This is the 41st edition of Hugh’s pocket book, which now runs to 336 pages and costs £12.99.
In his introduction to this edition Hugh reflects on wine and some of the changes that have happened over the past 41 years – clearly the world of wine is now very different from what it wad 41 years ago.
From his ‘Agenda 2018’
Would you like wine to be a simple matter of red or white? Be honest. Nor would I. Sometimes when I browse through this book, and especially when I contemplate the task of updating it, I have felt a faint tinge of brain-fatigue. But then I start re-reading the entries, and a potent mix of thirst and curiosity takes over. “Is that so?” I say to myself. “Are they really planting Pinot Noir in Brazil? Why are this Meursault grower’s prices zooming up? I’ve got to try that.”
It was what got me into wine in the first place. Every label (well, an almighty multitude of labels – more than I’ll ever meet) represents some individual’s best shot at making, in his or her particular circumstances, something delicious, individual, memorable – to tempt you and Metro pay them a wage. Every label, every cork, conceals an unknown, like Alice in Wonderland’s bottles saying “Drink me”.
There is a kind of madness comes over people who take up wine as a way of life. Some believe farming grapes is an ideal existence close to nature; some delude themselves that they’ll make a fortune; some feel what they see as an almost sacred commitment; others can’t shake off the memory of a sublime glass and devote their lives to reproducing it. The unhinged pride of an ex-pat determined to prove that you can make sparkling wine in Mauritius, or the dynastic pride of an aristo deploying his ancestral coat of arms. These days, there is competition for Gold, Silver and Bronze as well – not to mention those bizarre scores out of a hundred.
Whatever the impetus, the results all around us, clamouring not just for our money, but our respect, even affection, and best of all, loyalty. But who could be loyal, and give their custom to one supplier day after day, when there 8695 others in these pages, singing away like sirens to seduce you?
I’ve written and rewritten this little book 41 times and the thirst and curiosity have not gone away. In fact they’re more insistent than ever. Why? Because there are fives times more wines on offer, from a vast geographical range of places (half the vineyards listed here didn’t exist when I began and, because they are all, almost without exception getting better at what they do.’
I am the contributor for the Loire entries.