Wine Books: Jancis Robinson OBE
Jancis Robinson hardly needs any introduction. The first Master of Wine from outside the wine trade, she has a proven track record as a skilled taster, writer and communicator. Her Purple Pages website is one of the most successful in existence.
I consider this book to be an essential purchase for all those with more than a passing interest in wine. Edited by Jancis Robinson, its contributors include such famous names as Michael Broadbent, James Halliday, Hugh Johnson, and dozens more. An authoritative encyclopaedia covering every aspect of wine, it has at least eight awards under its belt, including the André Simon Memorial Award and the Glenfiddich Award. There is good use of illustrations where appropriate, and a large selection of wine maps. As well as the alphabetical listing, there are also a number of appendices, concerning appellations and permitted grape varieties, vineyard area and wine consumption per capita by country, an interesting account of fine wine investment in the 1990's and a vintage guide. The second edition is comprehensive, with half of the original 3000 entries revised, and over 500 new entries. A superb book, which I dip into frequently.
This is Jancis Robinson’s account of her progression from employment as a tour organiser for Thomson Holidays right through to fully fledged wine writer, critic and television presenter. Jancis, as always, writes very well, with the first few chapters forming a report of her early work for a number of publications, including her own popular newsletter of the 1970s, Drinker’s Digest, smattered with details concerning her growing experience of the wine trade. Before you know it, Jancis is an accomplished wine writer, turning out a book every year, and attending the most splendid tastings. Many readers will find this latter aspect of the book captivating. One of the more memorable tastings Jancis experienced was at Yquem, organised by fanatical German wine collector Hardy Rodenstock. This event took in far too many wines for Jancis to make detailed notes on them all, but she does recall her opinions on Yquem 1858, 1847 and 1811 (just three vintages of many tasted), as well as other delights such as Cheval Blanc 1921. Extravagant as this seems, however, Jancis clearly understands wine. Indeed, she has only ever sold one case of wine from her cellar (and even that was swapped for more wine), preferring to drink it rather than profit from it. Her annual meetings, family get-togethers almost, with the late Edmund Penning-Rowsell in order to taste the Bordeaux first growths in a ‘ten year on’ assessment epitomises how wine should, in my opinion, be enjoyed. Jancis' family do feature a little in the book, as she details the difficulties of juggling a demanding career with her home life - now that strikes a chord. Undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and accessible wine books I can recall, and I urge you, if you haven’t already, to track down a copy. I found mine a year or two ago in a high street bookstore.