The changing face of the Rhône Valley

26 January 2021 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

The Rhône is renowned for famous appellations such as Côte-Rôtie, Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. But being well-known does not necessarily mean that the wines of the region are set in stone. Like any other region, the Rhône has had to develop to keep up with tastes in wine and innovations in winemaking, and these days climate change is forcing further evolution on the region’s winemakers, as a new book from The Classic Wine Library reveals.

Two years ago, when Rhône specialist Matt Walls first started writing Wines of the Rhône he hoped it would provide a welcome res­pite from the political upheavals around the world, particu­larly in his native Britain and in France. He soon discovered a world of constant change, requiring many alterations of his text over the course of its writing (including the addition of a new appellation just weeks before the book went to press).

The evidence for changing climate, which comes both from the accounts of growers and scientific observation, has seen wine producers change their approach both in vineyard and in cellar. With harvests getting earlier, this can lead to uneven ripeness and growers having to choose between unripe flavours and very high alcohol levels, so one key development has been a change in the varieties favoured in various parts of the region.

Market demands have altered, with more consumers seeking organic and natural wines, and some newer appellations, such as Cairanne, born in 2015, have baked restricted use of additions such as herbicides and sulphur into their specifications. But the climate here does not necessarily favour natural wines, or even organics, for while dry weather can mean a reduced need for chemicals in the vineyard, climate change also means inconsistent conditions, which have on occasion seen growers faced with a choice between spraying or a failed crop. Some winemakers find it hard to see a long future for the region, and while Walls praises the efforts of its producers to adapt, he criticizes what he sees as a lack of foresight in terms of addressing the climate change itself, e.g. through the use of green energy or more lightweight bottles and packaging.

Regardless of what the future may hold there is still much to enjoy, and Walls is a highly knowledgeable guide to the region, deftly detailing the terroir and the typical wine styles of each appellation, from the famous crus to hidden gems. Arguably, the best way to understand a region is through its producers and here Walls has enlisted the help of around 200, interviewing many, tasting their wines and presenting profiles detailing what to expect from the wines of each (including some tips on bargains to be had). There is something surprising and exciting here for everyone, from the Rhône newbie to the long-time fan.

About the author
Matt Walls is a freelance wine writer and consultant based in London and Avignon. He is a contributing editor at Decanter and writes regular articles for magazines and websites such as Foodism, Club Oenologique and timatkin.com. He won the Best Newcomer award at the 2013 Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards for Drink Me!, his first book on wine, which has sold over 10,000 copies. He publishes a popular wine blog, www.mattwalls.co.uk, for which he won International Wine & Spirit Competition Blogger of the Year in 2015. When not writing, he advises restaurants on wine lists, hosts tastings, judges food and wine competitions and develops wine apps. Matt is interested in all areas of wine, but specializes in the Rhône. He is Regional Chair for the Rhône at the Decanter World Wine Awards.


Wines of the Rhônewas published by Infinite Ideas on 25 January 2021.
ISBN: 9781999619329, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 390pp.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957

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New book on Portuguese wines from the author of Port and the Douro

12 November 2020 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Portuguese wine and British drinkers have a relationship going back centuries. In the latter part of the twentieth century the picture of Portuguese wines held by most Brits was most likely a combination of quaffable pink wines, sunny reds drunk on holiday and Christmas Ports. But one Englishman was paying a bit more attention. Richard Mayson first visited the country as a child and was instantly enchanted by the place and its people, later developing a fascination with its wines. Having lived and worked there, including at one time owning and managing a vineyard in the Alentejo, he is ideally placed to introduce readers to the great variety of wines produced in Portugal.

In The wines of Portugal, Mayson demonstrates a clear love for both the wines and the country. After placing the wines in their historical context, the award-winning writer goes on to explore the grapes, of which Portugal has around 250 indigenous varieties, before explaining the demarcated wine regions. For a small country Portugal has a remarkable range of terroirs and wines. The book is divided along broad geographical lines into four main chapters: coastal Atlantic wines, wines from the mountains (largely in the north of the country), southern plains wines and wines from the islands of Madeira and the Azores. The wines range from the young, fresh, Atlantic-influenced Vinho Verde of the north-west to the “ripe and easygoing” reds of the Alentejo in the south, where the use of traditional talhas has been revived. But there are also the two famed fortified wines, Madeira and Port, and sweet wines such as those from Sétubal, which Mayson recommends as an ideal accompaniment to Christmas pudding. While the contribution of Mateus and Lancers to the revival of Portuguese wines should not be forgotten, there are now producers creating interesting, crafted rosés, and the recent fashion for sparkling wines has seen winemakers in all regions creating fizz worth celebrating.

Reading the story he tells here, wine lovers will find it diffi­cult to resist dreaming of wine holidays in spectacular Douro scenery or planning sunny coastal trips with a wine angle. Mayson is adept at explaining how grape variety, terroir, social changes, tastes in wine, vineyard management and cellar practices all interact to create the wines being produced today. Drawing these elements together in a compelling narrative he says, “Wine brings all these strands together: why is one wine different from another? The answer comes from the innumerable physical and human variables embodied in a deep sense of place. That, in short, is what makes wine so fascinating.” Readers who enjoyed Mayson’s two previous Classic Wine Library books, Port and the Douro and Madeira: The islands and their wines, should add this new book to their Christmas lists.

About the author
Richard Mayson entered the wine trade as a result of living and working in Portugal and spent five years working for the Wine Society before becoming a freelance writer. He is the author of six wine books. In 2014 Richard was the 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 has contributed to a number of publications, including the Oxford Companion to Wine, the Larousse Encyclopedia of Wine and the World Atlas of Wine. He writes regularly for Decanter and the World of Fine Wine and chairs the Port and Madeira panel for the Decanter World Wine Awards.


The wines of Portugal is published by Infinite Ideas on 12 November 2020.
ISBN: 9781999619305, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 366pp.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957

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Wine on the range: why Southwest wines should be on every wine adventurer’s list

21 September 2020 by in Classic Wine Library, Wine and spirits

Growing grapes in the arid plains of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico or in Colorado’s mountainous terrain has never been easy. Drought, disease and extreme weather events all present problems, but for the ambitious optimists who dare to pursue their winemaking dreams in America’s southwest perhaps the greatest challenge faced is convincing drinkers to try their wines. Despite advertising, the efforts of producer associations and highway directions to tasting rooms, many potential customers may not even be aware that wine is produced in their state. Now, a new book, The wines of Southwest U.S.A., by Texan wine expert Jessica Dupuy, aims to change perceptions and convince wine lovers that these states are producing wines every bit as good as those made by their friends on the west coast.

New book, just in

Hot off the press (ladybird sold separately)

Acknowledging the difficulty of her task Dupuy says, “taking on the project to share the story of wine in a quadrant of America that is most associated with cacti, cattle, and cowboys was a bit daunting.” Dupuy points out that the wine industries of these states are still emerging and working out their identities but she is not the only one persuaded of the potential for great wine in the Southwest. Many of the region’s growers and winemakers have gained experience working in more established regions, not only California but also Burgundy, Italy, New Zealand and more. They could easily have pursued their careers elsewhere but something drew them back to this part of the U.S.

Texas may have the most developed industry of the four, but those of New Mexico and Colorado are gathering pace and Arizona is generating excitement with the quality of its wines. Dupuy takes each state in turn, beginning with its history – the pioneering spirit that informed the development of these states perhaps goes some way to explaining the mindset of today’s winemakers. She then explores the unique growing conditions, the regions (AVAs) and the challenges peculiar to each. The chapters on each state’s wine producers cover around 10–15 per cent of today’s producers and feature those who helped to form its wine industry or who are actively pushing it forward. As Dupuy remarks, “this selection serves as a blueprint for the many great things that lie ahead.” The growth of the wine industry in the Southwest is reliant on people getting out and tasting the wines. To that end Dupuy concludes each section of the book with a listing of some of the places where visitors can best experience the legendary warm southern welcome and sample these wines alongside local food.

For anybody interested in discovering a truly up-and-coming wine region this book makes for fascinating reading.

About the author
Jessica Dupuy has written about Texas wine, particularly for Texas Monthly magazine, since 2007. She is a regular contributor as a wine and food columnist for Forbes.com and has also written for Imbibe, GuildSomm, SevenFifty Daily, Wine Enthusiast, Southern Living, and National Geographic Traveler. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, a WSET Advanced Certificate holder and a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators. Jessica has also covered food trends for various publications and is the author of several cookbooks, including Uchi: The Cookbook, The Salt Lick Cookbook: A Story of Land, Family and Love and Jack Allen’s Kitchen Cookbook.


The wines of Southwest U.S.A. is published by Infinite Ideas on 24 September 2020.
ISBN: 9781913022112, pb, rrp £30, 234 x 156mm, 268pp.
Also available as an eBook.
Review copies available from marketing@infideas.com; 07802 443957

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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.

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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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