Cookbook Review: Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Guide 2018

For 41 years, Hugh Johnson has published his annual guide to wine, cherished series that has sold millions of copies. And influenced the happy consumption of millions and millions of bottles.

Last year’s edition was 336 pages. So is this one. There are changes to be sure. On Page 8, we have Hugh’s agenda presenting a survey of the past year’s development in the world of wine. And what he expects 2018 to offer us.

The famous “If you like this, try this” section is there again on Page 14. This key section directs you down pathways sure to be unfamiliar. Do you like red burgundy, then sample a Mencia. Ah, have you ever heard of Mencia? Now you are given an invitation you cannot resist.

The regional perspectives are all here. Page 40 is still France, the map is the same, but the review of recent vintages has new lines for 2016. The discussion of prior years, like 2015, are unchanged from Hugh’s 2017 volume.

That’s perhaps the best aspect of Hugh’s annual exchange with us. Little of the “old” is different, so your investment in studying past editions — perhaps even memorizing it — is not challenged. You can easily identify the “new” content and rapidly become current with Hugh’s perspective on every year, every region, every country.

Hugh’s guides now end with a full-color segment that spotlight a new topic each year. For this 2018 edition, there is a presentation on Syrah, Grenache and their friends. What do they taste like, when to drink them, what to drink them with. Those are the lively topics that will make you an informed “expert.” And perhaps a devoted fan of these grapes varieties.

How do you use Hugh’s guide? You can just sit and try to absorb his decades of knowledge. You take this slim volume with you to your wine store for an intelligent stroll. Me? I love to explore the thirteen-page section Wine and Food for his matching suggestions. Trying an Asparagus first course? Who would have thought a Muscat would work? Hugh thinks it’s a pairing to embrace and it is one of hundreds of suggestions you can try, sip, and smile about. There are enough suggestions here to carry you through 2018. And, by then, we’ll have the 2019 edition to cherish.

Slim, compact and encyclopedic in perspective, Hugh’s book is a companion to wander the world with. A drinking companion to be sure.

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