Whose book shelf hasn’t displayed an edition of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia? Whose fingers haven’t flipped the pages to learn, to refresh or to check? Whether you’re a wine pro or wine enthusiast the likelihood is that you will have had a copy of at least one of its past 5 editions. After a 10 year hiatus and published for the first time by National Geographic, you can ditch your old one and make space, quite a lot of space, for the latest one. It’s bigger, better and certainly heavier than its previous incarnations.
The easy to use format is the same; divided by country and then by region. But before you get there 127 pages are devoted to vine growing, with an impressive glossary of grape varieties, and wine making. I loved the simplistic but clear picture of how a winery works, perfect for anyone who has never visited a winery. There’s an in-depth section on how to taste wine and an obligatory chapter on food and wine-matching. Vintage charts and as well as some on global production and consummation are interesting and useful, and historians will no doubt make time to read the chronology of wine. Personally, I love a map and the ones here are excellent and numerous, as are the photographs which do so well at bringing the wine country, area or producer to life.
Tom Stevenson is still the name behind what is now called The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia with Orsi Szentkiralyi of Wotwine the editor. Some very familiar names are acknowledged in the back pages for their work on certain sections of the book such as my friends and colleagues, Wendy Narby on Bordeaux and Wink Lorch on the Jura, both of which, it goes without saying, are outstanding. As you’d expect them to be with Tom, the pages on Champagne are thorough and informative.
The wine countries of the world are comprehensively covered in this tome but if I have one criticism it’s that the whole of Spain, which for me is on an exponential rise in quality and reputation, gets less than half of Bordeaux’s allocation of pages. Italy, currently the world’s biggest producer of wine with very many high quality appellations boasts the same number of pages as Germany. I understand that to give every country and each region its due would mean an unmanageable volume, not least in terms of weight, but I wonder if there could have been a more accurate move towards current wine trends in this edition.
That said, I shall be recommending this book to all my WSET students and those who attend my (zoom or otherwise) tastings. Over the years I have found the book very valuable in my learning and revising, and it’s a pleasure to read. I have no shame in saying that it will be just as valuable to me today. As anyone in the wine business knows, our learning never stops and I have absolutely no doubt that within its 800 glossy pages gaps in my knowledge will be filled.
It’s £40 available from all good book shops.