A Balanced Bookshelf: Recommended Reading for Every Wine Lover

Every wine lover, from the novice drinker to the seasoned professional, knows that the world of wine can be an intimidating one. Between regions, grape varieties, science, history, and more, there is a never-ending world of knowledge to be uncovered. Though it may seem overwhelming at times, learning about wine can be an exciting and fulfilling lifelong pursuit. Fortunately, there is a wealth of reading material out there to shed light on the universe of vines, grapes, and wines, and the people responsible for bringing them to your glass. In today’s fast-paced world of digital media, most people rely on blogs and online publications for information—but there’s nothing like a great book to enhance one’s understanding of a subject, whether it is a broad survey or a deep dive into a specific topic. We have curated a list of some of our favorite books about wine, with something for everyone, whatever your specific interests may be.

For the Beginner:

Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine
Madeline Puckette
The colorful illustrations and infographics in this book are about as approachable and unpretentious as it gets. If you’re starting from square one and feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of learning about wine, this beautifully designed guide will instantly put you at ease and make your studies as fun as they are informative.

Windows on the World Complete Wine Course
Kevin Zraly
This is a solid overview of the world’s wine regions and grapes, structured like an Intro to Wine course. If you don’t have the time or money to take a wine class in person, this is the next best thing, and its various editions published over the last 25 years have been the gold standard in basic wine education texts.

24-Hour Wine Expert
Jancis Robinson
If the wine industry had a queen, it would be Jancis Robinson. Beloved by wine professionals throughout the world, Her Majesty Jancis has a rare knack for explaining both the simplest and the most complicated concepts in wine with equal dexterity. This quick, easy-to-read guide is perfect for beginning to build the foundations of serious wine knowledge.

For the Generalist:

The World Atlas of Wine
Hugh Johnson
Now in its seventh edition, this is the holy grail reference book for the wine regions of the world. Filled with colorful, detailed maps and high-quality photos, this is the best resource for understanding the “sense of place” behind the wine in your glass.

The Oxford Companion to Wine
Jancis Robinson & Julia Harding

This indispensable volume is a must-own for every serious wine lover. With alphabetized entries covering just about every topic imaginable, you likely won’t be reading this one from cover to cover. But if you’re in need of a quick overview of,  say, canopy microclimate, the Vermentino grape, or the wines of Bulgaria, this is the first place you’ll want to look.

The Wine Bible
Karen MacNeil
Another perennial favorite, this friendly paperback is one reference book you will actually want to sit down and read, though it works equally well if you simply want to focus on one topic at a time. While it looks dense, the relaxed, conversational tone is engaging and easy to follow throughout.

Wine Grapes
Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, & Jose Vouillamoz
Are you noticing a pattern here? Yes, Queen Jancis strikes again. This rather impressive (and heavy) tome is not for the faint of heart. A guide to 1,368 commercially relevant grape varieties throughout the world, this book covers the origins and relationships of those varieties, the regions in which they are grown, and the aromas and flavors they typically express.

For the Storyteller:

Judgement of Paris
George M. Taber
A must-read for any lover of Californian wine, this story chronicles the now-infamous Paris Tasting of 1976, in which wines from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelena beat out their French counterparts in a blind tasting judged by French wine experts. The event caused quite an uproar, and was responsible for putting the Napa Valley in a prime spot on the international wine stage. This compelling account of the tasting as well as the events preceding and following it is written by the sole journalist who reported on the tasting.

A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine
Jay McInerney
This guy knows how to have fun with wine. In a serious of short essays, the beloved novelist and bon vivant who wrote Bright Lights, Big City brings you along on his imbibing adventures with a lively, colorful, and at times irreverent writing style. It’s such a delight to read, you might not even notice how informative it is.

Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times
Don Kladstrup
Travel back in time to the early days of Champagne. This book will lead you through the Belle Epoque and a series of wars up to the present day to discover the rich and captivating history of everyone’s favorite bubbly beverage. Required reading for anyone who loves Champagne—which is pretty much everyone.

For the Hardcore Wine Geek:

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine
Barry C. Smith
This is about as cerebral as a wine book gets, and it is only recommended for the most passionate of oenophiles. Each chapter features a different expert (including philosophers, a linguist, and a winemaker, among others) posing a different philosophical question related to wine—for example, how much do we need to know about wine in order to appreciate it? Can too much wine knowledge actually detract from our enjoyment of a beverage? Each expert argues both sides, leaving the reader to ponder his or her own stance on the matter.

Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture
Patrick E. McGovern
The history of civilization is intrinsically linked to the history of wine. Much debate exists over the true birthplace of wine, and biomolecular archaeologist Patrick McGovern takes us further back in history than just about any other writer to authoritatively uncover the origins of the domesticated vine. This book provides stunning insight into ancient and biblical cultures through a wine-tinted lens.