Among the still reverberating effects of the wine boom of the 1960s and early '70s is the continued high rate of publication of books on wine. The dozen books published during the past year include three books on German wine, more than were published in the first two decades after World War II.
The three are The International Wine and Food Society's Guide to the Wines of Germany by Heinrich Meinhard (Stein and Day, 276 pp., $10.00); Where the Great German Wines Grow by Hans Ambrosi (Hastings House, 240 pp., $9.95); and German Wine Atlas and Vineyard Register (Hastings House, 90 pp., $6.95).
If you have been looking for a thorough introduction to German wines, Meinhard's book will provide it. It is well written and displays familiarity with German history as well as with German wine. The organization of the book is conventional. It has several chapters of background material with titles such as "The Natural Setting of German Viticulture," "Vines and Wines" (containing an unusally extensive presentation of grape varieties grown in Germany), "A Historical Outline" and "Christianity and Wine," the last being a fuller treatment of a subject mentioned only briefly in most books on wine.
After these chapters come those devoted to each of the 11 officially designaged wine regions (anbauge biete), starting with the Rheinpfal (the Palatinate) and ending with the Hessische Bergstrasse, between Darmstadt and Heidelberg. Each of these chapters describes the soils, topography and climate of the region, and discusses in some detail the wine townships, their associated vineyards, and the wines. Also included are brief descriptions of the most interesting sights.
In spite of the quality of the book and its many good features, the fact that it was published under the aegis of the International Wine and Food Society makes it disappointing. In view of the reputation of the Society under the late Andre Simon, and especially in view of the excellence of the Society's "Guide to the Wines of Bordeaux," there was good reason to expect a more definitive book. Given the author's obvious knowledge of Germany and German wines, deficiencies in the book should probably be charged to the sponsor or the publisher.
There are instances of apparent carelessness. In explaining the 1971 German Wine Law, the author writes that the seven separate vineyards around the town of Kiedrich in the Rhiengau chapter lists vineyards no longer in separate existence, with no mention of any change. The section of Tauenthal also lists a couple of vineyards that were merged by the 1971 law. These are not serious descrepancies, but they are annoying and unnecessary.
A more serious complaint is the lack of supplemental information usually included in the appendix. It does contain a good summary and discussion of the new wine law, but it would have been more useful had it included the new official vineyard list. Figures on production trends of the various regions; export-import figures; more information about the wine auctions and wine festivals; a few notes on German food and wine-these would have added to the usefulness of the book.
Ambrosi's Where the Great German Wines Grow represents a new approach. Instead of the usual format as described above for Meinhard's book, Ambrosi chose to arrange the book for the convenience of a traveler to the wine regions of Germany who wants to know where to locate the best wines to each region and township. Hence, after some introduction and background material, he goes right into the specific regions. His chapter on the Moselle (Mosel-Saar Ruwer) region, for instance, has separate sections on eight of the best wine towns in that region. The section on Wehlen, one of the eight townships, consists of a detailed description of the wine estate(weingut) of J.J. Prum, giving its address, phone number, location (how to get there), history of the business, points of interest in the area, names of vineyards used (94 per cent Reisling), assessment of the wines and other information.
A "Reference Section" contains a digest of the new wine law, instructions for reading a German wine label, a glossary of wine terms and addresses of German wine societies and information offices. This unusual book will be of special interest to advanced students of German wine, members of the trade or any wine lover planning a trip to Germany. It should be noted that, while the book describes more than 90 wine estates, all well known and reputable, many good ones are not included, no doubt because of space limitation.
The German Wine Atlas and Vineyard Register is also an unusual book on German wine. It was orginally published in Germany and has now been translated and published in Germany and has now been translated and published in this country. The price seems high for a paperback, but it is not surprising in view of the quality of the publishing and the generous use ofcolor. The book is printed in a large format (8 1/2 by 11 1/2 inches) which allows the maps to be properly presented." The front cover has 10 excellent color photographs of wine scenes, and inside are dozens more, showing vineyards, cellars, wine towns, wine routes, presses, etc.
The text of the book is just what the title says it is. Following the well-written introduction by Edmund Penning-Rowsell and some more prefatory information from the German edition, the 11 wine regions designated by the 1971 wine law form the divisions of the book. Each region is described in the text, which discusses the most prominent towns and vineyards, describes the most interesting sights for travelers and the lists each town and its vineyards in that region. Each vineyard name is numbered, and that number is used to locate the vineyard on the accompanying maps of the region.
Such detailed information will be of interest chiefly to serious students of wine and to members of the trade; However, the arrangement of the book is such that the meticulous detail can be ignored by those who want only a general introduction to German wines. The book is also useful for travelers, since in addition to the vineyard maps there are directions for the weinstrasse or wine route through each region,a road map for each region and a road map covering all the regions.
Although these three books are different in purpose and emphasis, any one of them would serve to increase a wine drinker's knowledge and appreciation of German wines; it would also help him in making purchases from the unusually wide selection of German wines available in Washington. Stores with very good selections are Woodley, MacArthur, Calvert, Central and ShopRite (in Prince Georges County).