This is The Wines of Austria by Stephen Brook, a new book published by Infinite Ideas earlier this year. The RRP is £30.00, but I have a review copy. It’s a paperback of 294 pages, with black and white maps in the text, and several colour plates gathered together in the centre of the book. Like other books in this series, the general design and physical impression is good. As often the case with wine books, I found the maps disappointing, but I know good cartography is expensive and they are better than nothing. My only other criticism at that sort of level is the lack of a complete index – there is an index, but for wineries only. There is also a glossary, but that did not have an entry for the wine style I needed reminding about while reading.
This is a book that contains a lot of detail, and relatively short introductory chapters and sections, which made it heavy-going for me as a reader with no claim to any specialist knowledge of Austrian wines. It does not however lack clarity – indeed Brook writes very well. It is just that for someone who does not already have sufficient knowledge to hang the many facts on, the sheer number of different regions, sub-regions and producers is difficult to take in. Someone with more prior knowledge would doubtless get more out of the detail, but I decided that for my purposes it is a work of reference rather than a book to actually sit down and read over a few days.
I must admit though that I struggle to image how the book could be improved on from my perspective. At the risk of causing offense to Austria and lovers of her wines, I’d venture that part of the problem is that the history of Austrian wine as an international product is relatively brief, so there is not so much that can be written about historical context – compared with Port, Sherry, and Madeira to mention of vinous topics of other books in this series. The other sort of context useful for the organisation of knowledge is geography. Seeing precisely where villages, vineyards and producers are, down to the level of vineyard slope orientation, greatly helps, and I suppose that comes back to my point about the inadequacy of the maps.
So, an excellent reference book, and probably an excellent read if you already have a special interest in Austrian wines. For the more general wine lover there is still much to be gained from the book – I certainly learned quite a bit – but I suspect that much of it will remain unread on the first pass through.