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Oct 17, 2008 08:57 AM

Best Wine Book for Novice

I read a few wine blogs -- but none of them beat this board for best, fastest, soundest advice, in my opinion. You wine aficionados here are terrific. Thank you for all your past advice, and now: what wine book (the ONE best) would you recommend to someone who wants to have a ready reference for varietal characteristics, tasting tips, and general wine knowledge? I picked up a Hugh Johnson at a yard sale, but it's dated and limited. Help!

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  1. I didn't have high expectations when I picked it up, but I thought Mark Oldman's "Guide to Outsmarting Wine" was very good and readable ->

    2 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      Just ordered Oldman's book. Thanks for the tip.

      1. re: The Chowfather

        I second the recommendation of Oldman's book. I grabbed it while on a trip, ended up reading it cover to cover on the plan, and find myself constantly using it for reference.

    2. A great beginner book is Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Immer.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Deborah B

        Andrea Immer has a couple of very good books. She is able to take any percieved snobbery out of wine and puts in terms that are easy to understand.

        1. re: jpc8015

          I, too like Andrea Immer's books.

          1. re: DaKing

            I, three . . . but these, too, are not of the "one-size-fits-all" variety.

        2. re: Deborah B

          Another vote for Andrea Immer aka Andrea Robinson's Great Wine Made Simple. I like her book because of how it is concise without lacking the basics. At the same time you should definitely go to your local bookstore and compare wine books so you can get a sense of how much depth you like or want.

          Last year I also bought her Annual Wine Buying Guide because I found myself preferring her writing style more than the competition. I haven't drank as much as I want to since, but when I've used the guide it has been spot-on.

          Happy reading and drinking!

          1. re: Deborah B

            Deborah B,

            You beat me to the punch. This is one of the best books out there, for one just starting out in the world of wine. The book (unless Mrs. Robinson has updated it) is a tad dated, regarding the recommendations for the various tastings. Still, with a bit of "reading between the lines," one can do their own updating of the suggested wines.

            I love the way that she breaks down the "mystery" of point of origin, and then offers tastings to exemplify the differences.

            Also, the "homework" is great fun. When I am structuring a tasting event, I always do a bit of re-reading, especially if I am including a "contest" into the event.

            Her mentor, Kevin Zraly, also did a great starter book, "Windows on the World Complete Wine Course." It's as much fun as Mrs. Robinson"s.

            Andrea Immer (now Robinson), "Great Wine Made Simple," Broadway Books, ISBN: 0-7679-0477-X

            Kevin Zraly, "Windows on the World Complete Wine Course," Sterling, ISBN: 0-8069-7649-7

            These would be two great starting points.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Ditto Zraly. The German section is so simple, yet so effective. I recommend it to all my students.

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Immer Robinson did release an updated version of the book a couple of years ago. I bought a copy as a gift for someone just starting out in the world of wine just prior to the new version coming out. Unfortunate bad timing on that one! I also have her Great Tastes Made Simple on wine pairing and Everyday Dining with Wine which are also nice books.

                1. re: Deborah B

                  I'll have to look for the update. I'm sure that the gist of the book is the same, but it would be nice to have updated producers and wineries, especially if I'm doing a class, or similar. Yes, I can read between the lines, and interpolate, but I enjoy her work (and her company), so I'd like to hear more current thoughts on some of the wines.

                  Thanks for pointing this out to me,


            2. There IS no ONE book . . .

              No one size fits all. Honest. But if you can talk more about what it is you are interested in learning about, I am sure you will get a number of specific recommendations.


              1. These are the top two in my opinion:

                Wine for Dummies -- say what you will of the "Dummies" books, but this Wine book is one of the very best beginner books around. It is exceptionally clear, and friendly,
                and non-pretentious. Written by Ed McCarthy and Mary Ewing-Mulligan.

                The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil -- this is another exceptionally clear book about wines, regions and flavor characteristics. Very readable. Terrific sidebars.

                Both are in paperback, and under $15 on Amazon and elsewhere.

                3 Replies
                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Hmmm -- I like Karen, but I'm not crazy about her book . . .

                  Mary Ewing Mulligan IS wonderful.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    <I like Karen, but I'm not crazy about her book . . . >

                    Love to hear your thoughts as to why...

                    I think both these books are great beginner books...

                  2. re: maria lorraine


                    I had been "gifted" the "Wines for Dummies' book many, many years ago. It languished in my library, untouched, un-read. I was not a fan of the "___ for Dummies" series, but that was mainly in regards to things digital.

                    Finally, I had re-read every wine book on my shelves, even the Signet "Book of Wine" from about 1970. I picked "WfD," and was I ever surprised. I had not expected it to be half of what it was, hence the dust and cobwebs. OK, the authors did get a tad light in spots, but it was GOOD! Who knew? Mine is the "First Editon," and I would assume that it has been updated.

                    I also have, and have read, MacNeil's book. It is a good reference tome, and I recommend it for that purpose. Still, I like Immer and Zraly for the interaction.

                    Last, there are dozens of great reference books, besides MacNeil's, and I have many of these. I do consult MacNeil more often, than say Oz Clarke, but I like the "learn by tasting" philosophy. There are few (one, by my limited knowledge) who can learn wine, wine appreciation and wine-pairings, if they do not actually drink the wines.

                    I do need to second "WfD" as a good resource. They also have/had a "White" and a "Red" addition to the set. I have not read either of these.


                  3. Vino Italiano: The Regional Wines of Italy by Joseph Bastianich (Author), David Lynch (Author), Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Contributor), Mario Batali (Contributor) is a totally useless but very fun book to read.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: RicRios

                      agree with you on the useless nature of the book

                      1. re: RicRios

                        CLEARLY not a "one-size-fits-all" book, regardless of its useless/useful qualities.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          It IS one size fits all, definitely!
                          Fits all books, that is.
                          In the sense: it's the only one wine book I've ever bought, I decided totally useless, end of story.