Volcanic Wines : Salt, Grit and Power by John Szabo MS (Jacqui Small)

This season I’m overjoyed that I’m able to thoroughly recommend a couple of books by two friends from Toronto with nary a hint of cronyism, both this particular book and The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook by Chris McDonald.

I have been following the development of this book rather closely over the past few years, and, to be quite honest, at some points wondered whether it was ever actually going to come to fruition. Well, I’m delighted to tell you that this book was certainly worth the wait, and in the slow lead up to the book’s publication, author John Szabo MS rather cunningly entrenched himself into the wine world’s collective minds as “Mr. Volcanic“, whilst at the same time gently massaging the appreciation of said wines into becoming the vinous zeitgeist of 2016/17, an undeniably genius marketing move that would put Don Draper and cohorts to shame.

The book itself is an astonishing piece of work, both aesthetically and with the level of research layered within its extremely informative and entertaining prose. The photography is stunning, testament to the striking vineyards in question, and is all the more impressive when one understands that most of the pictures were taken by Szabo, who taught himself photography throughout the lengthy gestation and evolution of the book.

Volcanic Wines also contains enough fastidiously-detailed maps to keep even the extreme wine map fetishist satiated. And that is no mean feat as those hardcore wine map fetishists are a tough bunch to pleasure.

Essential to this book’s appeal was, for me, the regional chapter-closing roundups of Szabo’s preferred producers and their wines. Whilst I didn’t always agree with every one of his picks (I think I’m going to have to re-taste a couple of those Hungarians), I was introduced to so many wines I was unfamiliar with, and will now, upon his recommendations, go out of my way to track them down and try them out for myself. He must have tasted through a serious shedload of wines on his travels researching this book!

While there is a hefty enough chunk of academic-leaning discussion concerning geology and the like that will undoubtedly satisfy the most knowledge-hungry wine professional, there is enough wit and charm in Szabo’s words to appeal to the curious wine novice also. And herein lies Volcanic Wines’ general appeal, as even with the book’s fact-dense format, there’s an approachability that makes this delightful book a coffee table essential for 2017.

I’d like to dock him at least half an apple for missing out the Oxford comma in the title, but no, this is undeniably a five apple recommendation, and a must for the wine-lover in your life.
5 apples out of 5
(Five apples out of a possible five)

Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And with this book that Szabo character knocks it out of the park. Congratulations.