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Robin Garr

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WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Robin Garr » Mon Oct 02, 2006 1:46 pm

<table border="0" align="right" width="165"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/oxthird.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr><tr><td>Order Jancis Robinson's "Oxford Companion to Wine" from Amazon.com in hardcover for $40.95, a 37 percent discount from the $65 list price.</td></tr></table>The Oxford Companion to Wine

Don't stop me if I've said this before, but I've long admired the approach to wine and wine writing taken by the British wine scribe Jancis Robinson. As soon as I took a good look at the First Edition of her "<I>Oxford Companion to Wine</I>" in 1999, it became the one wine book that I most strongly recommend as the serious wine enthusiast's primary reference.

The much-revised and updated Third Edition was published by Oxford University Press in the U.S. this weekend (it was released in the U.K. on Sept. 21), and that recommendation stands: If you don't already own it and you are serious about wine, buy this book. You won't be sorry, whether you use it primarily to look up information about what's in your glass, as a study guide for sommelier or wine-educator certification, or simply to browse and dream about traveling down the world's wine roads.

It's not an inexpensive volume at $65 list price, but Amazon.com offers it at an inviting discount; and with the holiday season looming in the distance, it's hard to think of a more appropriate wine gift to put on Santa's list. With some 3,900 wine-related topics listed alphabetically across more than 800 large-format, lavishly illustrated pages, it's hard to come up with a wine question that you won't find answered here. Even in the age of the Internet, this is one book in print that will bring you back to the old technology of flipping pages without a complaint.

But suppose you already own an earlier edition? Now we're facing a judgement call. There's arguably much that is new in the Third Edition. Jancis honorably reports that she added "more than 300 <i>substantive</i> new entries," while the publisher includes mere cross-references to bring its advertised total up to "almost 400" new items, including significant articles on alternatives to natural cork, globalization and wine politics, and increased attention to New World wine regions. For an intriguing list of all the new topics in the Third Edition, from "acetic acid bacteria" to "zonal viticulture," see Jancis's "Fine Writing on Fine Wines" pages,
http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20060916_2

That being said, they've managed to squeeze this new material into 813 pages - actually five pages fewer than the Third Edition - within a strict publisher's limit of 925,000 words (only 20,000 more than the Second Edition). Something clearly had to go. Jancis tells the story in an engaging personal essay about the Third Edition on her Website at
http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20060913_1

One segment that hit the cutting-room floor removed all reports on Cognac and other products distilled from wine. A quick random check suggests that tight editing went on, reducing the scope of some articles. (Amarone, for instance, took a hit, from 1 1/4 columns in the Second Edition to 3/4 column in a third.) But much of the editing appears thoughtful and common-sense; on the same page as Amarone, both "American Hybrids" and "Amelioration" were cut back, but the edited information remains under related entries, "United States - History" and a new article on "Manipulation."

Other changes are cosmetic: The body type appears unchanged in font and size, but a two-color process now presents subject titles and cross-referenced terms in a winey and eye-catching Burgundy color. I find the new half-circle thumb tabs on the edge of every page, listing the first and last entries on facing pages, a bit distracting and not really necessary, but that's a minor nit. And for what it's worth, many of the impressive full-page color photos in the previous edition have been replaced by new, different but equally striking photos in the Third.

The changes are far more than trivial, but the great bulk of the Companion's content remains unchanged, as it should. Ultimately, it's up to the individual wine enthusiast to decide whether the changes justify investment in an update. If you're passionate about wine, it would be easy to make the case - and give your old copy to a friend or local library. If you don't have <I>Oxford</i> yet, though, my advice is simple. Buy it. Now. You'll be glad you did.

Order Jancis Robinson's "<I>Oxford Companion to Wine</I>" from Amazon.com in hardcover for $40.95, a 37 percent discount from the $65 list price.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0198609906/robingarrswineloA/
Purchases made using this direct link will return a small commission to us at WineLoversPage.com and help make it possible for us to provide our online information and communities and distribute <I>The 30 Second Wine Advisor</I> without charge.
Last edited by Robin Garr on Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:56 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 2:30 pm

So you'd say, for those of us who have the earlier edition, this edition would make a good addendum?
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Robin Garr » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:00 pm

Thomas wrote:So you'd say, for those of us who have the earlier edition, this edition would make a good addendum?


I guess I didn't express myself as clearly as I thought, Thomas. I said, to try to sum it up briefly, that if you don't have the earlier edition, it's a STRONG buy recommendation. If you DO have the earlier edition, it's a judgement call, depending on whether your passion for wine is sufficient to prompt you to spend that kind of money for an update that incorporates 300 to 400 new articles (out of 3,900), plus some visible design and photo changes that don't really alter the book's content.

My guess is that serious geeks will find a reason to buy the new one, and justify it by passing on their well-thumbed second edition. But it's a judgment call, and I consciously did not make that a "strong" recommendation.
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Glenn Mackles » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:07 pm

Thank you for the fine review. I purchased the new edition when it hit my local store about 2 weeks ago. I did not have the prior edition. I have been enjoying it very much. I can't begin to count how many things I have looked up in the last two weeks as things cuaght my attention. I have little to compare this book to but I think it's great.

Glenn
"If you can find something everyone agrees on, it's wrong." Mo Udall
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Thomas » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:19 pm

Thanks Robin. I will have to give that a little thought.

The thing I really like about the "Companion" (along with Jancis' thorough cover of matters) is that it is alphabetical and how easily it allows for cross referencing. Makes it a natural to recommend to novices.
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Peter May » Mon Oct 02, 2006 4:33 pm

I have the first edition, and I'll be getting this edition signed by Jancis, at a Decanter tasting she is presenting in London of 'Truly 21st Century Wines' - http://www.decanter.com/events/tickets.php#jancis
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Sue Courtney » Mon Oct 02, 2006 5:31 pm

Hi Robin,
I'd be interested to know the size and weight of the 3rd edition compared to the first and second. They were heavy books and I'm not sure I liked the increased physical size of the second edition (which I decided not to buy, even though the cover of my 'signed' first edition was becoming quite tattered despite a protective cover on it).
Is there anything new in the 3rd edition that can't be obtained from Internet searches?
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Robin Garr » Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:02 pm

Sue Courtney wrote:I'd be interested to know the size and weight of the 3rd edition compared to the first and second. They were heavy books and I'm not sure I liked the increased physical size of the second edition (which I decided not to buy, even though the cover of my 'signed' first edition was becoming quite tattered despite a protective cover on it).
Is there anything new in the 3rd edition that can't be obtained from Internet searches?


Sue, sorry I missed this. The size is essentially identical to last year's. As I mentioned in the review, the new edition is 5 pages fewer than the last, a trivial difference; the books appear to be essentially identical in size and weight - according to Amazon.com, the third edition is 11.1 x 8.7 x 1.9 inches and 6.57 pounds while the second edition is 11.3 x 8.7 x 1.8 inches and 6.50 pounds.

It's hard to answer your question about the material and its accessibility from Internet searches. Only Jancis's Purple Pages paid subscribers will be able to read it online, and that not until March 2007. As for the specific information, hard to say. The Internet is certainly gaining weight, although you might check the discussion in Bob Ross's Wikipedia thread as to the quality of the free material out there.

As I said in the review, a passionate wine geek will probably justify the expense simply because it's new and there is some new material in it (and perhaps donate the old copy to a friend or a library). But realistically, it's about 300 substantive articles, or less than one-tenth of the book, and many of those articles - which Jancis lists in detail on her site, linked from my review - are about obscure subjects.

Hard to answer that question for you, but if size is an issue, the answer is that it's pretty much identical to its predecessor.
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Clint Hall » Wed Oct 04, 2006 2:10 am

Give the old book to a library? No library would accept mine, a first edition that's falling apart. The time has come to give this well-thumbed friend a heave into the trash bin and buy a new one...or maybe my son will get the word and give it to me for Christmas, as he did with the first edition. Name's Frank Hall and he works in Dallas. If you see him....

In any case, getting along without Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine would be just about impossible.
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by RonicaJM » Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:46 pm

Robin Garr wrote:<

It's not an inexpensive volume at $65 list price, but Amazon.com offers it at an inviting discount; and with the holiday season looming in the distance, it's hard to think of a more appropriate wine gift to put on Santa's list. .


That list is getting longer and longer....a wine celler, a Magellan Road Mate (GPS), The Oxford Companion, and, oh yes, the cruise we are going on in December.
In vino veritas...
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Re: WineAdvisor/Book Review: The Oxford Companion to Wine (Third Edition)

by Bob Ross » Thu Oct 05, 2006 4:54 am

Sue, Jancis published a list of the new entries on the Free for all Site -- open to the public at Free for All, September 19.

Here's a her intro and the first quarter of the new entries:

Below is an alphabetical list of all the terms given their own new entry, however short, in the new edition. The names in red refer to entries that are pure ‘pointers’ to other, more substantial entries, but I thought you might be interested in some of the terms that Julia and I felt were useful and relevant to wine today - or I overlooked last time.

acetic acid bacteria
Acolon
Adelaide Plains
Adelaide Zone
aerial imagery
Africa
agriturismo
Ajaccio
Alcobaça
Almuñeco
Alpine Valleys
anthesis
Arinarnoa
Arnsburger
Arribes (del Duero)
Asian lady beetle
ATA
atypical ageing
Australian Wine Research Institute
AWRI
Azores
Babo
Bali
Baronnies, Coteaux du
barrel renewal
Beechworth
Beira Interior
Berlou
Big Rivers Zone
biscoitos
black dead arm
black foot
BOD
Boisset
Bordeaux blend
botryticine
bouillie bordelaise
Boutenac
Brachet
Breede River Valley
Brock
buffering capacity
California sprawl
Camarate
Cape
Cape Agulhas
Cape blend
carbonation
Castel
Catalunya
cation exchange capacity
Cayuga White
CEC
Central Ranges Zone
Cerceal Branca
Cercial
Charitois, Coteaux
Charles Sturt University
Charneco
Chaume
Chaves
Chelois
Chelva
Chenanson
Chenin Noir
Cienna
Classic
Clear Lake
Coastal
Coastal Region
co-fermentation
cold soak
Complexa
Constellation
co-pigmentation
Corbeau
Cornalin du Valais
Cornell
Coruche
Corvinone
Cotarello
Couchois, Bourgogne Côtes du
crise viticole
critter labels
Crljenak Kastelanski [hachek on S]
crown cap
Currency Creek
DAC
DAP
dead fruit
De Chaunac
délestage
Denmark
derived pigments
Diageo
diatomaceous earth (DE)
direct shipping
DMDC
Dominio de Valdepusa
drinking
dry-farmed
Duché d'Uzès
Eastern Plains Zone
economics and wine
Egiodola
electrodialysis
ellagitannins
epicatechin
Erstes Gewächs
estate wine
eugenol
Évora
fake wine
Far North Zone
Federspiel
Federweisser
feinherb
FGL
Fiederweissen
finca
Fladgate Partnership
flash détente
flavonols
flavour scalping
flight
Foster's
Foundation Plant Services
Fresno
Friulano
Frontenac
Gamaret
garagiste
Garanoir
Garnacha Blanca
Gelber Muskateller
gemischter Satz
geographical information system (GIS)
GIS
glassy winged sharpshooter
globalization
global positioning system (GPS)
global warming
gluconobacter
glutathion
glycosidase
Gorbachev, Mikhail
GPS
Gracioso
Greater Perth Zone
green harvest
Grés de Montpellier
Groenekloof

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