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wine.jpgThe Pocket Wine Encyclopedia
Eds. Danielle Daggett, Fiona Doig, Alan Edwards, Kate Etherington, Mary Halbmeyer
Barnes and Noble

It’s no secret that everybody likes to get happy. For some of us, that mean a nice stem glass and a bottle of red (or white, depending on whatever is preferable) and sitting on a couch in the living room, patio or even a laptop. But not all wines are the same. According to the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, there are over 600 red wines and 800 white ones, not counting the hundreds of hybrids created as a result of cross-fertilization. With so many types to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s where The Pocket Wine Encyclopedia comes in. Assembled by some of the best names in the business, the sprawling book is one of the most authoritative on the market to date, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Detailing the almost 6000 year long history of vino, the 600 page tome is a compendium of everything an aficionado would want to know about grappa. Since most of the encyclopedia focuses on the major winemaking centers of France, Argentina and Australia, naturally the book has a Western bias. However, despite glossing over some prominent vineyards in Lebanon, Israel, and other locales, the book makes up for it with a detailed analysis of the winemaking process, from harvesting to the actual process of extracting the vino and fermenting it. While the step by step break down of fermentation might put off some experts, for beginners, it’s a revelation.

Though some would make a big deal of the wine reference table, with its composition of “compatible foods” to go along with the happy juice like chicken and shrimp, it’s not the as big a deal as they make out (for the record, I take my alcohol with chips and mustard, a pretzel, or even ice cream). That said there are probably going to be a few purists who will claim that in order to truly enjoy wine, it has to be served a certain way. Screw them. Bottom line: If you’re down for a party and you need to figure out whether to serve a red or a white, The Pocket Wine Encyclopedia is THE guide to have on hand during the next visit to the local ABC store.

At $5.62, this book is cheaper than a Pinot Noir, and just as useful as a 5 p.m. glass.

–Jack Winn