How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine
by Jancis Robinson
Simon & Schuster
208 pages; $25.
My Christmas wish for 2001 is that every customer would receive a copy of "How to Taste." Instead of hearing "I only drink Cabernet" or "They make a red Zinfandel, too?" it just might be "I’d like to compare a Marlborough with a Sancerre!"
Jancis Robinson’s "How to Taste, A Guide to Enjoying Wine" is a perfect gift for the wine novice who wants to increase his knowledge and enjoyment of wine. This book strikes a nice medium between the intimidating "THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE" that Robinson edited and the popular wine/travel/seen-and-be-seen wine magazines. I would highly recommend "How to Taste" to those who are new to wine and to my wine clients who are very savvy in certain areas of wine—those very comfortable with a few varietals, but who need to stretch their comfort zone to get a full appreciation of the world of wines.
"How to Taste" takes the reader through a well-constructed wine course that puts the importance on doing, or tasting in this case. Each point in the book is discussed in theory and then applied in practice.
The information at the beginning of each subject gives an excellent base on which the practice builds. Those new to wine will appreciate the easy to understand descriptors of each varietal that will make their reading of subsequent publications more enjoyable. Robinson also addresses subjects such as TCA (the foul-smelling compound trichloroanisole given off by wines stoppered with a tainted cork), storage, serving and judging the overall quality of a wine. Even the well-seasoned wine veteran will learn something new. While not as comprehensive as "The Oxford Companion to Wine," "How to Taste" will make a great resource for any future future wine questions.
As she states repeatedly, tasting is what it is all about. After the theory is a highlighted section on practice. Whether with a group of wine professionals or just the gang over for the evening, "How to Taste" will encourage lively discussion, as readers will discover new facets of their own palates. The emphasis of the practice is to have fun while learning about the wines and improving the ability to assess wines, all the while removing the mystique of wine and making it an everyday addition to the table.
The final chapter discusses food and wine pairings, the rules and how to break them, and a concise glossary that gets the beginner up to speed without approaching wine geek-dom.
Professional and to the point, this guide to enjoying wine will make an excellent addition to any wine library. "With How to Taste," Jancis Robinson confirms her place as one of the premier wine writer today.
--Reviewer Steve Graham is a wine merchant for the Nugget grocery chain in Sacramento, California.