Wine education for the holidays

Wine For Dummies

Mary Ewing-Mulligan,

Ed McCarthy; $21.99

I must confess to a slight bias when I suggest that this is the best all-round wine book out there, for beginners and aficionados alike. Mary Ewing-Mulligan, America"s only woman master of wine, also happens to be my tasting tutor on the same program. Not only possessed of a wonderful palate, Mary is a clear and elegant writer who has an uncanny ability to lay out the facts in a precise, organized and entertaining manner. If you flip through the majority of wine books, you will almost inevitably come across errors, inaccuracies and blatant falsehoods. Not so here. It"s hard to be right all the time, but I think this book comes about as close as you"re likely to get. How To Taste

Jancis Robinson, MW

Simon & Shuster; $25

A new book by Master of Wine Jancis Robinson is always a pleasure. She is without doubt the finest writer on the subject in the English language, and her new offering is an elegantly constructed treatise on an aspect of wine that often goes unmentioned in the popular literature.

The purpose of wine is to be tasted and drunk, yet the vast majority of words devoted to the subject concern its origins, the grape varieties, obscure winemaking techniques and the personalities behind the great wine-producing estates. It"s a real treat, therefore, to get to read the lucid and informative prose of such an authority as Robinson, who lays the subject out for us like an anatomist with her scalpel. The book takes us step-by-step through the process of understanding our own sense of taste, and then applying that knowledge to a clear and analytical exploration of the nature of fine wine.

Divided into short, easy-to-follow segments entitled theory and practice, this book reflects in many ways the disciplines required to become a master of wine. As a serious student of the subject, I cannot speak too highly of this excellent work. Anyone who thinks that he knows everything there is to know about tasting should think again and give this book a spin. Jancis Robinson presents her encyclopedic knowledge in a remarkably lucid manner. Because of this book, I for one am starting to reevaluate the way I approach wine tasting. This is essential reading for amateurs and professionals alike.

Tutored Tasting at Bistro 936

Join me on Monday, Dec. 9 at Bistro 936 for a tutored tasting of wines from the Rhone Valley and the south of France. The tasting starts at 5:30 and continues to 7 p.m. Places are limited, and cost is $15 in advance or $20 on the day. Please e-mail for information and reservations.


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