<table border="0" align="right" width="165"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/oxthird.jpg" border="1" align="right">
</td></tr><tr><td>Order Jancis Robinson's "Oxford Companion to Wine" from Amazon.com in hardcover for $40.95, a 37 percent discount from the $65 list price.
</td></tr></table>The Oxford Companion to Wine
Don't stop me if I've said this before, but I've long admired the approach to wine and wine writing taken by the British wine scribe Jancis Robinson
. As soon as I took a good look at the First Edition of her "<I>Oxford Companion to Wine</I>" in 1999, it became the one wine book that I most strongly recommend as the serious wine enthusiast's primary reference.
The much-revised and updated Third Edition was published by Oxford University Press in the U.S. this weekend (it was released in the U.K. on Sept. 21), and that recommendation stands: If you don't already own it and you are serious about wine, buy this book. You won't be sorry, whether you use it primarily to look up information about what's in your glass, as a study guide for sommelier or wine-educator certification, or simply to browse and dream about traveling down the world's wine roads.
It's not an inexpensive volume at $65 list price, but Amazon.com offers it at an inviting discount; and with the holiday season looming in the distance, it's hard to think of a more appropriate wine gift to put on Santa's list. With some 3,900 wine-related topics listed alphabetically across more than 800 large-format, lavishly illustrated pages, it's hard to come up with a wine question that you won't find answered here. Even in the age of the Internet, this is one book in print that will bring you back to the old technology of flipping pages without a complaint.
But suppose you already own an earlier edition? Now we're facing a judgement call. There's arguably much that is new in the Third Edition. Jancis honorably reports that she added "more than 300 <i>substantive</i> new entries," while the publisher includes mere cross-references to bring its advertised total up to "almost 400" new items, including significant articles on alternatives to natural cork, globalization and wine politics, and increased attention to New World wine regions. For an intriguing list of all the new topics in the Third Edition, from "acetic acid bacteria" to "zonal viticulture," see Jancis's "Fine Writing on Fine Wines" pages,
That being said, they've managed to squeeze this new material into 813 pages - actually five pages fewer than the Third Edition - within a strict publisher's limit of 925,000 words (only 20,000 more than the Second Edition). Something clearly had to go. Jancis tells the story in an engaging personal essay about the Third Edition on her Website at
One segment that hit the cutting-room floor removed all reports on Cognac and other products distilled from wine. A quick random check suggests that tight editing went on, reducing the scope of some articles. (Amarone, for instance, took a hit, from 1 1/4 columns in the Second Edition to 3/4 column in a third.) But much of the editing appears thoughtful and common-sense; on the same page as Amarone, both "American Hybrids" and "Amelioration" were cut back, but the edited information remains under related entries, "United States - History" and a new article on "Manipulation."
Other changes are cosmetic: The body type appears unchanged in font and size, but a two-color process now presents subject titles and cross-referenced terms in a winey and eye-catching Burgundy color. I find the new half-circle thumb tabs on the edge of every page, listing the first and last entries on facing pages, a bit distracting and not really necessary, but that's a minor nit. And for what it's worth, many of the impressive full-page color photos in the previous edition have been replaced by new, different but equally striking photos in the Third.
The changes are far more than trivial, but the great bulk of the Companion's content remains unchanged, as it should. Ultimately, it's up to the individual wine enthusiast to decide whether the changes justify investment in an update. If you're passionate about wine, it would be easy to make the case - and give your old copy to a friend or local library. If you don't have <I>Oxford</i> yet, though, my advice is simple. Buy it. Now. You'll be glad you did.
Order Jancis Robinson's "<I>Oxford Companion to Wine</I>" from Amazon.com in hardcover for $40.95, a 37 percent discount from the $65 list price.
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