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  • Writer's pictureAllison Sheardy

Reading Between the Wines: Study Time!

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Welcome to a new (semi) regular series, Reading Between the Wines, in which I review a book and suggest a wine pairing (it is a tough job but someone's gotta do it). I'm an avid reader, often reading one to two books a week. I mostly lean toward contemporary fiction, suspense, and, of course, stories that revolve around food and wine, both fiction and non.

Today's post is a bit of a divergence from the usual format. Instead of reviewing a book and pairing it, I thought I'd share some of my favorite study books. I started my formal wine education journey in 2016 and have accumulated quite the wine library since then. I also really enjoy reading wine books (especially less 'textbooky' ones, like memoirs), which I find to be educational in their own way -- hearing about a wine region or tasting through someone else's voice can stay with you in a way that just reading straight facts may not.

The Oxford Companion to Wine (or OCW for short) by Jancis Robinson is a classic for a reason. Not only is Jancis a total wine lady badass, she is also a Master of Wine and one of the most revered wine writers of our time. The OCW is updated in print fairly regularly -- we're currently on the fourth edition -- and if you subscribe to Jancis's website, entries are updated frequently (side note: totally worth subscribing if you're currently studying for a certification). The OCW really is an encyclopedia more than anything else, organized alphabetically by term. When going through various study materials, such as the WSET textbook, it is useful to have the OCW close by to cross reference something or further explore a new term. Can this be done via Google? Of course, but Jancis will always provide solid, well researched information delivered with just a touch of British wit -- much more enjoyable and reliable than a Wikipedia page. Get a copy here.

The WSET texts are great, but once you're at Diploma level (or thinking about going beyond that), supplemental materials are great for helping round out knowledge of a specific topic or build upon that basics laid down by WSET. Two texts specifically come to mind when diving deeper into viticulture and enology: Viticulture: Everything you need to know about growing grapes, with 100 illustrations by Stephen Skelton MW and Understanding Wine Technology: The Science of Wine Explained by David Bird. These two books are highly recommended for MW students. If you buy only three wine books in your life, the three listed so far will give you a very solid foundation.

But who only buys three books? Not the kind of people reading this blog, I imagine -- certainly not me! Some other great references to consider:

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide by Madeline Puckette. Is this the most in-depth wine book every published? No. But if you are a visual learner, this may really help drive home some complex topics for you. The book is full of graphs, infographics, illustrations, and more. is another great resource; I recommend the maps and wine aroma charts.

The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson is ideal for the map lover (and yes, tracing maps is a legit way to learn regions and mentally review them while doing so). Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson will find their way into future Reading Between the Wines posts; both are prolific and entertaining wine writers with a lot to say!

Adventures on the Wine Route (25th Anniversary Edition): A Wine Buyer's Tour of France by Kermit Lynch is not a textbook by any means, but I found it so helpful in learning the geography of France, appellations, and key producers. As linked to here, I did listen to this as an audiobook during my commute, which also helped me learn the correct pronunciation of a lot of these French terms.

Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible and Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course are fan favorites. Both provide sweeping overviews of the world of wine; Zraly's book also includes some interactive tasting options. There are dozens of great wine books out there and I have only skimmed the surface. What are some other favorites that have come in handy, or that I should be sure to seek out?

As always, none of these are affiliate links (I don't get any sort of perk or payment if you click them) -- I just want to share the resources that helped me the most with fellow wine nerds.

And since I didn't have an appropriate photo for this post, here's a classic Cabbie pic to make you smile while deep in the books!

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