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Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 2000 Paperback – November 19, 1999
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Hugh Johnson is the Grand Old Man of wine writing. For nearly a quarter of a century--during which there's been an exponential growth in the number of Napa wineries--Johnson has been distilling the entire world of wine into Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 2000. This is the 23rd edition of this lively, biased, Eurocentric, and highly informative compact reference.
Johnson's foreword to this "micro-encyclopedia" (his term) states his intention to craft a nontheoretical, practical volume "designed to take the panic out of buying." He candidly declares his business interests in both Chateau Latour and Hungary's Royal Tokaji Wine Co., and admits that his information is culled from various sources. This edition begins with chapters on grape varieties, with information ranging from the astute ("Trebbiano: Mostly thin, bland wine; needs blending [or more careful growing]") and the contentious (his idea that Sangiovese has top-quality potential in California would probably come as a surprise to the Napa growers who've been struggling with it for years) to the incomplete (no mention of Zinfandel's relation to Italy's Primitivo) and the just plain wrong (Syrah and Petite Sirah are not the same grape). The "Wine and Food Matches" chapter is just as idiosyncratic. The best match for kippers? "A good cup of tea, preferably Ceylon (no milk, no sugar)." And hamburger? "Bulgarian Cabernet. Or Coke or Pepsi (not Diet)." By the time he suggests that you pour expensive Margaux claret on your strawberries, you may want to skip right to the alphabetized chapters, arranged by country, which comprise the heart of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 2000. Wine terms, grape growers, wineries, geography, maps, opinions on top vintages, advice on when to drink them--this is the stuff that'll have your copy dog-eared and falling apart just in time for next year's edition. --Tony Mason
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Top Customer Reviews
He gives too little attention to promising American wineries which produce beautiful (but admittedly different) interpretations of wine varietals and blends. Likewise, other new world winemaking countries (Australia in particular) have created a handful of legendary wines that, when placed next to their French contemporaries, outright beat them in a blind tasting. And wines from Spain, which taste quite different but have a unique beauty in their peculiarity, are dismissed quite readily as inferior. Rather, I would have preferred a more objective representation of the wines of the world which, while perhaps stating the author's preferences, also recognizes the inherent beauty of the different winemaking regions of the world: each has a particular taste and flavor that, if you take the time to learn and appreciate, can reward you with the smile of fond memories each time you taste another wine from that locale.
Were I to dote on this book, I'd hear Mr. Johnson's voice every time I open another bottle of wine saying, "you should have bought a Bordeaux..."
No question, fois gras and sauternes make my mouth water and my heart race, but no thanks, my paella tastes better with a Rioja, and my kangaroo burger with a Shiraz!
Still, a great read -- balanced viewpoint (i.e. not egocentric), succinct writing, well-organised, easy to use, and full of enthusiasm for the subject. Has a healthy respect for humbler wines that is lacking in other publications; a timely reminder that wine is to be enjoyed in all dimensions and not just an excuse to be poncey. Definitely worth buying.