Some things change and some things stay the same. The 35th edition of Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book has the regular cast of expert contributors (though they are not listed as such) and, as usual, sometimes one is left wondering who wrote what – is it HJ or his stringer? At any rate, his style and tastes permeate the book like red wine marinades coq au vin. Speaking of which, he advises “one bottle of Chambertin in the dish, two on the table” – though this is of course “in an ideal world”. Probably there are not too many people who would willingly spend £300+ on wine for a fairly basic dish.
Johnson’s “Agenda 2012” introduction is as witty as ever. On price points he writes, “‘premium’ means drinkable; ‘super-premium – you might want a second glass”. For those who blend Riesling or Pinot Noir “the fourth Circle of the Inferno is reserved”. This is the part of Hell for those who have committed avarice – but perhaps the sixth Circle (Heresy) is more appropriate.
The full colour “Wine of the South of France” section at the end of the book looks like a sponsored effort. But it is done discretely and tastefully, like the book as a whole. The book changes relatively little year to year but high standards are always maintained. It remains the best pocket wine guide available.