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Archive for Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Connoisseurs share vintage guidance

December 12, 2001

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— There are some weighty (literally) entries among the new wine books, with high levels of connoisseurship evident. But even hesitant beginners can profit from their information-laden pages. As everyone knows, wine is best savored in measured sips so, too, the books.

Some of the latest offerings:

"The World Atlas of Wine" (Mitchell Beazley, $50) by Hugh Johnson, dean of wine writers, and Jancis Robinson, editor of "The Oxford Companion to Wine," is a revised fifth edition of a work first published in 1971.

A comprehensive reference work, the book launches its subject with introductory chapters on the history, cultivation, choosing, storage and enjoyment of wine. Then begins a tour of the wine-growing regions of the world, featuring text augmented with maps and color photos on almost every page.

"The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" (DK Publishing, $50) is a similarly thorough reference book in many ways, with more attention given to identifying and rating individual labels.

This, too, is a revised and updated edition based on a 1997 edition. The writer, Tom Stevenson, has published many other works on wine, and has received several writing awards.

"Exploring Wine" (Wiley, $60) is the Culinary Institute of America's "complete guide to the wines of the world," second edition of the 1996 original.

Writers Steven Kolpan, Brian H. Smith and Michael A. Weiss are institute faculty members, and their spacious book is the most detailed of the comprehensive reference works. They give considerable space to pairings of wine and food, among other refinements.

"Windows on the World Complete Wine Course" (Sterling, $24.95) is by Kevin Zraly, and is the 2002 edition of this guide to wine.

The book owes its name to the restaurant complex in Manhattan's World Trade Center, destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, where the author created the wine list, and founded a wine school in 1976. Zraly survived.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. The fund's mission is to provide aid to the families of all members of the food and beverage industry who were lost in the Sept. 11 destruction.

"Napa Stories" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $50) is by Michael Chiarello, chef, cookbook author, television host and founder of the NapaStyle company. It's his affectionate collection of "profiles, reflections and recipes," featuring winemakers of the Napa Valley wine country.

Chiarello says he grew up in a family that believed sharing stories was a way of preserving heritage and memory. "I hope that when you enjoy these vintners' wines, you will share their stories and help me keep their legacy alive," he writes.

"Cooking With Wine" (Abrams, $49.50) is the latest cookbook from Anne Willan, founder of La Varenne cooking school in France, written in collaboration with Copia, the new Napa, Calif., center for wine, food and the arts.

Willan's recipes come from all over the world, and give detailed attention to American wines and winemakers. It's a stylish, large-format book with color photographs by Langdon Clay.

"The Wine Bible" (Workman, $19.95 paperback) by Karen MacNeil. She took 10 years to write this 900-page paperback whose title suggests the authority it claims.

Not improbably. MacNeil is chair of the wine department at the Culinary Institute of America's Napa Valley branch. She has packed her book with masses of well-organized, well-written information, however unglamorous the format. The small black-and-white photos and other illustrations including maps contribute to lively, helpful coverage of the world of wine.

"Decantations: Reflections on Wine" (St. Martin's Press, $24.95) is by Frank J. Prial, respected wine critic of The New York Times. It is a collection of his columns from the 1980s and '90s, reflecting knowledge, wit and an appealing lack of pretension.

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