An introduction to Jancis Robinson's Wine Course

Have you ever thought about learning a little more about wine from the comfort of your own home? There are a lot of great wine books out there but for my money the place to start is with Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course. Jancis Robinson is one of the world’s most respected wine experts, and whether you take to her manor or not, I think she’s done an amazing job in making the subject of wine accessible and easy to understand.

I have two of Jancis’ books, the Oxford Companion to Wine and the wine course. I think the wine course book is the better all rounder for casual learning. Even as a good reference book, or a coffee table book, it’s one you can dip in and out of and it’s easy reading. It goes into detail where you want to go into detail, but it doesn’t read like a book written for people who have been drinking the finest Bordeaux everyday for the last 30 years.

I’m mostly self-taught myself and I’ve found Jancis’ work the best to learn from no matter what level you think your wine knowledge is at. Maybe you think you don’t have the first clue about wine, but you know what you like. That’s a good start. This material will only help you to learn more, and in turn appreciate and enjoy what you’re actually drinking. It also means your buying decisions are better informed.

As a good accompaniment to the book you should also consider getting the BBC DVD. It was produced in 1995, and it is indeed a tad dated, but the content is superb, and the vast majority of it still very relevant. It is heading on twenty years old at this stage, and much of the wine industry has moved on in that time, nevertheless its content is standing up well and will only enhance your learning experience. Reading is great, but it is nice to be able to see the regions, the people and the processes in action.

The attached video is an eight minute snippet on Burgundy Pinot Noir from the BBC series. Here, Jancis talks about how she might find maybe three out of four red Burgundies disappointing, and one out of the four exceptionally good. I wonder if she would still say that today despite winemaking expertise, even in traditional France, moving on so much in that time. Or perhaps in many of these establishments it hasn’t moved on at all.

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