Climbing the peaks of South Africa’s new wine scene

2 July 2020 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Fifteen years ago, when Jim Clarke first visited South Africa, he discovered a country of contrasts. Although the era of apartheid was over, the country was still suffering from its legacy, with a huge gap to be bridged between rich white and poor black South Africans. The contrast in the wines was no less stark – while there were glimpses of the quality that could be achieved many of the country’s wines were at best cheap and cheerful.

Much has changed in both society and the wine industry over the intervening years, as a new book, The wines of South Africa, by Jim Clarke, explains. Where he saw potential fifteen years ago Clarke now regularly encounters truly expressive, quality wines, noting that the quality level in all wines has been raised, and clumsy wines are now a rarity. He says, “Today one can taste through the wines of South Africa and experience the expansive range of expression the Cape’s many terroirs are capable of … the industry is at a point where its right to a seat at the table is undisputed by anyone who has taken the time to taste. South Africa is making great wines.”

Of course, one cannot discuss the wines of a country with a political legacy like South Africa’s without placing those wines in their social context. As a chapter on the country’s history shows, the racist attitudes that led to apartheid, and which still cause inequality, were baked into the republic from its foundation as a European colony. Clarke devotes an entire chapter to the country’s recent transformation, explaining the efforts made by the wine industry to create better conditions for the largely non-white agricultural workforce and encourage more black people to choose wine as a career.

The scenery of the Western Cape is stunningly beautiful and the unique geography, geology and climate conditions here contribute greatly to the wines these days. While in the past, in pursuit of wines appealing to international markets, South Africa’s winemakers aimed to manipulate and obscure the natural expression of the wines, today’s craftsmen and women allow the terroir to come to the fore. By discussing the signature grape varieties and their expression in each region, Clarke says he aims to guide readers towards those wines that suit their tastes.

The book does not attempt to include more than a sample of South Africa’s producers. The profiles here provide a cross-section that demonstrates the range of different approaches and styles on offer, from large, well-established businesses through to smaller or younger producers, and show what is most interesting or representative within each region.

Overall, The wines of South Africa is a must for all those interested in tracing the rebirth of South African wine.

About the author
Jim Clarke became interested in wine after moving to New York City in 2001 and taking a job waiting tables, training as a sommelier on the job and through classes with the American Sommelier Association. A writing competition led to an introduction to South African wine and the start of Jim’s journalistic career. He has written for the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, World of Fine Wine, Beverage Media, and Fortune, among others. In 2013 Jim took a position as Wines of South Africa’s U.S. marketing manager. He remains active as a freelance writer, covering wine, sake, and related subjects. He speaks regularly at a number of wine events and judges in several international wine competitions.


The wines of South Africa is published by Infinite Ideas on 20 July 2020.
ISBN: 9781913022020, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 324pp.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957

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The Classic Wine Library – going strong

1 May 2020 by in Book publishing, Classic Wine Library, Current events, Wine and spirits

There is no doubt that businesses of all types are finding the current situation challenging. We wanted to reassure you that the Classic Wine Library is still here, and we are busy selling our published books as well as working hard to create new ones. We are currently preparing two books for publication in the summer: Jim Clarke’s The wines of South Africa and Jessica Dupuy’s The wines of Southwest U.S.A., which will be available in July and August, respectively.

In the meantime, we have a fantastic backlist that is now 24 books strong. If you aren’t familiar with the titles in our list, or would like to see what other books we’re hoping to bring to you in the future, take a look at our latest catalogue.

To help out those of you who are finding it hard to purchase print books we have halved the recommended retail price of our wine ebooks until the end of July. You can find them at Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo and a range of other ebook sellers. Please note that some retailers may take longer than others to reflect the price change. You may also see further discount offered by some vendors.

And remember, you can still buy our printed books direct from us. Our warehouses in the UK and the USA are working with reduced staff numbers, as are postal services and delivery companies so it may take longer than usual for your books to reach you. Please bear with us.

Finally, do sign up to our mailing list for all the latest Classic Wine Library news. We regularly make special offers for mailing list subscribers; you can unsubscribe at any time.

Thank you for supporting informed and enlightening wine writing
The Classic Wine Library

Austria’s wines go from strength to strength

4 December 2019 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

The Austrian Wine Marketing Board is reporting that this year’s harvest was of excellent quality, with good volume. But many of today’s wine drinkers still have memories of Austrian wine that conjure up a different story. Overproduction, a wine industry stuck in a rut and, of course, a contamination scandal all served to create a poor image in the minds of consumers. But for some years now Austrian wine has been on the up. In fact, there is so much good, innovative and new wine being produced that Stephen Brook has needed to update The wines of Austria, with a second edition out this month.

“Today the quality of Austrian wine, in all its manifestations, has been fully vindicated,” says Brook. “Few would deny that quality is extremely high – overall the quality of winemaking is impeccable”. Several factors have helped to turn the industry around. As with its close neighbour, Germany, climate change has altered growing conditions, often favourably, allowing producers to diversify their offering. And the glycol scandal may have had a positive effect – it woke up those producers who had become set in their ways, encouraging a reconsideration of their craft in both vineyard and cellar. Wishing to avoid scandal in the future, the industry put in place measures designed to make quality checks more stringent and created an appellation system.

Having first enjoyed it in the 1970s, Brook has experienced the extreme lows of Austrian wine as well as seeing the country rebuild its wine production. Much has changed just in the four years since the publication of the first edition. New producers, new wines and newly fashionable wine styles, such as amber wines, are all covered in this comprehensively updated book. Many wines have been tasted up to the 2018 vintage. Brook’s refreshingly honest reviews make it easy to see who is making great wines today, who the newcomers to keep an eye on are – and who may need to change tack in coming vintages.

After a short chapter on the history of Austrian wine Brook provides details on the varieties grown in Austria. He then takes the 16 major wine regions in turn, explaining the terroir and detailing any significant vineyards before focusing on the most prominent and interesting producers. Although the growing area is less than half that of Bordeaux, Austrian producers are creating a huge variety of wines. The white wines made along the Danube in Niederösterreich rival those of Burgundy, Burgenland is renowned for its botrytised sweet wines and Steiermark has its own unique rosé in Schilcher. Even the capital, Vienna, contains a significant number of vineyards, from which wines are made to slake the thirst of locals and tourists who visit the winery-run inns known as Heurigen. There are also amber wines, Sekts and pétillants naturels to experience, as well as an increasing number of red wines. The book concludes with a summary of vintages from 1963 to 2018.

This meticulous book is an essential addition to the library of anybody selling, studying or interested in Austrian wine.

About the author
Stephen Brook is a distinguished author of numerous books on wine, especially on the wines of Bordeaux and California, and an award-winning wine journalist. He writes regularly for international wine magazines and has been a contributing editor for Decanter since 1996. Stephen is in demand as a guest judge at wine competitions around the world.


The wines of Austria was published by Infinite Ideas on 2 December 2019.
ISBN: 9781913022075, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 324pp, colour plates, maps.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957
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The full story of the birthplace of wine – and how it was reborn

27 November 2019 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Natural wines are currently in vogue. With wine producers from the Barossa Valley, to Bordeaux, to Napa experimenting with artisanal and minimum intervention winemaking, they have become the subject of much debate in wine publications and on social media. The methods used in creating such wines owe much to the traditional winemaking of the Republic of Georgia. Here, wines have been made for centuries using the same methods, which involve the grapes being allowed to ferment in sealed, buried clay jars called qvevri or churi. This has revived interest in Georgian wine but as one new book demonstrates there is much more to enjoy here than natural wine.

In The wines of Georgia, US author Lisa Granik MW explores the current winemaking revival in this ex-soviet state. A former lawyer, Granik was first enchanted by Georgia thirty years ago when she visited the Soviet Union to teach on a Fulbright programme. Over the years her obsession grew. She gained an MW qualification, quit the law and returned to Georgia on a second Fulbright, this time aiming to find out all she could about the land, its wines and the people who make them.

Having immersed herself in this culture she is well placed to provide a detailed and scintillating picture of a land where wine is integral and tradition is strong. But despite wine’s centrality to Georgian culture the current industry is very young, having expanded from a handful of producers to 1,300 in little more than 20 years. While Granik writes lovingly of these wines she is not uncritical: this old–new industry faces a particular set of issues. Many of those creating the wines are hobbyists with no formal wine training and believe that producing wines is simply a matter of putting grapes in a qvevri and allowing them to get on with the winemaking by themselves. This can yield some delicious, rustic wines but it can also produce flawed, unhygienic wines or wines unsuited to travelling beyond the winery gates. One of her stated goals in writing the book has been to encourage Georgian producers to strive for greatness. “Georgia may be the birthplace of wine, but its reputation as a source of fine wine will rest on producing balanced, stable, intriguing, expressive, unique and, yes, delicious wines,” she says.

The chapter on Georgia’s varieties is justifiably vast. Estimates vary but most experts agree that there are at least 400 native Vitis vinifera varieties here. Granik profiles nearly a quarter of these, in a lucid and easy-going voice that makes the descriptions a pleasure to read. Granik’s portraits of the eight major wine regions are vivid, describing not only the wine-growing environment but also focusing on features of the landscape and explaining how everyday life here is lived. Profiles of some notable producers and their wines are woven into the story to complete the picture.

In short, anybody who really wants to know Georgian wine needs to read this book.

About the author
Lisa Granik MW has a wine career that includes work in retail, import and distribution channels in the United States. In her current business, she advises wine companies and regions seeking to improve their sales in the United States. Lisa became a Master of Wine in 2006, and was a Professor of Wine at the New York Institute of Technology from 2013–15. She continues to speak about wine internationally, and judge in international wine competitions. She has written for publications such as the New York Times, The World of Fine Wine and Sommelier Journal, and has an ongoing column in Revista de Vinhos.


The wines of Georgia was published by Infinite Ideas on 2 December 2019.
ISBN: 9781913022006, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 336pp, colour plates, maps.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957
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Why Germany can now reclaim its place among the great wine producers

19 September 2019 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

At the end of the nineteenth century Germany’s wines, particularly its Rieslings, were among the most expensive and sought after in the world. Less than a century later, fuelled by reliance on technology, increasingly nonsensical wine laws and scandal involving adulterated wines, German wine had become a byword for sweetish plonk. It has been a steep climb but now Germany’s producers are reviving the wine industry with exciting, high-quality wines.

The wines of Germany, a new book from Infinite Ideas’ Classic Wine Library by German wine expert Anne Krebiehl MW, offers a tour round this new German wine landscape. In assessing the damage inflicted by the last century, she notes that, “it is only now that Germany is emerging from the convulsions of the twentieth century to become its true self and allow the uniqueness of its vineyards and diverse landscapes to take centre stage”.

On that stage are three key players: the reclaiming of Riesling in its true form, the increasing viability of red wine, particularly Spätburgunder, and the revival of traditionally crafted Sekts. Sweetness in wine had long been the “German curse”, as Krebiehl puts it, with increasingly lax laws seeing light and aromatic Rieslings lost in a sea of Liebfraumilch, but today’s producers, notably in the Mosel, are turning out the most “thrilling, diverse, alluring, unique and spine-tingling” Rieslings in the world. Climate change, whilst not entirely problem free for Germany’s growers has allowed a third of its hectarage to be devoted to red wine grapes. Other producers have recently begun unpicking the damage to the international reputation of Sekt inflicted by mass production, creating artisanal Sekts that sit perfectly with today’s fashion for the boutique and hand-crafted and benefit from the current popularity of sparkling wines.

Krebiehl refers modestly to her book as “a sketch” but in fact it provides an exceptionally thorough overview of German wine culture, past and present. She profiles a significant cross-section of producers in all wine regions, from the famed Mosel slopes to the lesser known regions of Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut, and it is through their stories that we gain the clearest view of where German wine has been, where it is now and where it’s heading.

While Krebiehl is clearly a genuine enthusiast for German wines she also notes that changes are needed if Germany is to continue its climb back to the top. Updates to the confusing wine law will play an important role in the continuing revival as, guided by the work of membership organizations such as the VDP, it moves to a more provenance-based and easily understandable model. The book’s overall tone is optimistic; Krebiehl is excited about the future for German wine and hopes the book will inspire readers to begin their own vinous explorations.

About the author
German-born but London-based, Anne Krebiehl MW is a freelance wine writer and lecturer. She is the contributing editor for Austria, Alsace, Burgundy and England for US Wine Enthusiast and also writes for trade and consumer wine publications such as The World of Fine Wine, Decanter, The Buyer, Falstaff and Vinum. She lectures, consults and judges at international wine competitions and is a panel chair at the International Wine Challenge. She completed her WSET Diploma in 2010 and was admitted to the Institute of Masters of Wine in September 2014. Anne has helped to harvest and make wine in New Zealand, Germany and Italy.


The wines of Germany was published by Infinite Ideas on 23 September 2019.
ISBN: 9781906821852, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 326pp, colour plates, maps.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957
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Secrets from inside the world of luxury wine

16 September 2019 by in Business and finance, Lifestyle, Wine and spirits

Wine has been collected by enthusiasts for centuries and today luxury wine is a growing market, yet little has been written explaining how a wine business can attain a coveted position among the world’s luxury brands.

Enter Peter Yeung and Liz Thach MW. Both have worked in the world of luxury wine for a number of years, he as a strategic marketing consultant to several high-end Californian wine producers and she as a professor of both wine and management. Recognizing the need for serious analysis of this subject they have pooled their expertise to write what is destined to become the go-to book for anybody working within the world of luxury wine.

In Luxury Wine Marketing the pair present their own unique research examining the size of the market and the profile of the customer base. From this they go on to explain every stage in the process of creating, launching and maintaining a luxury brand, from crafting the product, though pricing and packaging to hiring the right people and managing client relationships.

But luxury wine marketing is about far more than selling product, regardless of how high its quality may be. It is about creating a world, a narrative, around a brand to draw people towards it. Peter and Liz point out that “It is usually the story of the wine brand that captures the attention and can lead to a desire for more wine and, eventually, luxury wine. It is critical that the story emphasize what is unique about the wine, as well as provide the consumer with a sense of pleasure and privilege.” What that story is will vary from brand to brand, from the quiet focus on craftsmanship and heritage of some top Burgundy estates to relatively new Californian producers such as Screaming Eagle, which has traded on scarcity and a certain amount of mystery to create a cult following that has seen the average price of its wines increase in price from $50 to $3,000 per bottle in under 25 years.

It is perhaps through the case studies of high-profile wine brands that we learn the most about the world of luxury wine, gaining tantalizing glimpses into this privileged environment. Learning that Penfolds’ limited edition ‘Ampoule’ (of which only 12 were made) can only be opened by a senior winemaker, flown to the customer with a special tool, will provoke a variety of reactions among readers. What comes across above all though is the clarity of vision and consistent quality of product that all these brands share. This book makes invaluable reading for any company with aspirations within this market.

About the authors
Peter Yeung is a leading wine business consultant. He was previously Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Kosta Browne Winery and Realm Cellars, both in California, where he developed and executed strategic marketing plans, and a senior consultant at McKinsey & Company. He holds an MSc from the London School of Economics and a BA in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr Liz Thach MW is the Distinguished Professor of Wine and Management at Sonoma State University where she teaches on both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programs. She is an award-winning author who has published over 150 articles and eight wine books. Thach holds a PhD. from Texas A&M. She also works as a wine judge in various competitions, and has served on many non-profit wine boards. She became a Master of Wine in 2011.


Luxury Wine Marketing is published by Infinite Ideas on 23 September 2019.
ISBN: 9781913022044, hb, rrp £50/$69.95, 234 x 156mm, 300pp, b/w figures.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957