The Wine Bible
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260 of 274 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2003
The spine on my worn copy of the Wine Bible is cracked and its pages are dog-eared, even though I think the book has several notable shortcomings. As I write this, I find myself in the unusual position of criticizing the thick volume even though I turn to it for information on a regular basis.
My biggest complaint is that I feel the book doesn't really know what it wants to be. On the one hand, it is a comprehensive reference book that in many areas goes into more depth than other general wine books. But it falls short as a reference book because it lacks the scope of books like The World Atlas of Wine or The Global Encyclopedia of Wine, which cover more up-and-coming wine producing countries, more specific producers and, especially in the case of The World Atlas of Wine, are enhanced by beautiful photographs and maps. Though the Wine Bible is substantial (it weighs in at a hefty 910 pages) its design is more compact than the other books I mentioned, and so might make a better travel companion for someone visiting multiple wine producing regions in a single trip. But the lack of good maps makes a supplemental book necessary.
Additionally, the book can feel like a disjointed collection of articles that ought to have been better integrated before publication. Often, the same information (referring to multiple or confusing names for grape varieties or regions, or quality standards in specific countries) is referred to parenthetically several times, often in quick succession -- something unnecessary, especially given the book's excellent glossary.
But despite these criticisms, I find myself referring to the book repeatedly. Part of the reason for that is author Karen MacNeil's pleasing and unpretentious writing style, which somehow manages to please wine lovers of many different levels of knowledge. Ms. MacNeil's passion for wine comes through in the text and her knowledge of the subject is extremely impressive, with her descriptions often compensating for a lack of quality photos. And though I would like to see more wine producing areas covered by the book, the regions she does address are covered extremely comprehensively. The quality of information is also very even: before travels to these areas I have read the book's sections on South Africa, the Mosel, Loire, Ribera del Duero, Languedoc, as well as everything on my adopted home country, and could not detect any ebb in Ms. Mac Neil's enthusiasm or knowledge.
After some thought, I settled on four stars for this review, despite the complaints I have. The book is just too useful and too skillfully written for fewer stars. The next addition, I feel sure, will earn five on my improvised scale.
Once you have moved beyond the most basic level in wine knowledge, this is an important book to have. If you can buy only one book on the subject, this is not the one I would suggest -- The World Atlas of Wine gets my vote for that honor -- but if you were to limit your collection to two books, then I think this is a serious candidate for that second position. Once you've got that much covered, I'd lean toward a book that focuses on your favorite wine producing region or another specific aspect of the subject, like tasting or wine production.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is a great book for all things wine related. In fact, when I first saw the book, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the comprehesiveness. Don't buy the book thinking you will have an easy to use tool to take with you to the local wine and cheese outlet. But, if interested in becoming more of an "expert" in the art of wine tasting and enjoying, try it out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2005
The Wine Bible is something of a rarity in that it is simultaneously basic enough be the a first wine book, and advanced enough to be an intermediate reference guide. That is quite a trick, and is the primary reason I have read through its sections many times and continue to refer to it on a regular basis.

Karen MacNeil has written a handy book here. The practice of winemaking is discussed, the major and minor grapes are detailed, and all of the major regions are analyzed in basic enough terms to make it approachable, but also with enough detail to provide a fairly complete picture of each region. Cuisine is discussed, as are wines to know and wineries to visit. In short, the Wine Bible is an all-in-one reference guide to the beginning wine enthusiast who knows enough to talk about wine, but not enough to talk about wine intelligently.

The Wine Bible is also well-written, although the author can be a bit much at times (for example, flavors are always "darting" about in the glass). However, at the end of the day, her occaisonal overreaching only serves to emphasize her enthusiasm, and this is not a bad thing. In sum, a great reference, and good read for beginning enthusiasts ready for that next step up in knowledge.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
...I was not disappointed. I have recently taken to wine seriously and the first book I bought was this one, based on a recommendation by NY Times wine columnist Eric Asimov. I backpacked it with some shirts and jeans and flew from Brazil to Bordeaux, then took the TGV to Burgundy, then train to Liguria and then Piedmont and Tuscany and Campania. Nice trip, everyone should do it sometime. (Couple of tips: in Burgundy, stay in Beaune, not Dijon. In Piedmont, spend two nights in Alba, jazzy little barolo-and-trufles town.) Back to business: TWB is exactly what most reviewers below say it is: conversational, unpretentious but authoritative and above all demystifying. The book is organized by countries, so it inspires you to travel. In my case, during the trip I followed her advices on local wines and I never regretted it. I learned a lot and drank some of the best wines so far in my life: thank you, Karen. (Look for these wines if you happen to go to Bordeaux or Siena, respectively: "Le Bon Pasteur", a Pomerol, and "Scirus", a Super Tuscan.) The only reason I do not give TWB five stars is that I feel that the book is already in dire need of a second revised edition. Some of the stores and restaurants she recommends do not exist any more, for example. But more important than that, the wine industry worldwide has been developing very fast in the last ten years and, frankly, the space the book dedicates to some regions seems to me indefensible. Being from South America, probably my opinion that Chile and Argentina together should get more than twenty-some pages at the end of a 900-page "bible" is a little biased. Ok, but the dry table wines from Portugal get six pages, less than the State of Virginia (USA). If you think this is fair, try the Portuguese red blend "Vinha do Mouro 2004" (US$10 or less) and get back here... Anyway, a fine and fun, if a little dated, introduction to wine. Still a buy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2007
I use this book as the main text for a course I teach at a local university. It is easy to read and understand and gives information in plain English. It was published in 2001 so some of the sections need to be updated. I supplement those sections. I was in contact with the author and she tells me that she is working on a revised edition and it might be ready in 08. It a big book and it takes time. All in all it is a very worthwhile text for starting to study about wine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2009
This is a great book for identifying where a grape comes from, how to interpret a label--no matter what country the wine comes from. The chief wines and where the grapes are grown for them and the history of those wines. My only complaint is that the author has a list of wines at the end as Must tastes and for everyone I have checked the average price of those must taste wines is $50! I could use some suggestions between $10 and $20.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book touches on so many wine-related topics that it could probably replace three or four books on your shelf. I like that it is designed in such a way that you can flip through any section and get the info you want without having to read the whole book.

I do think the book is a little "old school" as far as wine education goes and tends present information as rules as opposed to presenting the topic wine as fun. But if you want to learn about wine, the book is packed with info to help you sniff, swirl and sip like a pro.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2007
This is a great book to keep by your bedside and read a chapter a night. It covers the basics on all the major wine regions of the world. You won't be an "expert" when you read this but you'll feel more confident and know the basics. I wish there was more about food and wine pairing, though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2014
Very broad "shotgun" approach to wines. Obviously the author has spent a long time learning about them. This book is basically a summary of 9 major types of wine in the market. They are discussed by the area where they are successfully grown.
1.Basic wine tasting do's and don'ts is discussed

2.The tremendous loss that occurred to vines due to phylloxera is discussed which amazed me.

3.Different standards in grape growing and wine making across the world.

4.Something that it did not contain was some of the latest research into wine.(of course it couldn't because it was written in 2001)..

This new research at the molecular level on proteins see the Wired.Com article on wine, here is a quote:

"Then, they compared the O. oeni proteomic fingerprint to that of closely related bacterial strains. By looking for differences in the proteins each microbe makes, the team was able to identify proteins expressed by O. oeni that aren't expressed by its less-boozy relatives. Not surprisingly, they report in the journal Open Biology, several of these proteins were enzymes involved in rearranging molecules to form diacetyls, acetoins, or esters, the compounds that give wine nutty, buttery, or fruity aromas."

5.So, eventually, scientific research may again help take some of the mystery out of how and why a particular wine tastes and "smells" the way it does... and include a description of how this process takes place. Not only will we taste the difference but we will understand that more than water,soil,nutrients,climate, and rootstock/scion types and etc. affect wine aroma and taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2014
I have used this book for years and regularly find myself revisiting sections for information. Honestly, for the price (under $15 w/ Prime 2 day shipping) this resource should be in every persons collection if they are the least bit interested in wine, even if it just sits on a lonely coffee table.

The good: The first 100 pages are truly timeless. They offer insight to production, tasting, and more. These process have not changed in centuries, and in some cases ever. They flow together smoothly and are a relatively quick read. I highly recommend this section for anyone just seriously getting into wine or working around wine. It will cover all the 101 stuff as well as give you the knowledge to answer most basic questions.

The bad: The rest of the book seems to lose the cohesive feel offered in the first 80-100 pages. It begins diving into the complex world of wine regions and never seems to decide on how it wants to take on this overwhelming task. Some information could be updated, but it is not significant enough to take away from, or discredit, the vast amount of information held within this book.

Overall, this book is highly recommended. Perfect? No. But it will certainly provide you with a great deal of basic knowledge for a more than fair price.
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