A question I get asked on a regular basis goes something like this: I want to learn more about wine on my own, what book should I buy? This is difficult, because there isn't any one book that will cover every base. Some books are better for reference, others for learning through a narrative and some focus on specific regions. Wine is a complex subject and to cover everything with breadth in one book would be impossible. There are many options out there, but here are my top ten that are worth the investment.
1. The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. The ultimate reference book. It's an encyclopedia of wine terms, grape varieties and regions compiled by one of today's greatest wine writers. Maybe not the book you'd want to curl up with next to a fire, but great for fact checking or delving into specific topics.
2. The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Here you'll find detailed maps of the important wine countries and their regions. Having a visual guide is important for me and this has become one of my most useful reference books.
3. Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch. This is a book you can sit down and read for pleasure—the stories are compelling and the writing is fantastic. The famous American wine importer Kermit Lynch recounts his early wine days and takes us into some of the great cellars of Europe.
4. Vino Italiano by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch. This book comprehensively breaks down each region in Italy, tells a story, talks about the wine styles and some of the best producers. Bastianich and Lynch spent one year travelling throughout Italian wine country before sitting down to write this book. I have yet to find a book on Italian wine that comes close to challenging it.
5. The New France by Andrew Jefford. My favourite book for an in-depth look at French wine. Jefford discusses the trends and future in France, plus gives an inside scoop on the best producers of each region.
6. The Wineries of British Columbia (or the Okanagan Wine Tour Guide) by John Schreiner. Few know the history and present of BC wine like John Schreiner. His book is an alphabetical list of BC wineries, anecdotes, their histories, and the wines they do best.
7. What to Drink With What You Eat by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. While pairing wine with food is more often than not a game of experimentation, this book offers pages of inspiration and results from Dornenburg and Page's own experiments. There are also suggestions from well-known chefs and sommeliers.
8. Understanding Wine Technology by David Bird. Bird is a Chartered Chemist and Master of Wine. Want to know the difference between a depth filter and a surface filter? The mechanics of an autovinificator? Few books hit on all the technical bits of wine while still being an easy read.
9. Windows On The World by Kevin Zraly. This is a great launching point for newbies. Zraly is a highly respected wine educator and has been doing it a long time.
10. Let Me Tell You About Wine by Oz Clarke, whose humour and excitement keep his books from getting dry. Plus, if you've never seen it, you need to check out his show with James May, Oz & James's Big Wine Adventure.
I haven't yet found a great book that covers all Ontario wine, so if you have a favourite, please share it.
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.