The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
There are a great many books out there on the art of homebrew winemaking. Our hobby is quite simple - therefore you will find most of these books tend to repeat each other, so there isn't a great need to own lots of time - but a couple of them are worth having, especially if one of the books tells you something unique about the hobby of homebrew winemaking.
There are a great number of old books on winemaking - many from the post war era - however, a lot of these contain misleading information for the beginner - they do not use modern approaches and chemicals the achieve a consistent result. They usually have far too much sugar in the recipes. Avoid these. Anything that claims Organic Winemaking should likewise be given a wide berth.
The first, and only, winemaking book I've ever owned is a 1990s copy of C.J.J Berry's First Steps in Winemaking. This man and his book single handedly transformed the hobby of home brew winemaking in the 1960s. Mr Berry has long since passed on, but his book has been through numerous revisions and updates. If you don't own this book, go out and buy it today! I've been making wine for 15 years and I still refer to this book - often just for inspiration and enjoyment - the seasonally arranged recipes give the poor old mind a gentle nudge least we forget which wine we should be making in a particular month.
Every homebrew winemaker should have read this book a dozen times, and your copy will become a treasured artifact for years to come - unlike most of your wine :) Mr Berry's companion book, 130 New winemaking recipes is also a great fun read, with a strong vein of humour running through it - and contains even more inspiration on weird on and wonderful wines.
The other book I own is the slim Making Sparkling Wines by John Restall and Don Hebbs. These dear old gentlemen have spent most of their long lives making sparkling wines at home - and this book tells you everything that the average homebrew winemaking needs to know about making sparkling wines. I read the book about 6 times before I even started on my own sparkling wine - and now I have dozens of bottles of homebrew champagne in various stages of creation.
This book is pretty much all you need to know about home champagne making - and you really should give it a go - drinking in the new year with a bottle of your own homemade champagne, or sharing it with guests on Christmas morning is a delight.
If you are shopping for a winemaker, this is an ideal gift.
There is another type of book I recommend for the home winemaker. The inspiration books. Most of the great winemaking regions, especially the first growth wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux have many books written about them. Although these books will not help you to make better wine in a direct manner, they will certainly inspire you to greater winemaking efforts. My personal favourite is Yquem by Richard Olney - simply spending an evening with a few glasses of wine look at the pictures will have you out in the hedgerow picking fruit for wine before you can say Demi-john. A favourite trick is to show this book to a guest, and then produce a glass of my homemade Sauternes dessert wine - the look on their face is priceless!
So go and use some of your winemaking budget to buy some useful books!