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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Why Great Britain’s wines are fizzing with potential

8 May 2019 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Most of us will be aware that the wines of England and Wales have come on in leaps and bounds since the beginning of this century. With brands like Chapel Down and Nyetimber becoming well known for their sparkling wines and English and Welsh wines taking up more shelf space in supermarkets such as Waitrose, even appearing on some pub menus, many of us will have had the chance to sample wines from these isles. So with Britain’s relationship with Europe in turmoil can lovers of French, Spanish and Italian wine start replacing their favourites with drinks from Kent, Cornwall and Yorkshire?

In his new book, The wines of Great Britain, English wine expert Stephen Skelton MW conducts a comprehensive study of the English and Welsh wine industries. Although much was done in the twentieth century towards the creation of a wine industry, the current wine growing phase dates back just 15–20 years and many contemporary producers are not much older than this. The good news is that despite their relative lack of experience, these businesses are already creating wines that can hold their own on the world stage. Some of the sparkling wines have even seen off competition from Champagne to win major wine awards. Several producers now make drinks that feature in the premium wine market and two Champagne houses have set up offshoots in Great Britain.

As a long-time consultant to the English wine industry Skelton is able to look behind these headlines. He notes that while there is much to celebrate, there is also considerable work to be done. Great Britain’s growers are still experimenting and learning when it comes to site selection and choice of rootstocks, the climate continues to pose challenges and producers have barely scratched the surface when it comes to developing the market beyond Britain’s shores. In years gone by the famous British weather often made for small harvests and poor fruit ripeness but if summers like that experienced in 2018 become more frequent, producers could find themselves faced with a problem of overabundance. As Skelton notes, “The exceptionally large harvest will strain the marketing skills of still wine producers and the bank balances of sparkling wine producers, who must find around £45,000–50,000 per hectare for picking, winemaking, bottling and storage of their wines. There are most definitely uncharted waters on the horizon.”

The 21 producer profiles showing how producers of all sizes are tackling these issues are fascinating. They illustrate a broad range of business approaches, as well as differences in field and winery, but above all demonstrate how energetic this community  is. There is still a long road to travel before we can chuck out the Bordeaux, but Skelton is optimistic: “There are many reasons to think Britain’s wines could get better in the future. The next few decades will be interesting ones to watch.”

About the author
Stephen Skelton began his wine career in 1975. In 1977 he established Tenterden Vineyards in Kent (now the home of Chapel Down) where he made wine for 23 vintages. He was also winemaker at Lamberhurst Vineyards, then the UK’s largest wine producer, between 1988 and 1991. He became a Master of Wine in 2003. He has written and lectured widely on English wine and has published four guides to UK vineyards, the 2001 edition of which, The Wines of Britain and Ireland, won the André Simon award for Wine Book of the Year. Other publications include Viticulture, a primer on the subject for students, and Wine Growing in Great Britain, for growers.


The wines of Great Britain is published on 13 May 2019. Review copies are available from marketing@infideas.com

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Book ideas for the wine lover in your life

6 December 2018 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

As we flip our calendars over to December it’s time to admit that, yes, the festive season is upon us. If you’re anything like the Classic Wine Librarians there will come a point when, exhausted from shopping and socialising, you yearn for some peace and quiet, a comfortable chair, a glass of wine and a good book to curl up with. May we suggest that our wine books are perfect for the Christmas-weary oenophile, and for the rest of December they are available with a 25% discount. Just visit our online bookshop, choose your books and enter the code Crackle18 at checkout to claim your discount. Read on for our top book picks.


Some of our best buys for long winter evenings

Check out our latest titles, critically acclaimed books and bestsellers. They make great presents – for your loved ones or for yourself.

9781999619374Port and the Douro (fourth edition) – NEW RELEASE
Richard Mayson’s classic book on Port and Douro wines is consistently popular, particularly at this time of year. In the comprehensively updated new edition, published last month, he reminds us why Port is a drink that continues to fascinate wine-lovers and win new fans. The chapter on vintage port covers harvests as recent as 2017 and provides information on vintages going back to 1844. Peppered throughout with anecdotes, potted biographies of those who shaped the industry and insights into quirks of the trade, this extensive and engaging guide to Port is an essential book for any wine enthusiast’s library.


9781906821623Sake and the wines of Japan – NEW RELEASE
Sake is well on its way to becoming the next big thing. Here, Anthony Rose takes us through the history of sake production, from offerings to the gods made from rice chewed by priestesses, to the heyday of sake, when master craftsmen – tojis – were instrumental in a brewery’s success or failure, to sake’s fashionable new wave. He details sake types, explains the ingredients and brewing methods, demystifies polishing ratios, explores the issues around ageing sake and discusses how best to enjoy the drink. A personal selection of sake producers are profiled. Also features a chapter on Japanese wine.


9781908984937Côte d’Or: The wines and winemakers of the heart of Burgundy
Raymond Blake’s thoroughly enjoyable account of the prestigious and fascinating Côte d’Or was shortlisted for the Domaine Faively Wine Book of the Year at the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards earlier this year. Amongst the compliments received for this fresh take on one of the world’s most influential wine regions was this one from the Irish Times: “Needless to say, it would make the perfect Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life.” Whether that wine lover is you or a friend, you can get hold of a copy here.


9781908984869Wines of the Languedoc
Jancisrobinson.com called it, “the most important book written on the Languedoc so far”. While it is easily the most informative book on this newly great region Wines of the Languedoc is also immensely readable. Rosemary George MW’s knowledgeable account provides the historical and geographical background you would expect from a Classic Wine Library title but the book’s main focus is on the most interesting producers currently working in this southern French region, with George bringing a personal touch to the profiles which lets readers live through the triumphs and tragedies of winemaking in this exciting and challenging land.


9781999619374


• Using the code Crackle18 at checkout entitles you to 25% off all titles within the Classic Wine Library during December. Second class postage is free within the UK, postage rates to the rest of the world vary; see delivery rates here
• If you are ordering for a UK address we recommend placing orders before 14 December 2018 to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.
• If you are ordering for deliveries outside of the UK and need books in time for Christmas please contact us at the email address below before placing your order.
• The Classic Wine Library closes at 5pm on Friday 21 December and reopens at 9am on Wednesday 2 January. The online store remains open; orders placed between these dates will be processed on 2 January.
• Please email marketing@infideas.com if you have any queries about your order or our delivery terms.

Comprehensive update for seasonal best-seller

26 November 2018 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Port is a perennial favourite of the festive season, so appropriately this month sees a timely update of Richard Mayson’s classic, award-winning book on the subject. In the nearly 20 years since the first edition of Port and the Douro was published there have been changes in the vineyard, with growers having to adapt to altered seasons, in the cellar, as new technology becomes ever more sophisticated, and in the way the Port industry itself is organized. Yet Port continues to produce classic vintages and to fascinate wine-lovers worldwide.

In his preface to the book Mayson states that one of his major objectives is to ensure that the book is a ‘good read’. This he achieves admirably, particularly through his peppering of the text with boxes offering profiles of key figures in the development of the Port industry and interesting asides on details such as the origins of passing the Port, the decline in popularity of Port and lemon in The Rovers Return and the rumour that Lord Nelson sketched out his plans for the Battle of Trafalgar using a finger dipped in Port.

All the essential information for student, sommelier and Port fan alike is here, delivered in a lucid and unpretentious style. To begin with, Mayson provides a history of Port, from the beginnings of viticulture in Roman times to the present day. The vineyards and their vines as well as the quintas where they are cultivated are thoroughly explored, followed by an explanation of Port production, both traditional and modern. A short introduction to Port types prepares the reader for a detailed assessment of vintages from 1960–2017. Some of these wines have been tasted afresh for this edition, and notable vintages (both exceptional and poor) dating back as far as 1844 are also included. The structure of the Port trade remains in flux, with the chapter on the shippers reflecting this as Mayson explains recent changes in fortune and ownership. Douro wine, which pre-dates its fortified cousin and has seen its revival accelerate over the last 20 years, receives an entire chapter to itself. Finally, for those wishing to visit the region, there are some ideas on what to do and where to stay.

Port and the Douro takes an honest and critical view of the region’s twin wine industries. In a postscript assessing the future for Port and Douro wines Mayson notes the potential problems of increased tourism, the challenges of competitive pricing and the pros and cons of an industry where most sales are in the hands of just five large companies. He ends on an optimistic note, stating that, “I am convinced that the Douro will continue to be one of the world’s most captivating wine regions and that Port will remain among the greatest of wines.”

About the author
Richard Mayson entered the UK wine trade in 1984 and spent five years working for the Wine Society. His first book, the award-winning Portugal’s Wines and Wine-Makers, was published in 1992. Port and the Douro, published in 1999, was shortlisted for the André Simon Award and the second edition, published in 2004, won the Symington Award of Excellence. In 2003 The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal won the André Simon Award for Drinks Book of the Year. In 2014 Richard was Louis Roederer International Wine Feature Writer of the Year and in 2015 Madeira: The islands and their wines was shortlisted for the André Simon Award. Richard chairs the Port and Madeira panel for the Decanter World Wine Awards and lectures to students at Leith’s School of Food and Wine in London. In 1999 he became a Cavaleiro of the Confraria do Vinho do Porto.


Port and the Douro is published on 26 November 2018. Review copies are available from marketing@infideas.com

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