Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines
James E. Wilson (Author), Hugh Johnson (Foreword)
Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (February 1, 1999)
Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0520219368
Dimensions: 10.7 x 8 x 0.9 inches
Our price: £45.

There's a large amount of mystique around the world of wine appreciation, and a number of recent experiments - for instance, that assessment of the nature of a wine correlates with the taster's belief about its cost or its colour - might lead to the nihilistic view that some differences in wine may be illusory. Nevertheless, there are agreed-on major differences in quality and nature of wines, and this book is a fascinating analysis of French wines in terms of "terroir" (a French word meaning "the total elements of a vineyard") by James E Wilson.
Why do the fine wines of France grow where they do? How can two seemingly similar sites, even within a single vineyard, produce wines of different quality? How much credit goes to the winemakers and how much belongs to nature itself? Who better to ponder these questions than a geologist and wine-lover in equal measure? James E. Wilson is a firm believer that "terroir" - the interplay of natural elements that make up the myriad environments in which vines grow - is the key to understanding why fine wines are produced where they are. This in-depth study, the result of years of meticulous research, reveals the relationship between rocks and grapes. Here is natural history and social history, little-known fact and anecdote, woven into the tale of how geology influences the quality of wine.
While the central thrust is geology - Wilson's view is that the varied geology of France is the primary driver of its variety of wines - this is not a dry geological text, but a rich travelogue of the French wine-growing regions, and you'll come away from this book knowing a great deal about the history, scenery and atmosphere of France.

The Topsham Bookshop has one copy in good condition at £45. The price reflects its scarcity, but we feel it's good value and an excellent addition to the bookshelf on any enthusiast of the history and culture of wines.