Welcome to the Strategist’s “Reading Lists.” These book guides are meant to help you become an expert (or at least a fascinating dinner party guest) in hyper-specific or newsworthy subjects. Here, we talked to sommeliers and wine buyers to find the best books about wine for people of all kinds of tastes.
Aldo Sohm is the wine director of three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin and the face and name of Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Belinda Chang is a sommelier who won a James Beard Award. Victoria James is the beverage director at Cote; Ashley Santoro is the beverage director at the Standard; Alexis Schwartz is a sales representative at Brooklyn-based wine importer Zev Rovine Selections, and Carla Rza Betts is the co-founder of An Approach t.
This is how we found out about these experts: They sent us lists of books, from their most-referenced wine encyclopedias and the books they give to other wine lovers as gifts. We only included books that were recommended by two or more of the experts. These aren’t all wine books for newbies, and some of them are a little pricey, but they’re not all. There are many good wine books out there, and this list from a sommelier is a good place to start. You can build up your own library of the best wine books, or just learn a little more about pét-nat and natural wines so you can order wine more confidently in a restaurant.
The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know
He is a wine writer who has written several books and a column for the San Francisco Chronicle that is still going strong, too. Four of the six sommeliers I talked to said that his writing was important to them. His most recent book, The New Wine Rules, has quickly become a favorite of many. A small book, not very technical: “This is a small little book.” “It’s like a little Zen wine guide.” Sohm agrees, and he likes how Bonné gives readers more power. Wine is always full of rules, intimidation, and people who don’t feel safe. He does a great job of explaining it. The myths that people have about him are broken and they feel safe. And because it was written in 2017, it gives a good picture of how people drink now. Schwartz says Bonné is “of the moment now, and looking at things in a nice way.”
Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France
A lot of great wine came to the US through Kermit Lynch. Betts says that his stories of grand parties, cold cellar tastings, and navigating the world of wine merchant are a “lovely treat.” If you’re interested in the history of wine and how the market has changed over the last few decades, this book is for you. You think, “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of those wines.” It’s not easy for him to sell them, says James. But even if you don’t know where the wine comes from, it’s still a fun read. It’s about a hippie who became a wine importer in Berkeley, California, and a memoir that three of our somms think is reenergizing. Santoro: “I sometimes use that book because it’s motivating, and it makes you think about the things that first made you want to drink wine.” “That’s one of my top 10.”
The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford Companions)
She wrote the Oxford Companion to Wine. It isn’t for people who are just starting out. “It’s so full of information that it’s hard for people to understand, especially when they’re going to complicated places,” says Sohm. But for him, and three of the other sommeliers, it’s a well-known title. Sohm, a wine expert and working somm, says, “This is the holy grail.” Many working somms and wine experts use Sohm as a source. In an encyclopedia, Schwartz takes out her copy and reads about things she needs to learn more about. Betts says, “No matter how much you know about wine, this is a great place to start.” Schwartz, on the other hand, says that the new edition is better because it’s more inclusive and includes producers that Schwartz likes to drink and talk about, like biodynamic and natural wines.
The World Atlas of Wine, 7th Edition
For people who want to know more about where they’re going or how wine is made around the world, Robinson’s The World Atlas of Wine, which was written with Hugh Johnson, is a good book to look at. For people who like maps and are good at learning by looking at things, this is a very good thing to have! “With its very detailed regional maps and easygoing tone, this book made me feel like I was being taken on a journey that could be very scary.” It’s still technical because it covers so much information about producers by region, but it’s not dry. People who are just starting out as sommeliers or who are taking wine classes that aren’t very professional but want to learn more about the things they already love might find this class useful.
Wine Questionnaire (Classics)
It’s one of Chang’s favorite gifts to give at a housewarming or to anyone she knows. Sohm and Betts both praised wine writer Jay McInerney, even though Chang is the only sommelier to recommend this book. You can use this workbook to help you think more carefully about what wines you drink and what you like to drink, as well as famous oenophiles who have been asked to think about the same things. There are pages in this book for you to fill in. Graydon Carter is a big fan of wine, so this book has his favorite wine and Chang’s favorite wine. If you want to keep track of your wine, you might want to buy a Moleskine wine journal or a Smythson wine journal that looks nice. People use this one because it’s beautiful, there’s a lot to read, and then filling in the pages is really satisfying and fun,” he says.
Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals
There was a book called Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay before the documentary SOMM. Santoro says that this book changed the culture and inspired a new generation of young people to become wine servers. When Santoro read the book, “I already knew what I wanted to do,” she says. “But this title helped me to see that I can actually make money from being a somm.” Sohm also says that it gives “a lot of insight into how people in the industry think, it gives opinion from very famous wine directors, and it also gives side notes” with practical examples of some of the common questions he and other sommeliers have to answer every day while working at a restaurant or bar.
Champagne [Boxed Book & Map Set]: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region
This book, which won a James Beard Award, came out in 2017, and it’s already the go-to book on Champagne. Sohm and Chang agree: “This one will never leave my side.” The book is filled with maps, history about how bottles were made, and it’s a world-class book right now. Sohm also says that the author Peter Liem is “almost certainly one of the best Champagne experts in the world.” Chang also thinks Andrea Gentl’s photos are beautiful, and they’re even better in person. There’s already something romantic, celebratory, and magical about champagne that we all know. I think she did a great job with the photography.” And the book touched me to the core, not to sound cheesy. But, really, it did.