Anyone in publishing will tell you that wine books just don't sell. Reference books like "The Oxford Companion to Wine," edited by Jancis Robinson, yes. Wine importer Kermit Lynch's classic "Adventures on the Wine Route" or Alice Feiring's "Naked Wine," yes, certainly (there's even a French translation). "Wine for Dummies"? Possibly.
But single subject wine books, tomes on the science of wine, memoirs of travels in Burgundy or treatises on fermentation yeasts. Not so much.
And yet there is one wine book which has been a mega-seller (11 million copies sold so far around the world) for 38 years: "Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book."
Each year, the British wine writer, who penned the first book in 1977, comes out with an updated edition of his wine guide. In a concise, abbreviated text that covers the wine regions of the world, Johnson suggests which vintages to buy, which to drink now and which to put away for a few years, which wine producers to seek out and why.
Johnson has a tremendous track record. He wrote his first book "Wine" in 1966 when he was just 27 and has gone on to write many more in the past four decades, including "The Story of Wine" and "The World Atlas of Wine, co-authored with Jancis Robinson.
And now "Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2015" (Mitchell Beazley/Octopus, 336 pages, 2014) is here.
Think about it. His first little pocket wine book came out way before the internet or the era of smartphones when you can look up anything at any moment. For the book, he early on adopted a format similar to the famous French Michelin guides, using symbols and stars along with concise, abbreviated entries to help readers navigate and pack a tremendous amount of information into a book small enough to slip into a pocket or a purse. (It has gotten a bit fatter through the years.)
In this year's introduction, Johnson writes, "All the indications are that orthodoxy in wine has had its day. We are in the Age of Divergence—of regions, grape varieties, winemaking methods and philosophies—and of course tastes."
The book is also available starting today as an iBook from the iTunes store.