Just as each year brings new wines to store shelves, it also brings new books about wine. The best ones make for perfect holiday gifts, which inspired us to list our five favorite published this year. Some offer basic tips on entertaining, some offer helpful wine-shopping and tasting advice, and others take a deep, insightful look at America's wine history. All are great reads, sure to satisfy several people on your shopping list.
"What's a Wine Lover to Do?"
Austin Chronicle wine columnist Wes Marshall offers 334 tips and pointers presented in a straightforward Q&A format. The book is designed to help you learn which wines are worth buying at restaurants as well as how to read labels from different countries. Plus, the chapter on food and wine pairing should give you a serious edge for your next dinner party.
"Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine & Food Pairing"
This straightforward book by Jaclyn Stuart and Jeanette Hurt provides an introduction to the flavor profiles of popular foods and the principles for pairing them with wine. Simple rules like sweet wine with spicy food will serve you well at restaurants and at home alike. Careful readers will also learn how to break these rules and try more experimental combinations. (Pop Rocks and Champagne, anyone?)
"The Wild Vine"
Author Todd Kliman follows the cast of characters and events surrounding the birth, rise and fall of the Norton grape. Norton wine production boomed in Missouri in the late 1800s, only to be nearly eradicated by Prohibition (if it hadn't, today we'd all take our wine vacations in Missouri instead of Napa). This is an American Dream story of immigrants' winemaking passion that leads to a modern struggle to restore Norton's place alongside the world's best Cabernets and Merlots.
Best-selling author, television judge, and renowned speaker Mark Oldman uses this book to try and transform the way people think and drink. Oldman braves the less-trodden wine trails to seek out less familiar, more adventuresome wines, yet overall the book aims to make wine approachable and give consumers confidence in their wine skills.
"Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition"
Author Daniel Okrent takes us from Manhattan speakeasies to the vineyards of California and shows us what life was like under the federal ban on alcohol. Point blank: It was terrible. Organized crime blossomed and public health went south due to consumption of badly made bootleg alcohol. But that's only part of this complex story that still echoes through American life (such as the current debate in Congress over direct-to-consumer wine shipments).