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The pursuit of wine education can begin with one simple question: Why do I like this so much?

Like food, there are many facets to wine: tastes, growing regions, types, styles, etc. For many, the process can be overwhelming and intimidating. One approach to learning more about wine -- besides tasting, of course -- is to read about it. Whether you are a beginner or on your way to being a sommelier, there is a book for you.

One of the best all around books for any wine lover is The New Wine Lover's Companion by Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst (Barron's Educational Series, 2003). My absolute favorite book, anyone can use it to start learning about wine. It is functional for the novice, and a great book to keep on hand as a reference. Set up in dictionary format from A to Z, it's hassle-free, conversational, and highly usable.

The New Wine Lover's Companion includes details on grape varieties, styles, growing regions, and winemaking techniques as well as instructions on how to read a label and how to buy, store, and serve wine. Included are maps and information on glassware, bottle shapes and sizes, temperatures, and more. The book also has phonetic pronunciations and is compact so it can be taken anywhere. It is definitely worth its price of $15.

Another essential introduction to wine is Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2006 Edition by Kevin Zraly (Sterling, 2005). The publication provides practical information and explores each wine-growing region in detail. It also covers the basics of fermentation, how to taste wines, and winemaking technology, laws, and practices from every country in the world. Zraly's approach is easy-going with simple jargon anyone can understand. There are sidebars to help reinforce what you have learned. This book is a fabulous way to start your wine education, and it sells for about $25.

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson (Oxford University Press, 1999) is for those who already know a little about the topic and for the more advanced person yearning to learn more about the science of wine, the particulars on winemakers' techniques, and the geographic conditions that influence the flavor profiles of the grapes each area produces. This book is an encyclopedia, and while it's arranged alphabetically for quick reference, there is nothing else quick about it. It is heavy and thick and not an easy read, but it has all the information you will need to continue your wine education. It sells for $65.

The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson (Mitchell Beazley, 2001) is an in-depth look at the world of wine, including the history of wine, winemaking, grape varietals, and how grapes are grown. The book details the geographic conditions, climates, appellations, laws, and production of every wine-growing region in the world and helps the wine lover know exactly how and why wines display certain characteristics. The book is 350 pages long and is designed for someone very serious about learning everything there is to know about wine. It costs $50.


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