretation. Just open up the book to any page and start to read. Within 45 seconds, you will utter, "Wow, I didn't know that."
This is the best book on wines written in a long time.
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The "Oxford Companion to Wine", edited by Jancis Robinson, is the definitive modern reference on wine. Not intended to be read as a book, the entries nevertheless make compelling reading and following the cross-referenced entries can easily consume a pleasurable evening. This "supplement" doesn't live up to the original in terms of quality, comprehensiveness or value. If you were expecting a version of the companion tuned to American wines, you'll be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you can't get enough of the original and long for more information on California growers, this isn't a bad start. We can always hope for a revised, expanded, second edition.
For the North American supplement, Jancis Robinson served only as a "consulting editor". She apparently corrected the editor's English usage (see the preface), but she didn't write any of the entries. She did write two throwaway pieces in the beginning of the book on "How Good are North American Wines?" and "Commentators and the Wine Media". There are roughly 60 pages worth of introduction to North American Wine, most of which I did not find deep enough to be particularly informative.
Almost all of the cross-references on vinification, wine-making, cellaring, tasting, defects, grapes, etc. are in the "Oxford Companion", making it essentially impossible to use the North American guide alone.
Compared to the "Oxford Companion", the entries are relatively breezy. The font is larger, the margins are wider, and the book is much shorter. Like the "Oxford Companion", the maps are truly horrendous; you'll remember them from coloring assignments in grade school. Invest in Hugh Johnson's and Jancis Robinson's wonderful new "World Atlas of Wine" for maps. The Atlas's coverage of North American wine styles, grapes and regions isn't half bad, either.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on a recommendation out of Kevin Zraly's book, Kevin Zraly's Complete Wine Course I think he recommends it in the Oregon wine section of his book. This book really does nothing for me. If you want to look up some wine terms its great, but more than likely, by the time you buy this book, you will already know the terms. The wineries it showcases are great, but the wines it recommends are impossible to find, as with most wine books...It is a great book if you are a bare bones beginner. Also, it is a bit dated.
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Format: Hardcover
Given some of the less than stellar reviews of this book, I was expecting far less. This is a collection of excellent information specific to North American winemaking, wineries, producers, etc., that can't - to my knowledge at least - be found anywhere else "under the same roof". There are also some good introductory articles that are educational, especially for the neophyte.

True, the maps in the back of the book are fairly useless. They display towns, highways, mountain ranges, elevation, but no AVAs. That left me dumbfounded. I now know that Hwy 101 can take you from LA to Ventura and further north into Washington State, but - so what? I already knew that, and I live in Illinois. If you're going to include maps in a book like this, they need to be specific and informative.

Still, as I said, the fact that there is excellent information in the A-Z section, and that in the text of that section references are directly made to the Oxford Companion to Wine if the reader wants more information, makes this a very good reference.
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