New York — To get the best value from books about wines and drinks, check out the wide variety of choices available to find which ones offer information at the level you want.
Recent publications cover levels from beginner to connoisseur. They're packed with facts, opinions and advice drawn from the experience of specialists who really know their field. Here are just a few to consider from late 2005:
¢ "The World's Greatest Wine Estates: A Modern Perspective" by Robert M. Parker Jr. (Simon and Schuster, $75). Parker, author and editor of The Wine Advocate, is one of wine's best-known authorities - who does not go unchallenged on his confident assertions.
For connoisseurs, this 708-page book does indeed span the world of great wines, from Argentina to the United States by way of Australia, France and Spain, among others. The book is heavy with information and nicely sprinkled with color illustrations. The introduction includes basic comments on what makes a wine great, useful for those still below connoisseur level.
¢ "Drinks" by Vincent Gasnier (DK, $50) is from a French-born master sommelier, and its cover explains that it's all about "enjoying, choosing, storing, serving and appreciating wines, beers, cocktails, spirits, aperitifs, liqueurs and ciders."
This large-format 512-page book also is global in its reach, and even more colorfully illustrated with images to liven its helpful text.
¢ "Windows on the World: Complete Wine Course" by Kevin Zraly (Sterling, $24.95) is the 2006 edition of a solid, attractive guide to wine with something to offer just about anyone at any level.
Zraly is founder and teacher of the Windows on the World Wine School, and worked at the Windows on the World Restaurant in New York City until 9-11. He has a disarmingly conversational style of writing, and puts the question-and-answer format to good use in this latest, 20th anniversary edition of his wine guide, first published in 1985, now revised and expanded.
¢ "Great Wine Made Simple" by Andrea Immer Robinson (Broadway, $27.95) is a revised and updated edition of a valued text from another well-known, reliable wine writer, teacher and master sommelier.
Immer Robinson's accessible style takes readers painlessly from the starting gate into areas of specialization often intimidating to the uninitiated. The book just exudes encouragement.
¢ "Andrea Immer Robinson's 2006 Wine Buying Guide for Everyone" (Broadway, $12.95 paperback) is the handy little text you slip into your pocket, to take with you to the wine store after learning the basics and gaining confidence from reading Immer Robinson's other works.
¢ "The Wine Guy" by Andy Besch (William Morrow, $23.95), co-written with Ellen Kaye, his wife, suggests that uncertain or neophyte wine drinkers should just relax, read a little and taste a lot of wine.
It should be fun, says Besch, who runs a New York City wine store, and writes in a breezy, anecdotal way.
¢ "A History of Wine in America" by Thomas Pinney (University of California Press, $45) surveys the subject from Prohibition to the present. This is a scholarly tome, written by an academic who also wrote the precursor, "A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition" (1989). This is not light reading, but wine lovers may find it adds an extra perspective to their interest.