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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Anyone with more than a passing interest in wine will easily become absorbed in this encyclopedia. Even if you're not interested in, say, South African wines or canopy management, the fact is that Tom Stevenson knows so much and writes so well that you'll be intrigued anyhow.
Weighing in at 5-plus pounds and 600 pages long, The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia covers the wine world beautifully, proceeding region by region throughout the world. Its approach is extremely thorough. The section on France (pp. 58-129), for example, starts with a brief history of French wine laws, advice on reading a French wine label, and an overview of the country's viticultural regions. For a region like Bordeaux, Stevenson offers an essay on the region's trade, a detailed full-color map, the classifications of Bordeaux wines (premiers crus, etc.) and then on to the different producers within each appellation of Bordeaux (Medoc, Blaye, Saint Estèphethe, etc.). The section concludes with an Author's Choice of the best Bordeaux wines.
In all, the encyclopedia covers more than 4,000 appellations and wine styles, with profiles of almost 2,000 individual producers and practical guidance on wine tasting, buying, and storing. There's more information than I've ever seen about American winemaking in states other than California, Oregon, Washington, and New York, and more about Canada, too.
For all of its weight and scope, the encyclopedia is surprisingly full of tone and opinion. Here's what Stevenson says about France: "France makes the best and the worst wines in the world. No other country can rival France for the quality and diversity of its wine but its success is dependent on the sheer size of its production which has always been a double-edged sword." And Spain: "Spain continues to overperform, providing more wines of real interest and quality than the most optimistic critic could reasonably hope for." Or on the evolution of Valpolicella: "In the first edition I agreed with Robert Parker, the American wine writer, when he described most Valpolicella as 'insipid industrial garbage,' but technology has changed things over the last ten years. While most are still insipid and industrial, relatively few are garbage." Evaluations like these will keep the reader turning to this giant book again and again. (Ginger Curwen)