Books, glorious books!

There are wine books and then there are WINE BOOKS, with the thought in extra-large font and spotlit.

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Two comprehensive wine books have been updated and are being released this fall: Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine and Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. If you spend your days marketing wines, these are books which should be within reach. You may have earlier editions….but you really might consider springing for these revised versions.

Take a sec away from your to-do list to think about the enormous effort which goes into writing extremely comprehensive books such as these. What is required?

  • A superb palate
  • Great organizational skills
  • A serious memory
  • A sense of humor and not-taking-yourself-too-seriously
  • Creativity
  • A love of language in all its nuances
  • Familiarity with a number of foreign languages
  • A good copy editor/spell checker nearby, whether human or virtual
  • Patience.

That said, we would like to recommend that you read two recent articles about these authors: a ‘think piece’ Jancis Robinson wrote which appeared in The Financial Times on September 4, and an interview with Karen MacNeil from the September 8 St. Helena Star.

Image result for photo of Jancis Robinson

Among other things, Jancis reflects on what it means today to be considered a ‘wine expert,’ and how social media has changed that definition.

“…as someone celebrating her 40th year writing about wine, I have to concede I am considered by many as a wine expert. However, I am keenly aware of the sands that have been shifting under the notion of expertise in this era of instant communication and (often anti-) social media…..

The wine market today is more crowded than ever. As wine production has transformed itself from peasant activity to plutocrat’s bucolic folly, and as drinking wine has become a social signifier on every continent…..consumers are presented with a baffling array of choices. And, as producers strive to make better and better wine every year just to stay in the game, so they have to shout louder and louder to get attention…..

This may partly explain why some days no fewer than six or seven boxes of unsolicited samples arrive on my doorstep — more than ever before — in the hope that I will publish a tasting note on them. But could it also have something to do with the fact that, even in this era of the citizen critic, my 40 years of visiting vineyards, listening to winemakers, watching trends emerge, making comparisons and seeing wines evolve from barrel to decades in bottle might just be regarded as worth something?…I have gone from being a unique provider of information to having to fight for attention….”

Well said, Jancis, and a cautionary note to all the PR and marketing folk out there contemplating their sampling lists.

Next, let’s acknowledge Karen MacNeil’s Wine Bible.  She talked about the enormous work involved in writing it: “…I spent 10 years creating the first version of The Wine Bible and four more years completely rewriting it and updating the maps, charts and photos for this new version,” she said….”

And then there’s the book’s huge success: “…since its release in 2000 it has sold more than 750,000 copies, making it the best-selling single volume wine book in the history of U.S. publishing…”

One key takeaway from learning about Karen’s work and this impressive book might be R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Extend that courtesy to all wine writers: you may never know how much work has gone into their lives as writers, what their work load is, what pressures and politics sway them as they pursue something as ‘straight forward’ as wine writing.