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Five great Christmas book gift ideas for drinks enthusiasts

The Scotsman wine columnist Brian Elliott picks out five great books about wine, beer and whisky that he recommends for gifting this Christmas

Published: December 2, 2015
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Today I am not just writing for Scotland’s wine enthusiasts – but also for those who love them. Yes, it is Christmas recommendation book time.

Regular wine drinkers and newcomers alike will enjoy the visuals, superb maps and detailed grape variety profiles in Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack (£18.99, Michael Joseph).

Its profusion of facts will guide recent wine converts, yet amaze some older hands. Who, for instance, knew that the world’s second biggest producer of carménère is China?

One man who probably did know is Oz Clarke. With his affably engaging media personality, it is easy to forget that Clarke is also a brilliant taster and significant wine authority.

Enjoy then, Grapes And Wines by Oz Clarke and Margaret Rand (£25, Pavilion Books) with its detailed portraits of varieties from albarino to zinfandel and insights into wine production itself.

Look out too for the wisdom, irreverence and humour in I Don’t Know Much About Wine But I Know What I Like by Simon Woods (£7.99 at While Woods airily dismisses wine investors as “the worshipful company of bottle fondlers”, he has much to say to drinkers prepared to experiment – even a little bit.

Moving on from wine, I am also impressed by the depth and style of The Beer Bible by Jeff Alworth (£15, Workman Publishing). An American who not only documents more than 100 types of beer but also “gets” Scotland enough to be able to talk approvingly about the “rich malty body and kiss of fruitness” that characterises wee heavy is well worth reading.

Finally, to the classy, coffee table book, Famous For A Reason by Charles MacLean (£35, Birlinn), which chronicles the Famous Grouse whisky story. Not only does it showcase The Angels’ Share’s hero Charlie MacLean’s authoritative, meticulously researched and elegant writing style but it also shows why he has been called “whisky's finest guru”.

The best supermarket whiskies for under £35 - from Tesco to Asda

Brian's Best Buys:

2011 Gouguenheim Flores del Valle Blue Melosa Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina,  14 per cent

This is premier division malbec – and ideal for Christmas. Its violet, floral aromas do not fully prepare you for the intense, fruit forward plum, cinnamon and nutmeg flavours that follow even, though they are balanced by soft tannins, raspberry acidity and vanilla influenced depth. Worth every penny.
£12.95 at

2013 Cave de Turckheim Pinot Blanc
Alsace, France,  12.5 per cent

This is when Johnnie Walker Princes Street will open

Drinkmonger Alsace Pinot Blanc
Compared to pinot noir and gris, pinot blanc is often neglected. That is almost criminal given its brilliance in capable hands like those at this co-operative. The result gives us crisp and lively grapefruit influenced acidity with savoury spices and delightfully rounded apple and quince texture.
£8.75 at Drinkmonger, Edinburgh


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