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Stephen Brook

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wocalif.gif (8940 bytes)The Wines of California

Stephen Brook

Paperback - 700 pages ( 1 October, 1999)
Faber and Faber; ISBN: 0571190308


If California was a country, points out Stephen Brook, it would be the fourth largest wine producer in the world, after Italy, France and Spain. Consequently The Wines of California is a hefty tome, taking nearly 700 pages to explore this vast quasi-nation. The very special qualities that characterise Californian wines, however, are summed up by Brook in a single word: Generosity. It is the near-perfect climate that ensures the reliability of the harvests and the "rich, full- bodied, fleshy, opulent" qualities that Brook so prizes and which he communicates with such enthusiasm to his readers. His dedication and profound knowledge of the region are apparent everywhere and the result is an invaluable companion to the buying and drinking of Californian wine. California is sometimes seen as a wine- producing monolith. This book offers a useful corrective, discussing production at a local level.

Divided into three main sections, The Wines of California covers first the main wine regions. The crucial matters of geography, geology, soil structure and climate are discussed and the individual American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and their sub-appellations profiled. A lengthy and fascinating account of Grapes and Wines covers growing and wine-making methods, and (usefully, given the Californian obsession with varietal wines) the grape varieties planted, including California's own grape, the fabulous Zinfandel. Finally, the most substantial part of the book comprises a gazetteer of wineries with a short profile of each--not, as Stephen Brook remarks, likely to provide racy reading, but of great interest. There are few discussions of individual vintages, which, given the fact that Californian wines are made to be drunk young, would be of limited usefulness, but Brook is free with his opinions and his judgements on some of the makers are sharp. --Robin Davidson

This text sets out to show why Californian wines are now recognized as among the finest in the world. It looks at the particular wine-making practices of the region and features a gazetteer detailing over 630 different wineries, along with lists of single vineyards.

Book Information
The wine industry in California was founded over 150 years ago and by the end of the 19th century Napa Valley and Santa Cruz were celebrated for the excellence of their wines. Then the double blow of phylloxera and Prohibition almost eradicated the production of fine wines. But a handful of energetic individuals revived the wine industry in the 1960s and within a decade California wines were being recognised as among the finest in the world. The Californians were unwilling to rest on their laurels and have gone from strength to strength.

This book explains what it is that makes Californian wines distinctive: a combination of climate: soil, tradition and innovation. Stephen Brook examines the history and climate of each major region, shows how certain viticultural and wine-making practices are specific to California and looks at how the principal grape varieties are handled stylistically in different parts of the state. Far from being a dry reference work, this book is studded with the vibrant personalities who keep Californian wines at the forefront of top-quality wine production. Special features of this comprehensive book include detailed lists of single vineyards, now receiving greater attention from wine-makers, and a gazetteer which features more than 630 different wineries, pointing to the best and most interesting wines from each.

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