Decided you want to learn about wine? Finally want to stop choosing a bottle based on the label alone? Learning about wine can seem daunting; there’s so, so much to learn. It may seem impossible to gain a deeper understanding of the world of wine without enrolling in a several-week course to get you up to speed. But if you’re looking for a more casual way to learn about wine, a book is a great place to start. There are plenty of books out there that will explain the basics of wine cultivation and production and give you an intro to tasting and wine styles. This is a list of some of my favorites.
1. Wine Folly by Justin Hammack and Madeline Puckette
If you’re more of a visual learner, then you’re going to love Wine Folly by Justin Hammack and Madeline Puckette. It’s a great introduction to the basics of wine, and it also provides tasting notes for most of the world’s major grapes. Read it when you’re getting started, and then let it help you select your next bottle of wine. By looking at charts that provide information about sweetness, acidity, tannin and more, you’ll have a better idea of what kinds of wines you tend to enjoy.
2. The World Atlas of Wine, 8th Edition by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson
There are few wine books that offer as much info as you’ll find in The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. This incredibly thorough book offers an overview of the world’s major wine regions, complete with maps and photos to give you a point of reference. You’ll also learn about wine culture and how it’s changed over time. If there’s one serious wine book you want to have on your bookshelf, this one might just be it.
3. Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider
For many of us, the world of wine can seem difficult and even impenetrable. If you don’t like the stuffiness that’s often associated with wine but you enjoy the beverage itself, you’re going to want to check out Wine for Normal People by Elizabeth Schneider. This non-pretentious take on the wine world is a great way to kick off your wine knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of why you like the wines you do. You don’t have to get all the certifications and become a sommelier to enjoy wine and know about how it’s produced.
4. You Had Me at Pét Nat by Rachel Signer
For those who aren’t completely interested in reading reference books, you’re probably looking for something like Rachel Signer’s You Had Me at Pét Nat. This memoir is all about how the author started her career as a wine writer and producer and how she met her winemaker husband. Although the story centers on Signer’s life experiences, you’ll also learn a ton about natural wine and natural winemaking along the way.
5. Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker
Another great read for those looking for something a bit more engaging than the average wine text? Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. You’ll learn about wine from a range of different perspectives, as Bosker pulls information from people in the wine world ranging from sommeliers to neuroscientists. You’re bound to finish this book thinking about wine in totally new, perhaps unexpected ways.
6. The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil
Need a great foundation for your wine education? Reading The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil is a great place to start. I love that this book explains winemaking in such simple terms without sacrificing nuance. It’s an easy read, but it’s still super-comprehensive, meaning it’s ideal for people who are serious about learning the basics of wine production, tasting and beyond.
7. Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly
Want to learn how to choose and taste wine like a pro (or get close to it, anyway)? The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly is going to give you the lowdown on how to do just that. By the time you finish the book, you’ll have a deeper understanding of how to pick the perfect wine for your dinner party or event—and you’ll even understand the processes the winemaker used to produce the juice in your glass.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.