The world’s best selling wine guide, with over 12 million copies sold, reaches this year 46 editions and will be available from September 22: Hugh Johnson’s iconic booklet has taught countless wine lovers and professionals about wine over the years thanks to a unique mix of erudition, facts, figures, witty prose and its remarkably user-friendly format (though sometimes it feels like a magnifying glass might come in handy).
All kidding aside, the booklet is immensely enjoyable to read and very useful for all those who love wine and wish to know more about it, quick. First published in 1977, the book originally had two different names: in the USA it was initially called the Hugh Johnson’s “Pocket Encyclopaedia of Wine”, while it has always been the Hugh Johnson’s “Pocket Wine Book” in the United Kingdom. Different names notwithstanding, the booklet remains crammed with information that is provided in a fast, concise, condensed way that is easy to understand and to remember. Last year, with the 2022 edition, he relinquished the author credit to Margaret Rand, his longtime editor, a remarkably gifted writer (if you have read any of her pieces when she was writing for Decanter or those in other publications you know exactly what we mean) and talented winetaster, but clearly the book’s name remains associated with that of Hugh Johnson, as much a brand nowadays as it is that of a person’s name. Over the years the Pocket Wine Book has more than doubled in size, with wines of countries and wine regions as diverse as Belgium and the Finger Lakes included. While the editions of the 1970s only featured vintage charts for Burgundy, Bordeaux and Germany, vintages are now addressed for all the world’s major wine producing areas. And an overview of wine grapes and on good wine and food pairings are also included. We at the TerroirSense Wine Review are honoured that our Editor-in Chief, Ian D’Agata, is the co-curator of the Italy section (along with his longtime friend and initial wine student, Michele Longo, now an esteemed wine writer of his own) as well as being the editor/curator of the Pocket Book’s Alsace section
In fact, the idea of the booklet was not Johnson’s, but that of his publisher. Mitchell Beazley, log one of the foremost names in classic quality wine publications most of the world’s more famous wine writers have written for at one time or another, challenged Mr. Johnson to put all he knew, or thought was relevant, about wine into a small pocket diary-sized booklet. Johnson remembers that twelve months later he was asked to write another, or at least update the old one. And so, what was meant to have been a one-time effort, became an annual, lifelong task.
While Mr. Johnson’s book has continued in popular and successful form, many other pocket guides, wine and otherwise, have come and gone. That in itself, tells you all you need to know about just how useful and important this little wine guide has proven to be, and is.
For social media and more information about the Pocket Wine Book, the contacts are:
#HJPocketWine23 Amazon link: https://tinyurl.com/jhpjyyay.
Hugh Johnson began learning about wine as a member of the Wine and Food Society at Cambridge University. In 1961 he became feature writer for Vogue and House & Garden, and wrote, among other things, wine columns for both magazines. In 1963 he was named general secretary of the Wine and Food Society and succeeded the legendary gastronome André Simon as editor of Wine and Food. He was also named wine correspondent of The Sunday Times and published his first book Wine in 1966), which established him (at the age of 27!) as one of the most authoritative wine writers. It was in 1969 that James Mitchell of the newly founded publishing house Mitchell Beazley asked him to write The World Atlas of Wine, published for the first time in 1971. Johnson has written a litany of wine books, best-sellers all, and his memoirs, Wine – A Life Uncorked (2005), became another best-seller. In 2007, Hugh Johnson received an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, awarded for services to winemaking and horticulture. In April 2004 Hugh he received the title of Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite, one of the highest tributes bestowed by the French Government, for his contribution to the appreciation and understanding of France and its wines.