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April 30, 2009

Heard It Throught the Grapevine

Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng

The biggest problem with books on wine is that sometimes wine specialists make wine even more complicated and confusing or boring for the reader than necessary. So it’s a challenge to find a book that has solid information yet also imparts a sense of the fun and joie de vivre that wine already has on its own.

Matt Skinner’s newest book succeeds in several ways:

1. Visual
For me, visuals are key and they are also the best way to understand and remember a concept. Even if you’ve never heard of a certain kind of wine, now you have an impression of it. Every topic has an accompanying visual.

2. Simplified But Not Dumbed Down
Skinner aims to keep each topic to a page. Just enough basic information without getting too hung up on details. It’s digestible and effective for the wine novice.

3. Fun and Engaging
The author suggests some original pairings, such as champagne and fish and chips and Pedro Ximénez and ice cream. He offers tips on how to order wines in restaurants, online and at auction, leading readers to explore the wine world in many contexts.

This is just a primer to get you hooked, and then you can go on to more serious reference tomes. The content isn’t wildly original, but the way it’s organized is smart and user-friendly. A good gift for anyone interested in wine but too intimidated to pursue it.