Great books are a subjective matter but there's no doubt that this one earns its place on the top shelf of all wine lovers. It is the long awaited fifth edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine.
The 944 page tome was edited by a trio of respected wine writers, Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson OBE MW and Tara Thomas, as opposed to the first edition, which was released in 1994 and edited entirely by Jancis Robinson MW. It was no mean feat when the first edition was released, which was described variously as 'A masterpiece of vinous scholarship' in The Observer and ‘A comprehensive compendium that deserves a spot on every aficionado's shelf’ in the Daily Telegraph, among many other glowing reviews.
This writer reviewed the first release in Capital Times newspaper (now Capital magazine) and I am looking forward to reviewing the fifth edition in the near future. Unlike previous editions, this one contains over 270 new entries and benefits from the contributions of over 100 new contributors. (This means, I assume, that my earlier contribution remains in the New Zealand section, alongside Bob Campbell MW's writing.)
New entries in the newly published book include, for the first time, wines from places such as Estonia, Latvia, and Finland (all previously considered too cold for quality winemaking) as well as Gabon, Senegal, and Uganda. More depth is given to North American wine, Mexico and the role of DNA profiling of wine grape varieties. It also includes new understanding of the complex chemistry of winemaking and how it affects taste, both positively and negatively. Trends and wine fashions are also included.
I am a devotee of The Oxford Companion to Wine because it is so all encompassing even in its existing fourth edition form. The fifth edition really does give pause of thought and anticipation of great reading, learning and as a resource for all wine lovers, whether working seriously in the industry or simply those who adore wine and want to understand a little or a lot more about it.
The Oxford Companion to Wine Fifth Edition, edited by Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson OBE MW and Tara Thomas, RRP $89.95 AUD, 944 pages.
Official publication release date is 7 December 2023.
A full review to follow on this website. Watch this space.
About the editors
Julia Harding, Master of Wine, editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, studied modern languages at Cambridge before becoming a freelance book editor. She qualified as a Master of Wine in 2004, winning the Robert Mondavi award for best theory papers and the Tim Derouet Memorial Prize for excellence in all parts of the exam and dissertation. She is Senior Editor at JancisRobinson.com, where she has been a member of the team since 2005. She is cartographic editor of The World Atlas of Wine (8th edn, 2019) and co-author of Wine Grapes (2012). She was awarded Wines of Portugal Personality of the Year in Europe (2023).
Jancis Robinson OBE and Master of Wine, founding editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, is one of the world's leading authorities on wine. The first person outside the wine trade to have passed the notoriously tough Master of Wine exams, she now writes weekly for the Financial Times and even more frequently for JancisRobinson.com, which has members all over the world. Voted the world's most influential wine critic in polls in the US, France and internationally in 2018, she has won multiple awards and written many books. Most recently she wrote The 24-Hour Wine Expert (2017), co-wrote The World Atlas of Wine (8th edn, 2019), Wine Grapes (2012), and hosted the BBC Maestro online wine course An Understanding of Wine.
Tara Q. Thomas, assistant editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine, is the managing editor of JancisRobinson.com. Based in New York, she has worked in the wine industry for 25 years, most significantly as executive editor of Wine & Spirits Magazine but also as a freelance writer, editor, wine judge, and wine educator. She has also contributed to two Oxford Companions: Spirits & Cocktails and Cheese.