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Looking for some gift inspiration? Here are five wine books to give this holiday season

Here are five of the most interesting books on wine that were published in 2017, which would make excellent gifts for friends, loved ones or yourself.

more lifestyle Updated: Dec 06, 2017 15:22 IST

The fascination with wine begins with the land, which year after year has the potential to produce something different and original from the same vineyard.

So it is with wine writers, who each year plow more or less the same terrain, finding novel and provocative ways of presenting their material. Here are five of the most interesting books on wine that were published in 2017, which would make excellent gifts for friends, loved ones or yourself.

Few regions have undergone so fundamental an evolution in the last few decades as Champagne, and the nature of the transformation has been little understood.

Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers and Terroirs of the Iconic Region by Peter Liem beautifully details the region’s renewed focus as a producer of wines rather than a creator of luxury goods.

In transparent prose, Liem looks back on the winemaking history of the region, which has been obscured in effervescent mythology. He makes a compelling case for the historic importance of place and terroir in Champagne, a departure from decades of marketing that focused on the cellar work of master blenders rather than on the land.

For Liem, an American who lives in Champagne, the increasing exploration and understanding of the region’s terroirs is the crucial element in improving the wine and deepening our comprehension of it. But that does not mean, he insists, that a Burgundy-style shift to producing microscopic expressions of the land is in the best interests of the wine or the producers. Nor does he countenance any of the various trends as intrinsic improvements. He is admirably unbiased and authoritative.

Speaking of terroir, wine books are often organized around places, grapes or people. Seldom do they focus on dirt, or, more accurately, bedrock.

The Dirty Guide to Wine: Following Flavors From Ground to Glass, by Alice Feiring with Pascaline Lepeltier, takes a big step toward looking at wine from the underground up.

Feiring, who has written numerous books on natural wine, and Lepeltier, a leading sommelier, survey the various geological formations on which the most distinctive wines are grown. Whether granite, limestone, basalt, shale, gravel, slate or clay, each, they argue, imparts consistent characteristics when matched with the proper grapes, particularly when carefully and conscientiously farmed.

The New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know packs a lot of wisdom into its slender, 150-page, stocking-stuffer frame. The author, Jon Bonné, whose 2013 book, “The New California Wine,” outlined the evolution of California wine in the early part of this century, here takes on a less daunting task: Soothsaying fearful, inhibited wine consumers.

How to select a wine, how to serve it, how to store it, how to pair it with food: These are among the topics that many consumers find so challenging. Bonné succeeds in extracting the answers from decades of overwrought expert instruction and presenting them in a clear, easygoing manner

Wine books tend to find their audience among wine lovers or those interested in becoming so. The exceptions to that rule are books like In Vino Duplicitas: The Rise and Fall of a Wine Forger Extraordinaire by Peter Hellman, which merge wine with tales of true crime, a genre with wider audience appeal.

“In Vino” examines the story of Rudy Kurniawan, a wine collector of mysterious wealth and origin, who fooled a coterie of even wealthier collectors along with covetous hangers-on, bilking them all with fraudulent bottles of rare, old wines, many of which he created in his kitchen.

The best way to drink better wines, I have argued, is to think of wine as food. Good wines are agricultural products, and just as many people are concerned with how the produce they buy was farmed, so, too, should they care about how the wine is grown and made. But such information is not always so easy to come by or to understand.

Wine Revolution: The World’s Best Organic, Biodynamic and Natural Wines by Jane Anson, is a helpful and enlightening guide that aims to decode these often baffling categories.

Anson, a contributing editor at Decanter, the British wine magazine, briefly outlines these agricultural and winemaking philosophies and offers capsule profiles of wine producers and their bottles. Her taste is exceptional, and while she at times retreats to the sort of winemaking jargon that you would typically find in a wine-oriented publication, general-interest readers will profit as well.

Purists might complain about some of her entries, but I find the absence of rigidity refreshing. The producers she cites, and their ways of thinking, will have you drinking better in no time.

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