edited by Sue Courtney
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The Global Encyclopedia of Wine
Wow, What a Christmas present this would make for a person who has just been hooked by the passion of wine. It's a massive tome of over 900 pages with words by 36 contributing authors from Britain, Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other wine producing nations, and comes with its own accompanying CD ROM
Master of Wine, Steve Charters writes a very useful introduction in the chapter "The World of Wine". This covers well the topics of the 'History of Wine', the 'Wine Trade' (production and distribution of wine), 'Grapes and Viticulture' (the different varieties of vines and grapes, the life cycle of the vine and how wine is made) and lastly the 'Enjoyment of Wine'. The pictures accompanying this introduction are superb, as they are throughout the rest of the book.
I enjoyed and agreed with most of what Charters writes in the 48 pages devoted to this section, except for a couple of nit-picking items dear to my heart. In his discussion on the efforts companies are making to overcome the problems associated with corks, he omits to mention Stelvin screw caps, which are big news this year as producers rebel against cork taint in their wines. My other nit-pick is his remarks on the Internet in the section headed "Wine Education". He says, "while it is true the Internet can provide a good general introduction to wine, it is of limited use to those seeking more detailed knowledge". Personally speaking, I have learnt more about wine from the Internet than anywhere else.
Charters' introduction has certainly set a high standard for the other contributors who all write on the wine regions of the world. Over fifty countries are covered and while some, such as Thailand, may have less than a page others, such as France, are very extensive. Seven hundred or so pages later is a 'Wine Reference Table', with a selection of wines for each country with up to four words describing the flavour and a compatible food suggestion. The book concludes with a brief glossary of wine terms.
Most of the regional guides have a map of the country, a history of the area and a brief section on the landscape and climate. The country's wine laws will be covered, if applicable. Then, for the larger producing countries, a regional breakdown follows. All major sub-regions have a 'Regional Dozen' consisting of a selection of 'quality' and 'best value' wines.
I can only comment on the regions I am familiar with so my comments will focus on New Zealand and specifically my own stamping ground, Auckland. As a winemaking region it extends from south of the city to the tip of the North Island, 260km or so away. There is useful text with a good background to the region's winemaking history and the current state of play. A number of wineries are profiled, but how the wineries for these guides are chosen I'll never know. Perhaps it is a matter of production size or how long the company has been established, for some of my favourite Auckland wineries are omitted. Even Matakana Estate, which has two photographs with its name proudly mentioned, is not mentioned in the text while there are other wineries mentioned that, like Matakana Estate, are not on the accompanying map.
Overall, New Zealand gets good coverage in the book, with about 50 pages in total and of course the scenery depicted in the photographs, is stunning.
The other region I checked up on was Cyprus, where I had spent some time in 1998 and visiting the wineries was on my agenda. While there is good history and the difficulties presented by the current political scene, I was disappointed that the author didn't mention some of the boutique wineries we visited east of Troodos, near Paphos.
However, there is a wealth of information in the book and the regional sections give a good overview. This is, after all, a coffee table book not a touring guide.
The CD ROM accompanying the book has some excellent content. When started an empty glass is presented on the screen, then you hear the sound of a bottle opening and the wine pouring as the glass fills up with 'red wine'.
Click on the glass to access the menu. Every time you click on something, a little 'tap' is heard. (I couldn't find any way to suppress this except by turning down the volume on my speakers.)
The menu options are Wine Regions, Grape to Glass, Enjoying Wine (How to taste and 'The Rituals of Wine'), Wine Culture (The History of Wine and The Wine Trade), Wine Guide, Glossary and Cellar Book.
The winemaking videos (red, white and sparkling) are outstanding, even with the Australian accent of the commentator, which makes me wonder if the CD content differs depending on the region where the book is sold.
All other content, except for the Cellar Book, is the text, photos and maps from the Encyclopedia and the photos accompanying each region or section can be viewed in a slide show format. Pages can be printed if desired.
The Wine Reference Guide can be searched for various criteria, such as Choice of Food, Country, Region, Style or flavour. When the list of recommendations from your search appears, you can click on the wine to view its flavour profiles, food accompaniment suggestion and price category.
The Cellar Book seems a good idea but for seasoned computer users I would think it a little simplistic. I could not write more than 64 characters in my original tasting notes and 96 characters in the occasion, food and comments.
How much does the The Global Encyclopedia of Wine cost? In New Zealand, it has a recommended retail of $135. However, at least one major bookstore chain has a pre-Christmas special price of under $90. That's good buying for this excellent resource for someone who is keen to learn about the world of wine.
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