Continuing my mini-series of recently published wine books, here is the new edition of Margaret Rand and Oz Clarke’s Grapes & Wines – a comprehensive guide to varieties & flavours. First published in 2001 this edition has been substantially revised.
Comparisons with Wine Grapes (Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding, José Vouillarmoz) are inevitable but probably misplaced. Wine Grapes is a dense, scholarly and brilliant book appealing to hardened wine nuts, while Grapes & Wines is likely to have wider appeal being much more accessible and with many photos, maps and charts. Their vital statistics gives a clue – Wine Grapes weighs in at just over 3 kilos – a Mike Tyson heavyweight, while Grapes & Wines tops the scales at a much more modest 1.33 kilos.
No reason, of course why you shouldn’t decide to buy both. However, I suspect for most wine lovers Margaret and Oz’s new edition provides them with enough information and they are likely to enjoy their popular approach.
After some introductory sections, grapes varieties are ordered alphabetically with widely varying space devoted to them. Leading varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Garnacha, Merlot, Riesling and Syrah/Shiraz get at least five double pages covering an introduction, geography and history, viticulture and vinification, the grape around the world and enjoying the variety plus recommended wines. Others varieties get just a few lines.
It is interesting to note how views have changed since the first edition appeared in 2001. Then there was still a belief in the leading five or six international varieties. Planting Chardonnay in hot climate Sicily still seemed a good idea in preference to the local varieties. The intervening 14 years has taught us that there is a strong connection between local climate and the appropriate grape varieties to plant. It has also been a great revival of interest in local and other grape varieties.
A few small quibbles: Oz and Margaret have missed the recent revival of interest in Loire Grolleau as a juicy, easy drinking red wine to be drunk young amongst friends. The dreaded term ‘dessert wine’ makes an appearance in the section on Loire – I would have hoped that Margaret would have banned such nonsense!
Grapes & Wines is published by Pavilion, £25, 336 pages. Picture credits include: Jon Wyand, Doug Wregg, Cephas – Mick Rock, Kevin Judd and Andy Christodolo.