My forthcoming book

JamesbookI was going to keep off mentioning my forthcoming book on South African wine partly out of bashfulness, partly because there is no real clarity on when it will become available. But it is already showing up in lists like those of Amazon and Kindle internationally and Kalahari and Loot locally (for pre-order, though the digital edition is presumably already available).

And I have been having some enquiries – like this comment that arrived at the old Grape website from Phil Richards just as we were changing over: “I see your new book Wines of the New South Africa is available in the UK on 1 July. I live in the UK and wondered whether you are planning to be there any time soon to do any signings and promotion of the book? Looking forward to it.”

Which is mildly startling to me (and a bit gratifying), Phil, partly because it makes it seem fairly real. But, firstly, the man in charge of the European side of things for the University of California Press tells me that “The shipment left the US on 6 June.  I have an expected date in the UK of around 5 July, so we will publish here around the 9 July. Books ship via sea, so timings are always approximate.”

Secondly, Phil, I don’t think the publishers expect to make big sales of this book so there’s been no mention to me of such things as “promotion”. So my answer to you is – No, but thanks for asking, and it’s great to know you’re out there!

The full title of the book is Wines of the New South Africa: Tradition and Revolution. I wanted the subtitle in because I wanted it to be clear that there was quite a bit of historical stuff in it, as well as a celebration of what has been happening since 1994, when the world markets opened up and all sorts of things happened and South African wine took off on the trajectory which both Tim Atkins and Neal Martin (of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate) have described as just about the most exciting in the wine world today. I do try to convey something of that brilliant development.

I am sadly aware of the shortcomings of my book, but in fact I’m slightly proud of the chapters about the history, as I think that they are better than equivalent chapters in previous books. South African wine history has not been very well served as yet, in fact, and the brief summaries that have appeared have jumped over decades and even centuries in an unacceptable way. Though my history is a vast way from being complete, I think it’s OK – not too wrong, and hopeful useful. Probably not written in a particularly easy journalistic style – that is one of my worries.

For reasons I’m not sure about, my own favourite chapter in the book looks at the grape varieties and the styles of South African wine, combining history with an admittedly rather superficial assessment of how those varieties and styles are expressed today.

The larger half of the book consists of portraits of about 150 of the Cape’s best producers – a somewhat anguishing choice to make, of course. How to weigh the claims of a tiny and in some ways irrelevant (but exciting!) winemaker against a large (but dull) producer? How to do it without too much detail but without being too bland?

And, of course, the book will be in some ways out of date from the moment it’s published. The last chance I had to make some substantive changes was nearly a year ago. SIx months ago, when proofreading and indexing, I could make some urgent updates, so long as I didn’t change the page numbering… University of California Press is a a great publisher (unquestionably the world’s best publisher of books on wine, apart from anything else), and I’m honoured to be on their list – but, my word, they tend to move in a rather more cumbersome fashion than is really useful for this kind of book.

Nonetheless, after more years than seems likely (I had some very sticky moments with them, and at one stage desperately wanted to pull out of the whole thing), the book is here – well, nearly here. It’s not great (I can see its shortcomings better than most people, I reckon!), but it’s not bad – and, to be honest, South African wine desperately needs an overview-type book that is not bad…..

I’ll let you know when I have more news about the book’s availability here.  Unfortunately, especially given the exchange rate, it will be quite expensive (the US price is $39 – it seems that only a hardcover version is available). I’m hoping to be able to import some myself at my authorial discount, and offer it at less than full price, but that – like so much else! – is still somewhat unclear. Be kind enough to watch this space.

3 thoughts on “My forthcoming book

  1. Good luck with the book Tim. As you say, SA wine history isn’t that well served though I collect wine books and a trawl through the second hand book websites does come up with a few interesting titles. I’m surprised no one has written a comprehensive history about some of the historic estates like Vergelegen or Rustenberg, although I do recall there being a coffee-table like book on Meerlust published a few years ago.

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