April won’t be the cruelest month if you have these humorous wine books on hand
Any wine writer worth their weight has heavy tomes about the subject—Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes, the Oxford Companion to Wine, Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine and the newly updated Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia. But likely they also have a few humorous wine books because, well, people, ya have to lighten up!
Some of these are classics and some might be one-offs, but there’s something for everyone who wants to LOL, ROTFL, LMAO or, if you’re old-school, ha-ha or hee-hee.
Top of my list is the classic, The Illustrated Winespeak: Ronald Searle’s Wicked World of Winetasting (Souvenir-now Profile Press, 1992) A long-time New Yorker cartoonist, Searle, appointed to the Order of the British Empire, paired wine tasting terms with cheeky illustrations poking fun at oenophiles’ jargon such as “distinctive nose,” full bodied” and so on. First published in 1983, reissued in ’92 and through the years, you can still find copies online, worthy a place on your shelf or that of a wine-loving friend. Find.
Lang’s Compendium of Culinary Nonsense and Trivia by George Lang (Clarkson Potter, 1980) is prized for its illustrations by legendary graphic artist Milton Glaser (William Safire wrote the introduction). It’s mostly food-centric but for the chapter titled “A Drunk by Any Other Name” is devoted to liquid pleasures. Find.
The Wine Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Oenological Knowledge by David Kamp and David Lynch (Broadway, 2008) combines fact, fun and a more than a little acid. Here, Robert Parker is an overlord wine ratings, Paul Draper (Ridge) is a “professionally goateed winemaker” and importer Kermit Lynch is the “oenological counterpart to Chez Panisse earthmother Alice Waters.” Few others get a pass—even terroir gets snarky treatment. Find.
The Curious World of Wine (Perigee/Penguin Press, 2012) by Richard Vine, professor of enology emeritus at Purdue University explores the “facts, legends and lore” of wine. This small volume is a lot of fun for the very quirky nuggets and backstories the fortuitously named author pulls out about Old and New World wines. Lovely etchings throughout. Find.
Schott’s Food and Drink Miscellany by Ben Schott (Bloomsbury, 2004) has long been a favorite gift to give because of its compact elegance and appeal to almost anyone with a culinary bend. The dense text is prettily laid out and I love the randomness of the entries—from last meal requests to wine barrel sizes, specifications on martinis and olive oils and notable vegetarians (Benjamin Franklin!) Find.
Whine: 50 Perfect Wines to Pair with Your Child’s Crappy Behavior (Race Point, 2017) by Jennifer Todryk. I love the honest premise of this book: wine pairing for the done-in parent. Claiming to “have the Pinot for your pain” and the Syrah to get you out of a funk, this happily stays clear of the overdone “merlot mommy” meme. Comes with stickers for the Periodic Table of W(h)ine to “help you determine if your child has behavior problems, attitude problems, or just plain bad DNA.” LOL on that. Find.
Wine. All the Time.: The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking by Marissa A. Ross (Plume, 2017). Ross, former comedy writer turned wine columnist for Bon Appetit magazine, also hosts the “Natural Disasters With Marissa and Adam” podcast in which she [refreshingly] establishes herself as the wine anti-expert. (Her website’s preamble notes “I write and drink wine. I have no qualifications to write about drinking wine, aside from the fact that I do it all the time.”) A fun “how to” book with a sharp don’t take it so seriously edge. Find.
Absolute Corkers: A Wine Buff’s Bedside Book Of Anecdotes And Funny Stories by Ned Halley (Constable, 2009). Offers a side-eye view of wine drinking, collecting and marketing. A few copies still available from third-party sellers on amazon.com.
Tastes Like Purple: A Humorous Look at Wine Tasting and Terms by Kristia Freeman (2012 Wheatmark). Demystifies wine and breaks down the basics for novices with a particular note on how to deal with wine bullies. (Who, me?)
Are You My Wine?: A Children’s Book Parody for Adults Exploring the World of Wine by Reese Ling (Ulysses, 2017). Illustrated in the style of children’s books, this is a fun spoof on fancy wine jargon, as interpreted by whimsical story-book animals.
Wine Life: A Snarky Adult Colouring Book (Papeterie Bleu 2017). One in a series of adult coloring books from this indie publisher, this one devoted to wine and whine.