30 Second Wine Advisor: Wine books for the holidays

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 Wine books for the holidays It's hard to think of a better gift for a wine enthusiast (other than, perhaps, wine itself) than a good book about wine.
 Holiday Gift Ideas from Wine Library This holiday season Wine Library has dozens of gift ideas ... and we're not just about wine! Click here to view our top holiday gift ideas for 2008!
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Wine books for the holidays

It's hard to think of a better gift for a wine enthusiast (other than, perhaps, wine itself) than a good book about wine. Show me a wine lover who doesn't have at least a modest shelf of wine books, and I'll ... well, I'll be surprised.

With Christmas on Dec. 25 and Hanukkah beginning in the evening of Dec. 21 this year, we're right up against the deadline for ordering online. Amazon.com points out that today is the last day to order vie free "super saver" shipping and get your gift delivered by Christmas, but pay more for faster service and you've still got until early on Tuesday, Dec. 23, to make up your mind.

For the benefit of last-minute shoppers, then, let's devote today's space to a quick list of wine books that I recommend. Some are old classics; a few are new. Just about any would make a fine stocking-stuffer for the wine "geek" on your list.

(For the record, all purchases made using these direct links will send us a small holiday present at WineLoversPage.com, too,in the form of a tiny commission on sales.)

First, a small book literally the size to fit into a Christmas stocking: Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2009 is an annual purchase for me. Updated annually, this handy guide packs an incredible amount of information into a pocket-size volume. Thousands of wines are rated, described, and listed with coding indicating which vintages are preferred and which are ready to drink. The 2009 book, just out, has all the usual material plus a new, extended essay on food and wine. You can buy it through our Amazon.com link for just $10.17, a 32 percent discount from the $14.95 list price:

If Johnson's small book is the most useful pocket-size guide, Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition is the indispensible large wine book. An A to Z complation edited by Robinson from her own writing plus contributions from a world of experts, this massive guide covers just about any question you could possibly have about wine. It lists at a hefty $65 but is available from Amazon.com for $40.95, a 37 percent saving.

A frugal wine enthusiast who wanted to assemble a thorough library on wine in only four volumes could do it with the two above plus an imposing boxed set in which the prolific Hugh Johnson holds forth on wine geography and wine history. This large set, The World of Wine, contains both Johnson's World Atlas of Wine, a thorough atlas full of photos and topographical maps to accompany good article about the world's wine regions; and his Vintage: The Story of Wine, a well-told one-volume history of wine from the Bronze Sge through modern times. The boxed pair lists for $85 but comes at a substantial 37 percent discount from Amazon.com at $53.55.

Looking for a thorough, organized beginner's guide to wine appreciation? You can't go wrong with Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, out this year in a revised 2009 Edition. Set up like an educational wine class, it features tests at the end of each section to help you gauge your progress, along with much useful information and advice. Listed at $24.95, it's yours for $15.53 from Amazon.com, a 39 percent discount.

I'm sold on Robinson's Oxford Companion featured above. But another, similarly hefty tome is also worth consideration. The new Fourth Edition of Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson is set up geographically rather than alphabetically. Similar in size to Oxford, it's also loaded with information. It adds colorful wine-region maps and considerable details about wineries and their wines, which makes it a useful consumer guide but perhaps more quickly dated than Oxford. With a list price of $50, it's available from Amazon.com for $31.50, a 37 percent discount.

Finally, although it's not sold on Amazon.com at this time, I encourage you to visit the Website of Once Upon a Vine. This lovely little paperback, written by my friend Judy Reynolds, who's been a writer for our friends at California Wine Club for many years, contains short, stylish essays about a broad selection of artisanal California wineries and their owners and wine makers. Judy is a natural-born storyteller, and her stories will carry you away to a world of wine and the amazing people who make it. It's also a useful consumer guide to some of California's best "mom and pop" wineries. You can buy it for $20 plus $3.75 shipping by calling +1-877-917-8463, or visit the Website,

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