Easy There

You have to hand it to Andrea Immer—the girl just doesn't give up. She's changed her name (to Andrea Immer Robinson), but not her game: The "revised and updated" edition of the book that made her famous is still called Great Wine Made Simple (Broadway Books, $27.95), and, all the revisions apart, it remains a bewildering mass of charts, tables, descriptions, and travel essays, liberally sprinkled with injunctions on the general theme of "just relax; wine is fun!" This is a little unfair, because drinking wine is fun. What is not fun, what is in fact a lifelong commitment, is learning about wine, and Immer Robinson, one of only 14 women in the world to pass the horrendous exam leading to the status of master sommelier, knows it. No quantity of phonetic spelling (Bar-BEAR-uh DAHL-buh; SWAH-vay etc.), no encouraging asides on the order of "As we learned in Chapter One . . . " (speak for yourself, lady) can change the fact: Wine is a huge subject, nobody on earth knows all about it, and what's more, nobody needs to know all about it, or even anything about it, to enjoy it. Great Wine Made Simple, while better written than the typical diet book, is making a promise it cannot keep. But what about the blurbs on the back? "Andrea Immer makes wine education simple," reads one. "Without doubt the finest introduction . . . I have read," runs another. It "will educate you without boring you," opines a third. All very well; but the first quote is from Robert Mondavi, the second by the president of the Master Sommeliers, and the third by Jacques Pépin—none of them, I submit, qualified by personal experience to advise a rank beginner on learning to appreciate wine. A refreshingly different approach comes from "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver's wine guy, Matt Skinner. His book, Thirsty Work (Running Press, $24.95), starts right off by saying, "The best thing about wine is knowing you'll never know it all." Skinner touches many of the same wine-book basics that Immer Robinson does, but in such an understated way you barely notice the instructional undercurrent. Information is packaged in bite-size nuggets, no less informative for their breezy tone. Since no one is likely to sit down with a notepad and green eyeshade and grimly work straight through any wine book, Skinner's approach is likely to serve readers just as well as Immer Robinson's, while leaving them undaunted by the sheer mass of information before them. A lot of color pages are wasted on pretty but pointless pictures and groovy graphics, but I can't see any really basic information that's left out. Although looking up an answer to a specific question isn't encouraged by the Skinner book's scattershot layout, you may actually be more able to find a straightforward answer there than among Immer Robinson's wilderness of charts and boxes. If only she had taken to heart what an Italian winemaker told her early in her career: "Don't think; drink." rdowney@seattleweekly.com

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