"The lovely liquid exists not to fill analysis books or justify vintage charts, but to give sensual pleasure." (Robinson, p.6)
As I have said before, and often repeated by many others in the wine world, the best way to learn about wine is to taste it. All the theory and book knowledge in the world is still not a replacement for actually drinking wine, sipping that fine nectar. Certainly it can be helpful to read about wine, to gain more information about it. But never forget that the key is the taste.
These sentiments are echoed in How to Taste: A Guide To Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson (Simon & Schuster, Nov.2008, $26). This hardcover book has 208 pages, broken down into six chapters and a glossary. Robinson is a well respected wine authority, and has written or co-written a number of books about wine. With her credentials, you expect her books to be well written, accurate and informative. This book is no exception.
Essentially, the book is an educational course that introduces someone to all of the basics of wine. Though those new to wine will most benefit from its lessons, even those with a fuller grasp of the wine world may find some benefit. You will learn how to taste wine, about many of the main grapes, how wine is made, different wine styles, food pairing, and much more.
Robinson divides her book into two sections, Theory and Practice. The Theory includes all of the basic information you need, and the Practice section gives you exercises to try to really understand the Theory. For example, you can learn about Sauvignon Blanc and how it differs when it is made in different regions. The Practice exercise will ask you to taste and compare two Sauvignon Blancs, like one from New Zealand and one from France. The Practice reinforces your knowledge and truly helps you perceive the nature of wine. This is an excellent way to teach about wine.
I think this book is written in a very reader-friendly style. It helps to take away the intimidation factor of wine. And the practical exercises provide an opportunity to taste and truly experience wine. If you have a friend who wants to learn about wine, then this book would make a great gift for them. Robinson has written another winner.