Educating yourself about wine doesn’t have to be overly complicated or dull. It should be as enjoyable to learn about wine as it is to drink it. Beyond diving into current articles, visiting wine regions, and tasting as many bottles as possible, picking up a solid wine read is a great way to immerse yourself in all things vino. There are plenty of great wine-focused books out there, but knowing which ones offer the best bang for your buck (and time) is crucial.
From reference guides to personal memoirs, we’ve found the essential books that will take your wine knowledge to the next level. These informative reads are written by a variety of professionals, from award-winning authors to world-renowned sommeliers. Pour a glass and settle in, and get ready to learn more about the vast world of wine with these top picks.
Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier
If you follow many sommeliers on Instagram, you’ve likely encountered Aldo Sohm before. Although his #WineFactWednesday reels have garnered quite a following, it’s his written tips found in "Wine Simple" that will truly kick your wine knowledge into gear. In addition to working as Eric Ripert’s right-hand wine director at three-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin for the past 10 years, Sohm (yes, his name is actually Aldo Sohm) has also won the title of Best Sommelier in America. He also has his own wine brand, Sohm & Kracher, which focuses on gruner veltliner, an indigenous grape of his home country of Austria.
Created in conjunction with author Christine Muhlke, Sohm breaks down the foundations of viticulture, vinification, wine grapes, and classification systems as simply as possible—hence the name. In addition to making wine education accessible, Sohm’s book is both fun, easy, and aesthetically pleasing to read, thanks to the many colors and illustrations peppered throughout the text. This is by far the most digestible, easy-to-learn-from wine book on the market today.
Price at the time of publish: $18
Best for Beginners
The Wine Bible, 3rd Edition
Now on its third edition, Karen MacNeil’s "Wine Bible" continues to be a reference point for novices and seasoned wine professionals alike. No matter where you are in your wine journey, MacNeil’s informative text covers everything from the basics to intricate regional details to grape varieties and beyond. With this third edition, expect hundreds of color photographs, as well as recent additions of up-and-coming regions, including England, Croatia, and more. Best of all, MacNeil’s glossary makes finding specific information easier than ever, offering an educational and user-friendly experience all in one. Whether you're a professional or a hobbyist, this one is simply a must.
Price at the time of publish: $37
Best for Pros
Inside Burgundy: The Second Edition
Not for the faint of heart, this book is for serious wine geeks and, more specifically, Burgundy enthusiasts. Written by Jasper Morris, a Master of Wine now based full-time in Burgundy, this Bible-like reference book is a go-to source for professionals and passionate wine lovers alike. This new second edition, complete with full-color maps and photos, provides in-depth information on over 700 wineries, 1,200 vineyards, and 300 different villages. Best of all, Sotheby’s worldwide chairman Jamie Ritchie notes that one of the six new maps in this most recent edition specifies grand and premier cru holdings on a plot-by-plot basis.
If anyone is qualified to write the go-to Burgundy guide, it’s Morris. After receiving his Master of Wine title in 1985, Morris went on to found one of the UK’s leading Burgundy import companies, Morris & Verdin, which eventually sold to Berry Bros. & Rudd (of which he was the Burgundy director until 2017). For an in-depth guide to one of the world’s most hallowed wine regions, there is simply no better book.
Price at the time of publish: $90
The World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition
Discuss wine writing with anyone, and it’s only a matter of time until Hugh Johnson’s or Jancis Robinson’s names come up. Known for their numerous books, Robinson’s eponymous publication, "The World Atlas of Wine" is undeniably the duo’s biggest hit. Now on its 8th edition, with 4.7 million copies sold, this modern-day classic first hit the scene back in 1971. Almost immediately, the guide was deemed a go-to reference by professionals and connoisseurs alike; 50 years later, the sentiment rings equally true.
Six years since its last edition, the eighth "World Atlas of Wine" includes 22 new maps, as well as 416 updated pages, all of which explore the latest additions and innovations the wine world has seen since 2013. Even The New York Times’ wine critic Eric Asimov has regarded the book as the “single most important reference book on the shelf of any wine student.” Need we say more?
Price at the time of publish: $36
Vignette: Stories Of Life And Wine In 100 Bottles
Who says that reading wine books needs to feel like studying? With Jane Lopes’ memoir, diving into the world of wine is simply delightful. After working at New York's Eleven Madison Park, Chicago's The Violet Hour, and Attica, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Australia, Jane went on to pass the Master Sommelier exam in 2018, rendering her just one of only 34 females in the world to hold the coveted title. Prior to getting into wine, Lopes studied literature at the University of Chicago; "Vignette" is her first book.
In addition to exploring the details and fundamentals of the 100 bottles referenced, which also includes a number of spirits and beer, Lopes shares her personal experience with the wine at hand. Described as part memoir, part wine book, the book beautifully educates on global regions, producers, and grape varieties without ever once feeling like a reference book. For those looking to read (and learn) about wine as poetically as possible, look no further than this book.
Price at the time of publish: $22
Best for Natural Wine
The World of Natural Wine: What It Is, Who Makes It, and Why It Matters
Aaron Ayscough is no stranger to the world of natural wine. Based in Paris, Ayscough first started writing about natural wine in his blog/newsletter, Not Drinking Poison in Paris, while also making regular appearances in Eater, Meininger’s Wine Business International, and other prestigious publications. "The World of Natural Wine" is his first book. He is also the English translator of natural wine guru Jules Chauvet’s two works, "Wine in Question" and "The Aesthetics of Wine."
With "The World of Natural Wine," Ayscough highlights the necessary information that curious drinkers need in order to understand this global movement, all while highlighting winemakers, regions, and historical contexts along the way. Since its release, Ayscough’s book has garnered positive feedback from a number of industry legends, including James Beard Award-winning writer, Alice Feiring (who deemed the book an “essential addition to natural wine literature”) and Meilleur Sommelier de France 2018, Pascaline Lepeltier (“a must-read for anyone who loves—or hates—natural wines”). In addition to writing, Ayscough has also curated a number of natural-focused wine lists across Los Angeles, Paris, and Monaco. He is currently pursuing a viticulture degree at the Lycée Viticole de Beaune in Burgundy.
Price at the time of publish: $26
Best for Gifting
The New French Wine [Two-Book Boxed Set]: Redefining the World's Greatest Wine Culture
While a number of wine books promise to make great gifts, there’s certainly no better—or more beautiful—present for the Francophile or wine aficionado in your life than "The New French Wine." Written by two-time James Beard Award-winning author, Jon Bonné, this two-part, in-depth book acts as an encyclopedia to all that’s relevant in French wine today. Spanning 800 producers (and nearly ten times more wines), this stunning, 864-page read also includes wine maps, photography, and countless stories from the author’s eight-plus years of research.
"The New French Wine" is broken down into two parts. The first book explores French regions as a whole, highlighting soil specifics, topography, geography, and more, while the second book acts as more of a “who to drink and why” type guide, curated by one of the most qualified experts on the market. In addition to writing books, Bonné is also the managing editor at Resy. Previously, he was the wine editor and chief critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the wine consultant for JetBlue Airways. "The New French Wine" follows Bonné’s previous book, "The New California Wine," which has garnered numerous accolades.
Price at the time of publish: $129
The Sommelier's Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe
Although there are many great regional wine books out there, Jordan Mackay and Rajat Parr’s "The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste" offers a thought-provoking insight into a number of top European wine regions. The book is structured in a region-by-region format, so as to comprehensively guide the reader through Europe’s best-known and off-the-beaten-path areas alike. In addition to educating on regions, the Sommelier’s Atlas also encourages curious readers to build their wine-tasting vocabulary, whether completely new to wine or looking to perfect blind-tasting skills.
Contrary to the many wine books that describe how grapes and certain wines taste, "The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste" takes a deeper look into the why behind it all, specifically through a land-focused lens. For example, rather than simply explaining Barolo as a whole, the book breaks down the unique intricacies amongst the region’s various crus, highlighting its nuances through differences (and similarities) of terroir, climate, and producer influence. It’s no surprise this book shot to the top of professionals’ go-to lists everywhere almost instantly after its release.
Price at the time of publish: $25
Wine books come in all shapes and sizes, and feature a variety of themes and topics. For those new to the subject, starting with a foundational read, such as "The Wine Bible," will offer a perfect overview of the basics. On the contrary, for those already acquainted with entry-level information, reaching for a regionally-focused option will offer a more dialed-in experience—and whether novice or long-time professional, grabbing a digestible read like "Wine Simple" is bound to offer something new.
What to Look For
There’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to wine books, so seeking out an option that fits your particular preference is key. For facts and fundamentals, look for a book that’s structured more as a reference guide; for educational reading that reads more leisurely, seek out a sommelier or industry professional memoir. If curious to learn the basics, reach for an all-encompassing book; should you have the fundamentals down, dive deeper into a regionally focused book for a more specific read.
Do wine reference books have a "shelf life?”
To a certain degree. Although detailed information changes over time—for example, a specific appellation may change permitted grape varieties, or vintage descriptors will need to be added as time goes on—for the most part, wine books are pretty relevant no matter when they were written.
Can I teach myself about wine through books alone?
Although you can learn a lot about wine through reading (especially when it comes to the basics), getting a firm grasp on wine requires a number of additional elements—most importantly, tasting. Additionally, visiting wineries and different wine regions, attending classes, or joining a tasting group are great resources for building a well-rounded wine education.
Do you have to be a trained sommelier to write a book about wine?
Not at all! While many sommeliers venture into book writing (Rajat Parr, Jane Lopes, and more), a number of highly regarded wine writers are not trained sommeliers. For reference, a sommelier is technically a wine professional that works in a restaurant. While many wine professionals gain experience “working the floor,” there are a number of other wine industry careers that don’t involve restaurant work, including but not limited to distribution, retail work, and of course, writing.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Vicki Denig is a wine, spirits, and travel journalist based between New York and Paris. Her writing regularly appears in major industry publications, including Liquor.com, WineSearcher, Decanter, and beyond. Vicki also works with a prestigious rolodex of monthly clients, including Paris Wine Company, Becky Wasserman & Co, Corkbuzz, Provignage, and beyond. She is a Certified Specialist of Wine. When not writing, Vicki enjoys indoor cycling classes and scoping out dogs to pet in her local parks.