Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
That gift-giving season is roaring toward us like some mammoth sleigh piloted by a crazy old coot in a red coat, so it’s time to start making some choices. For the wine lover in your life - or simply for yourself - this fall has been particularly chockablock with new wine books. Here are a few picks:
The heart of his argument, and perhaps the heart of his love of wine as well, might lie in this elegantly stated insight: “The beauty of wine is due in significant portion to its mystery...The goal is not so much to unravel the mystery as it is to revel in it.”
So, ff the wine whose mysteries you most revel in is sherry, then the recently published "Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla" by Peter Liem and Jesús Barquín (Mantius, $30), two of the foremost authorities on the subject, is a must-have. The first half is an in-depth reference to essentially everything there is to know about sherry: its history, the nature of the region, how it’s made and aged, and the many different styles. The latter half of the book is a thorough and extremely useful critical assessment of the principal bodegas of the region and their wines.
On the other hand, for Spain-lovers who prefer their wines unfortified, Ana Fabiano’s visually striking "The Wine Region of Rioja" (Sterling Epicure, $35) delves deeply into the history of Spain’s most famous wine, provides clearly written explanations of the region’s vineyards and winemaking, and also presents profiles of the top producers. It’s an elegant portrait of one of the world’s greatest wine regions.
Closer to home, Doug Shafer’s "A Vineyard in Napa", written with Andy Demsky (University of California Press, $30) is a thoughtful and entertaining portrait of one of Napa’s most acclaimed wineries, Shafer Vineyards. But by virtue of the 1972-2012 arc the book comprises, it’s also a fascinating history of Napa’s transformation from a rural community, full of walnut orchards and grazing cattle as well as vineyards, into one of the world’s most wealthy, famous and acclaimed wine regions. Plus, it contains the appealingly inarguable line: “There must be a million American stories that begin with a family packing themselves into a station wagon.”
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