Enjoy Oz Clarke's World of Wine

Wednesday, 20 December, 2017
Julian Richfield
Oz Clarke is one of the world’s leading wine experts, known for his phenomenal palate, irreverent style, accurate predictions, and enthusiasm for life in general and wine in particular. He is the author of many award-winning books on wine.

His new book, Oz Clarke’s World of Wine is subtitled Wine, Grapes, Vineyards.

Now if you are looking to see if your favourite wine or winery gets a mention, you will be disappointed. it isn’t that sort of a book.

In the book, in his lively and opinionated prose, Oz takes the reader on a ‘grand tour’ of his world of wine. He explains the flavours behind different wines and how to find the wine you want, from Vancouver Island in the west, to the coast of China in the east, from the wines of England and Wales to the wines of South America and beyond.

You’ll learn much about Oz’s favourite wines, grapes and vineyards and how to be adventurous when choosing wine.

Oz starts our reading journey with a look at the history of wine. Then a splendid discourse on The Modern Picture; Grape Varieties; In the Vineyard; In the Winery; What Does it Taste Like; Reading the Label; and the major part of the book,  a country by country look at the World of Wine.

Clarke introduces this look with this:

“A sense of place may be the most precious, the most coveted character that a wine can possess. But can you smell it? Can you taste it? Can you feel it as you roll the wine across your tongue? Sometimes you are sure you can. In this book I have tried to reveal the sense of place for as many wines as I can. I talk about wines great and small, about flavours memorable and fleeting. But above all I try to lead you into this wonderful world of wine that is my World of Wine.”

What does any wine-loving, red or white-blooded South African do when first confronted by Oz Clarke’s World of Wine? Well, what else but immediately look for the section on South Africa!

Devoting four pages to our country, he starts by sharing an enduring memory of his first arrival in the Cape, one that thankfully reflects what was, and not a current visual perception of our vineyards. The rest of this introduction broadly discusses progress made since 1994 in particular the rise of private producers.

A brief look at our major grape varieties follows as well as a breakdown of our main wine regions. The next two pages are ‘vintage’ Oz Clarke. Here we find his views about the regions and the various factors that influence the wines that they produce. In all, I found Oz’s view of South Africa balanced, favourable and upbeat.

The reader is taken to both the expected wine producing countries and also to some that might come as a surprise.

Of course you’ll travel to France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Austria. And also to Central and Eastern Europe and to Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and the Western Balkans. Greece and the eastern Mediterranean and England and Wales are also featured. Then over to the Americas North and South, South Africa, New Zealand and China. And finally one visits the surprises: India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The thrill of the modern wine world is that we now have choice, endless choice that gets bigger every year. And with choice, comes excitement, challenge, but also confusion. But that’s why this book is here to help you

The last paragraph of the book’s introduction says so much about the World of Wine:

“In this age when change has become faster than ever before in the world of wine, it is certain that within the decade some vineyards now in decline will be fired by a new confidence and popularity; others now considered so chic will be struggling in the tough real world as their first flush of fame dissolves; and yet others, at this moment mere pastureland or rocky mountainside, will become flourishing vineyards producing wines whose flavours may be entirely different to anything yet achieved on this planet. And all of these I want to share with you in this book.”

Whether or not one has the pleasure and privilege of imbibing wine from beyond our borders, the pairing of the eloquent Oz Clarke pen and honed palate makes for some entertaining and informative reading.

While Oz Clarke’s World of Wine may not fall into the ‘have to have’ category, it would certainly be a ‘nice to have’ and would make a much appreciated gift for any lover of wine. And for many, a bonus, neither in style nor in weight is the book encyclopedic.