Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 1989
Hugh Johnson is the Grand Old Man of wine writing. For nearly a quarter of a century--during which there's been an exponential growth in the number of Napa wineries--Johnson has been distilling the entire world of wine into Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 2000. This is the 23rd edition of this lively, biased, Eurocentric, and highly informative compact reference.
Johnson's foreword to this micro-encyclopedia (his term) states his intention to craft a nontheoretical, practical volume designed to take the panic out of buying. He candidly declares his business interests in both Chateau Latour and Hungary's Royal Tokaji Wine Co., and admits that his information is culled from various sources. This edition begins with chapters on grape varieties, with information ranging from the astute (Trebbiano: Mostly thin, bland wine; needs blending [or more careful growing]) and the contentious (his idea that Sangiovese has top-quality potential in California would probably come as a surprise to the Napa growers who've been struggling with it for years) to the incomplete (no mention of Zinfandel's relation to Italy's Primitivo) and the just plain wrong (Syrah and Petite Sirah are not the same grape). The Wine and Food Matches chapter is just as idiosyncratic. The best match for kippers? A good cup of tea, preferably Ceylon (no milk, no sugar). And hamburger? Bulgarian Cabernet. Or Coke or Pepsi (not Diet). By the time he suggests that you pour expensive Margaux claret on your strawberries, you may want to skip right to the alphabetized chapters, arranged by country, which comprise the heart of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine 2000. Wine terms, grape growers, wineries, geography, maps, opinions on top vintages, advice on when to drink them--this is the stuff that'll have your copy dog-eared and falling apart just in time for next year's edition. --Tony Mason