Any wine lover would surely love to receive this book as a gift - even if they have one of the previous editions.
The Oxford Companion to Wine was first published in 1994, with the third edition coming out in 2006 - and a lot has happened in the wine world in the nine years since then.
Handily, the editors have listed the additions to the fourth version. They include Hong Kong (where "by the second decade of this century, auction totals … had overtaken those in all of Europe, and virtually every fine wine trader had a Hong Kong outpost"); savagnin blanc (not to be mistaken for sauvignon blanc), which is described as a "viticultural curiosity", and is used to make vin jaune, or yellow wine; hot water treatment ("to sterilise dormant grapevine cuttings or nursery plants"); and social media, which "has dramatically changed how information about wine is disseminated".
In the preface, master of wine Jancis Robinson writes, "It is quite a responsibility to be in charge of a work that I know from personal experience occupies a very special place in the lives of wine lovers and wine students all over the world. Interest in wine, both its consumption and its production, has never been greater, which means the world of wine has never been as extensive, nor as fast-changing. All of this means that it is very, very different from the wine world described in the third edition of this Companion.
"The great majority of existing articles needed considerable revision, some of them benefited from recasting and some needed a complete rewrite. In addition to this meticulous operation, we have added 300 new entries … The fact that there was no entry in the third edition for terms such as minerality, Hong Kong and CellarTracker demonstrates just how fast the wine world has been evolving. And, of course, it will continue to evolve."
At more than 900 pages and weighing close to 3kg, this book is not light bedtime reading.
Robinson writes, "Because the Companion was already very long and heavy [a complaint that prompted the release of a digital version], our esteemed publishers Oxford University Press were extremely strict with us about the total length of this new edition, which is less than 4 per cent longer than the third edition in terms of the number of words. This necessitated the deletion of a few of the more outdated entries."
The book is the work of 187 contributors. The editors helpfully denote cross-references by putting them in red typeface, give maps of the wine regions, and index entries by subjects such as vine-growing/viticulture, winemaking/oenology, regions, grape varieties, labelling terms and packaging.
The Oxford Companion to Wine - Fourth Edition edited by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding