Clive Platman looks at some ideal festive gifts for wine-lovers.
Christmas comes early every year in the Platman household when a clutch of new-release wine books lands on my doorstep. This year has been no exception, with several hardy perennials and a couple of new publications to explore.
Both Oz Clarke and Hugh Johnson provide the ideal stocking-filler with their annual Pocket Wine Guides (£9.99 and £11.99 respectively).
Both have been published since time immemorial, with Oz’s first edition published 20 years ago, and Hugh’s as far back as 1977.
Both were a lot slimmer back then, but that reflects the enormous expansion of wine producers and regions over the same period.
The fascination of the world of wine is that it never stands still.
Each year, there are a host of up-and-coming producers, new wine discoveries and, of course, new vintages.
Thus, while the core of the mini-encyclopaedias remains the same, after two to three years they need updating.
The main section of Oz’s guide is an A-Z of producers, grapes and wine regions.
Where wine styles or varieties cross national borders, Oz may have the edge but, like Hugh, both are well on top of the best producers, with both listing personal favourites.
Overall, Oz scores well on his assessments and at under a tenner, it’s cracking value.
Hugh Johnson’s approach is more traditional, dividing the entries into wine countries. I cut my teeth on Hugh’s book and personally prefer his layout and rating system.
For me, it’s a lot more useful as a reference work, particularly for such classic areas as Bordeaux and, in the course of the year, is the more thumbed. Hugh gets the nod.
Oz Clarke’s 250 Best Wines 2012 is a companion piece to his pocket guide, and at some stage in the past was given away as a freebie.
Not so this year, but for £7.99 you get what it says on the tin, 250 wine recommendations.
So far so good, and this year Oz is going a little downmarket in these financially straitened times.
The inherent flaw of any guide giving specific bottle recommendations is that it’s almost out of date by its release in September and, when taken out of the Christmas stocking it’s positively obsolete.
In days past, many unhappy hours have been wasted in local supermarkets, searching for recommended bargains, only to find them deleted. Beware, too, that many of the budget wines have a short shelf-life, particularly rosé and cheap whites. Take my advice – buy a copy of the Decanter 2011 World Wine Awards (October edition) for £4.50.