Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion

Published by Sally on January 11, 2010

Title of book:  Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion
Author: Hugh Johnson/Stephen Brook
Publisher: Octopus Publishing (Imprint: Mitchell Beazley)
Publication date: 2009
ISBN      978 1 84533 457 4
Pages: 672
Price:  £40.00, hardback


HJ's Wine Companion

HJ's Wine Companion

The auspices for this book are good with more than 70% of this sixth edition having been revised and rewritten by respected and readily readable author Stephen Brook, all reviewed and refined by the redoubtable HJ, of course.

The book has the usual preambles in place: the vine, the grape varieties, growing grapes and making wine, neatly laid out here with a bit of explanation as to why the various elements of grape, vine, site, and winemaking option are important for wine’s glorious diversity of style.

I have a few issues with some of the winemaking introduction: as something of a closure analyst myself, I would point out that Stelvin is but one manufacturer’s brand of screwcap, and the collective term must therefore be screwcap. To use Stelvin may be erroneous at best, misleading at worst, as it is a good quality screwcap closure, and less good quality ones might therefore gain from such an erroneous association.

A point of reassurance – blood has not been used as a fining agent for some years.

There’s also a bit of confusion over filter pads and membranes. Pads cannot be guaranteed at a micron level, so it is membrane filters of 0.45 micron that allow the removal of both yeast and bacteria.

The new star rating is a handy at-a-glance addition to this edition. 1-4 stars appear alongside the producer name, with the stars in red if the producer represents good value. Rising stars get no stars (ha, ha) as longevity has not yet been proven. Even Bordeaux has one or two red starred properties, which has to be encouraging.

There are one or two useful pronunciation hints too, for example the ‘the “s” of Cos is sounded’; though he makes no mention of the ‘t’ in Moët (et Chandon).

There aren’t so many ‘no star-rated’ entries in the book, but the Aussie section might have included a few as it is this generation of young guns who are creating the waves of excitement likely to re-invigorate that country’s industry. The likes of Mac Forbes, Pizzini or Ten Minutes by Tractor, for short example, might have deserved a nod.

Pedantry aside, nothing takes away from the fact that this is a great one-stop-shop for top line information on the most important producers across the globe. Even three lines are enough for a sniff and an indication as to whether further research or interest is warranted. This book is likely to remain one of those essential reference works for the bookshelf, waiting to provide that crucial clue at a time of emergency requirement.

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