Ask a Sommelier: Which Wine Books Do You Love?


Even if you're not headed back to school this fall, you can still get a fresh start on your studies—your wine studies, that is. Though many of our sommelier friends recommend tasting as the best way to learn about wine, having a book beside you while you do it is never a bad idea. We asked 15 sommeliers for their advice on the best wine books, from entertaining stories to technical tomes full of helpful maps. Here are their recommendations.

Davis Smith of Acquerello in San Francisco.

"The book that I reference most often is the World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson because I'm a visual person and I love maps: they help me talk to customers about wines by giving me a geographical reference point. However, the book that really got me thinking differently about wine when I was first started reading about it was A Year of Wine by Tyler Coleman. It's a fun, engaging read and gets you thinking past Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir."— Davis Smith (Acquerello)

"Terry Theise's Reading Between the Wines for its unabashed love of wine and its sensuality, not to mention Terry's vocabulary, which is a rebel treat. The classic: Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route for a wonderfully told history of some of the names that now define classic regions. Finally, Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesus Barquin, for their thorough breakdown of what can be a daunting wine exploration."—Carla Rzeszewski (The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and The John Dory Oyster Bar)

Jason Wagner of Henri in Chicago.

"For someone starting out and serious about it, I love Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible. It's pretty comprehensive, but written in a style that's easy to read." — Jason Wagner (Henri, The Gage Chicago)

"Taste Buds & Molecules by Francois Chartier—it gave me a new outlook on pairing and the 'science' of it. But I still think that some pairings need to come from the soul and not just be directed by science. When that happens the reaction is more visceral. Other books I recommend: Vino Italiano. I love Italian wines and David Lynch did such a great job with this book. It makes you yearn to be there. One more: Liquid Memory by Jonathan Nossiter. This book just spoke to me, it pretty much defines why I love wine."—Rick Pitcher (Manzanilla)

"David Bird's Understanding Wine Technology remains a useful tool for understanding the basics of wine production; Manuel Gonzalez Gordon's Sherry is filled with delightful, engaging anecdotes about the region and her wines; reading Patrick McGovern's Ancient Wine and Hugh Johnson's Story of Wine back-to-back is a brilliant way to learn wine's place in cultural history; and, from way back in the day, Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route taught me the critical role the concept of authenticity plays in wine, as well as how to appreciate the hard work behind the importer's trade." — Jeremy Quinn (Telegraph,, Reno, Bluebird, Webster's Wine Bar)

Hristo Zisovski of the Altamarea Group in NYC.

"Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding & Jose Vouillamoz. It's the most in-depth book to come out all about grape varieties. Opus Vino by Jim Gordon and co. It's a look at more than 4,000 of the world's greatest wineries and their wines. Wines of Burgundy by Clive Coates, and The Pearl of the Cote by Allen Meadows. The most in-depth book on Burgundy versus the most in-depth book on just Vosne-Romanee in Burgundy. The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson is the book were it all got started for me on my Master Sommelier studies. If you had to have just one reference book, get the latest version of this book."—Hristo Zisovski (Altamarea Group)

"For beginners I love Joanna Simon's Wine: An Introduction. I think it has the most comprehensive information needed to know in order to build a base of knowledge. Great pictures and it takes you through all of the basic grape varieties and regions and links them together in a really easy-to-understand fashion"— Savanna Ray (Wildwood)

Emily Wines of Kimpton Hotels.

"The wine books I love now are more about wine history. I like Wine and War as well as Inventing Wine which is a fascinating look at wine through the ages. I think that wine is an amazing lens with which to view cultures and history."— Emily Wines, MS (Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants )

"There are 2 types of books— the technical ones and the others. For the technical ones, I really enjoy the work of Jancis Robinson and her team, especially Wine Grapes and The World Atlas (I am a freak about maps). For the others, it is a question of style, but I love to read Terry Theise, Alice Feiring, Eric Asimov, Neil Rosenthal, etc. etc."— Pascaline Lepeltier (Rouge Tomate)

"One of the first wine books I ever bought was Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World. It was the textbook we used in my wine course in college and I used it for years when I started teaching. It is the ultimate intro to wine book that is laid out in an approachable manner, throws in fun facts and helps demystify wine. On a geekier level the Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia is still to this day one of my go to resources. Great maps, producer notes and extremely thorough."— Sabato Sagaria, MS (The Little Nell Hotel)

Joe Campanale of Anfora, L'Artusi, and dell'anima in NYC.

"I love wine books that tell stories like Robert Camuto's Palmento. To me, the most interesting thing about a wine is its story. Terry Theise's book on why to love wine and why good wines are important called Reading Between the Wines shows how wine can be an incredible, delicious representation of a culture or land."— Joe Campanale (Anfora,dell'anima, L'Artusi)

"What I find really valuable is to find tasting notes or vintage reports on back vintages—I am looking at 30-50 years ago. The chances that I will ever experience these wines are so slim that I need to find a way to understand and learn about them. Michael Broadbent's Vintage Wine provides a very comprehensive notes on the vintage reports that goes back 50 to 70 years ago and the breadth of the tasting notes are just amazing to read. Another favorite wine book(s) of mine are the Finest Wines series (they've done Germany, Tuscany and Central Italy, and Rioja, for example). It's a great way to study about iconic producers from the most well known regions of the world."— Arthur Hon (Sepia Chicago)

"Of the more geeky books I've read that I found really interesting were Terroir by James Wilson and The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode."— Scott Cameron (Atera)

Lara Creasy of King + Duke in Atlanta.

"My favorite wine book is Karen MacNeil's Wine Bible. She really gets into describing the soul of a place and the people and cuisine, so that the wine really has a context and a life of its own. She's got a very poetic way with wine writing. For someone with a brand new interest in wine, who just needs it boiled down to facts they can understand, you can't beat Wine for Dummies. Seriously. I've owned and recommended this book for years!"—Lara Creasy, King + Duke, The Optimist, JCT. Kitchen & Bar, and No. 246)

"Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World was my first book, and it's still one of the best for beginners. For the geekier side I love The Great Domaines of Burgundy by Remington Norman."— Patrick Cappiello (Pearl & Ash)

Let's be friends! Keep up with SE: Drinks on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.