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On the Fourth Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to Me: Four Wine Books

December 28, 2020

Mythology of Wine

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to Me:

The fourth day of Christmas Day is today, December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents when people remember the baby boys which King Herod killed when he was trying to find and kill the Baby Jesus. I’ve also learned that it is a day similar to April Fools in some Spanish speaking countries when pranks are played on “innocents” — and a prank was even played on me!

So also on this day, my true love sent to me four wine books: two about wine tasting, one about the mythology of wine, and an autobiography of a mythic figure in wine! Here’s the four books:

  1. Nick Jackson, MW: Beyond Flavour: The Indispensable Handbook to Blind Wine Tasting
  2. Joe Robert: Wine Taster’s Guide: Drink and Learn with 30 Wine Tastings and Wine Tasters Journal
  3. Arthur George: The Mythology of Wine
  4. Stephen Spurrier: A Life in Wine  

Please note I am not making any money from recommending these books.

In Beyond Flavor , Nick Jackson, MW analyzes wine in a way that really speaks to me but also gives me a language and tools to express and explain why I know a wine is what it is. He focuses on the texture and structure of a wine, and finds words to describe and define that texture, that really make sense. Wine Spectator says that Beyond Flavour is “quietly the best wine book to come out in recent memory”. During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Nick started The School of Taste which offers a variety of live and pre-recorded wine webinar content using the ideas from his book and his experiences.

In an email to me, Nick admits that, “To be honest I had very limited ambitions with the book; I just had all the thoughts knocking around in my head so I thought I might as well write them down, and sell a few copies to wine students I know. The response has been very surprising – in a good way! I’ve been amazed first, that so many people are interested in this niche subject; and second, that my sometimes curious approach has elicited positive reactions. If nothing else, I hope at least to have started a conversation about how to include structure more seriously as a tool for understanding wine.”


Wine Tasters Guide and Wine Tasters Journal  (July 2020) is by Joe Roberts, blogger at 1WineDude who I met at the Wine Bloggers Conferences over ten years ago. A writer, blogger, video personality, wine critic, and frequent wine competition judge, Joe’s writing has appeared in publications as varied as and Parade.  On his blog, he offers “Serious wine talk for the not so serious drinker.”

 I was curious how Joe came to write these books, and when I asked him via Facebook messenger, he responded, “I was actually approached to write the books, I’m not smart enough to have figured out that the world actually needed another take on an introductory wine book. 🙂 What I really focused on while writing (and especially while editing!) the books was to make them insanely useful.

“What I mean is, anything that wasn’t potentially teaching the reader about wine didn’t make the cut. So my hope is that anyone who picks up the book is entertained, but realizes later that they actually took away a lot of useful stuff, no matter what page, tasting or chapter they happen to gravitate to first,” Joe told me. Joe’s Wine Taster’s Guide: Drink and Learn with 30 Wine Tastings has a companion to it, a Wine Tasters Journal to help you keep track of what you are tasting and what you think about it.

If you’re just starting out on your wine journey, this could really help!

Santa Barbara resident and retired lawyer Arthur George’s new book, The Mythology of Wine came out in November 2020, just in time for holiday gift giving.  With details from wine-related myths in ancient Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel, as well as in early Christian Europe, Arthur says his book shows “how these stories ultimately influenced today’s wine culture and our religions and culture at large. It is fun, not long or technical, easy to read, has lots of illustrations, and is not expensive (ebook $9.99, paperback $14.99).”

When I reached out to learn more about his book, he directed me to this quote: “Of all our beverages today, only wine has sacramental status,” he writes on page 1.  “This is a legacy of wine’s sacred status in the ancient world,” shared Arthur with me. “To the ancient mind, wine was divine and transcendent, and thus for humans was a means of transcendence, a connection to the divine.”

About Jesus, Arthur says, “He called himself ‘the true vine,’ he was the best winemaker who made superior wine, his blood was wine, and in Christian art the cross was portrayed both as a grapevine and a wine press, making his crucifixion a grape crush, after which he was enthroned in heaven, which was pictured as a vineyard.”

“This explains the front cover of my book,” he says of the image at the top of this post, “it alludes to the various biblical and artistic connections between Jesus Christ and wine and grapes.”

In response to my question about why he wrote the book, Arthur says, “First, it combines two major interests of mine. I’m a mythologist, and write books and blog about mythology. But I’m also a longtime wine enthusiast who has built up a good knowledge about it over the years, and more recently became a viticulturalist and winemaker (now on my 5th vintage), which really deepened by knowledge of the subject and allows me to appreciate and evaluate wines better. That in turn led me further into wine mythology and history.

“Second, being a cultural historian, I also saw that most wine enthusiasts, as well as certified wine professionals, don’t know much about how wine was the subject of so many myths in the cultures of the ancient world, and how they in turn ultimately influenced today’s wine culture and culture in general. There is a gap in wine education as currently practiced; it just doesn’t address the subject. I wrote the book in part to fill that gap.

“And third, for most people this is a novel subject, and is both interesting and fun to talk about. The new things that the book talks about can make for good conversations at dinner and at cocktail parties. For this purpose, I wanted to make the book not too long or technical, and easy to read. It has to be the kind of book that can be sold at wine tasting rooms, so visitors can take that home with them along with the wines.”

Honestly, this the kind of book I’d like to have written. Like Arthur, I have an interest in Depth Psychology; I even have a Masters in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and I wrote a paper about the phenomenology of wine tasting. I look forward to getting and reading this book and interviewing him myself — hopefully over a glass or two of wine, possibly at Clos Des Amis or at his home vineyard.  Read more about the topic of the mythology of wine on his blog.

A Life in Wine is the autobiography of Stephen Spurrier, the man who created what became known as the Judgement of Paris in 1976, and who is portrayed by Alan Rickman in the 2009 film  BottleShock. 

With the re-release of Stephen Spurrier’s autobiography A Life In Wine in 2020, and with COVID closures, Spurrier has been on the ZOOM circuit with two recent tastings and interviews, one featuring English sparkling wine with San Francisco Wine School and the second with Burgundy with Napa Valley Wine Academy — and you can order his book this way too. During the Burgundy one which I listened in on, he talked about the film and meeting up with Alan Rickman after he portrayed Spurrier. The two had met previously and enjoyed wine together in Tuscany, and Rickman said he worked to bring Spurrier’s humanity to the character that was on the page.

In A Life in Wine by Steven Spurrier shows why he’s one of the wine trade’s most important figures having taken the role of wine merchant, buyer, wine educator and lecturer; he has written books, wine courses and over 300 columns for Decanter magazine. This updated and revamped edition includes two new chapters. If you’re just curious about the Judgement of Paris, check out George Tabor’s 2006 book.

For more on these four wine books and others, check out this post on Wine Predator.




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