The ultimate wine table book

WINE by Andre Domine (2nd Edn)

By Robyn Lewis
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Wine by André Dominé

Wine by André Dominé [©Langenscheidt Publishing Group]

WINE by André Dominé will certainly dominate my wine shelves - if it fits on them - this new edition of 916 pages and weighing in at nearly 4 kg is certainly the largest wine book I have, even bigger (and on par in terms of quantity of information) than Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine. From its understatedly elegant cover to its sheer size, WINE certainly makes a statement: book for the connoisseur.

Despite his French name the author was born in Hamburg, Germany, although he moved to a wine village in the South of France in 1981, developing his wine knowledge firstly by working in viticulture then in a winery. He wrote his first wine book in 1986, and has since authored books on red and white wine, wine landscapes, and various foods from cheeses to salt. Dominé writes regularly about the wines of Southern France, where he has travelled widely, along with the wine regions of Spain, the USA and South Africa.

WINE is part of the Culinaria series which also includes Culinaria: France and Culinaria: European Specialities by the same author. This is the second, revised edition of the book WEIN first published in Germany in 2001.  As a trained journalist Dominé writes well, although at times the translation into English seems a little stiff. It has also been translated into Spanish under the title El Vino. Other contributing authors include Eckhard Supp, David Schwarzwalder, Anthony Rose, Dunja Ulbricht, Helene Jaeger and a dozen more, most of whom would be unfamiliar names to Australian and perhaps even American wine consumers.

The previous edition of WINE won acclaim from the Edmond de Rothschild prize "Best Wine Book in France" as well as the 2002 James Beard Foundation/Kitchenaid Book Award. As I don't own the first edition comparisons are hard to make, but I find the organisation of this edition a little obscure, particularly the first chapters. WINE starts well with the history of wine and the wine trade, then quickly launches into wine tasting, colour and appreciation, how to serve wines and the various wine styles - all certainly appealing and informative, if difficult to cover in 66 pages. Despite various suggestions, this is not a book for the wine novice.

Great wines are certainly made in the vineyard, but I would perhaps not have put the chapters by Helen Jaeger on viticulture, vine pests and diseases, pruning, soil care, harvesting, grape preparation, pressing and maturation next. There are some fearsome photos of the equally Feared Vineyard Pests and the development cycle of the phylloxera louse that might perhaps deter a person looking for a more gentle introduction to wine, but relatively little on the actual winemaking process itself - perhaps the intent is that it remain shrouded in mystery, although there are plenty of photos of stainless steel and even more of traditional oak barrels, which get pages of treatment worthy of a book on cooperage.

Then it's back to Dominé for an overview of wines of the world, leading into the main body of WINE written by various combinations of the contributing authors, covering France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the balance of Western Europe, Spain, Portugal, Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, followed by Dominé again on South Africa and North America, and lastly the UK's Anthony Rose on Asia (China, India and Japan), South America and finally Australia and New Zealand. WINE is certainly Eurocentric, as the lineup of authors and the book's layout suggest.

The 1200 full-colour photographs by Armin Faber and Thomas Pothman and other illustrations are sumptuous. Europe is covered in great detail, and there are 150 maps in total highlighting historic and contemporary wineries, text on regions rich and poor, appellations, varieties, select producers and directions in modern wine production. Absorb all this information and you'll certainly be a walking encyclopedia on European wine.

South Africa's treatment by Dominé appears good. The North American coverage however is very Napa Valley and California-centric, with a nod to 'emerging' regions in Canada, Washington, Oregon and elsewhere, some of which have been growing grapes and making quality wines for a very long time indeed. 

Unlike the commendable currency of WineWise's content, the further you get from the WINE authors' perceived epicentre of wine the less up-to-date the information starts to look. As with WineWise, I cannot comment on South America. However as much as Australian wine writer James Halliday might be pleased that he looks several decades younger in his photograph, things have moved on in Australia and New Zealand, countries which appear not to have been updated with any degree of thoroughness. The 'select producers' seem to be circa 2001 at best, and those of NSW get particularly short shrift; Queensland's are ignored altogether and the entire state gets only one paragraph, which fails to mention its major producer Sirromet. This is despite the considerable inroads Australian and New Zealand wines have made into European markets since the 1980s; the US export phenomenon [yellowtail] does not even rate a mention.

Tasmania qualifies for a page but I can report that the iconic Moorilla Estate has not been in the hands of the Alcorso family since 1997, and several 'select producers' who have very much come to centre stage in the past decade are also overlooked, despite Tasmania producing sparkling and other cool-climate wines of world class. New Zealand likewise appears dated and is overly brief, again given the quality of NZ wines. And unlike The Oxford Companion to Wine, which devotes considerable pages to the topic, I could not find one mention of the issues of climate change or water scarcity, pressing global concerns having a great impact on the the current and future distribution of wine grape growing and quality wine production, and which have redrawn the boundaries of wine regions since 2001.

However one should not be deterred from buying this book due to its Antipodean content - you can get that elsewhere. Buy it to grace your home wine library, to research European wines and regions - particularly the obscure, with much information that I have seen nowhere else - and to travel in one's mind around the chateaux and wine regions of the Continent (for WINE is far too heavy a tome to take with you). Near the end, the European vintage charts of the past decade provide an excellent summary. With many people deferring overseas travel to wine countries due to the current economic uncertainty, WINE affords the simple yet refined opportunity to learn about European wines at home.

Give this book to a wine lover who has (nearly) everything. Now, if only I could find the wines to accompany the lush and voluminous WINE while I enjoy a few years of armchair travels....

 

WINE is published by h.f.Ullmann (Langenscheidt Publishing, Tandem Verlag GmbH) (2nd Edn, 2008). RRP A$99.95, US$59.95. VisitVineyards.com subscribers and Members can purchase WINE at 12.5% off RRP through our book partners SeekBooks (postage extra). It is also available from Amazon.com.

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  • Germany - all (GER)

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