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140 of 141 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taster's Choice
See the Amazon review dated September 29, 2001 for an excellent treatment of this book.
Since I first became interested in blind wine tasting almost 25 years ago, I have searched for a book that provided a complete and authoritative guide to describing the taste of different wines and grapes-a reference point or sounding board, if you will, against which to calibrate...
Published on May 10, 2002 by Bevetroppo

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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting, but sometimes lacking
The topic of wine can intimidate many people and Jancis goes out of her way to diminish the fear factor. Many of her explanations are excellent, her exercises are fun and she is always encouraging and positive. The best part is that she really does help the reader identify and isolate the different building blocks of taste: for example, what does acidity feel like on...
Published on March 4, 2004 by Ahh!


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140 of 141 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taster's Choice, May 10, 2002
By 
Bevetroppo (Meyersville, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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See the Amazon review dated September 29, 2001 for an excellent treatment of this book.
Since I first became interested in blind wine tasting almost 25 years ago, I have searched for a book that provided a complete and authoritative guide to describing the taste of different wines and grapes-a reference point or sounding board, if you will, against which to calibrate my own impressions. Never mind that the essence of blind tasting and the apprehension of quality depend on forming your own innate vocabulary of scents and flavors. There have been many times when I have struggled, and have just wanted an expert to tell me what the heck a textbook Crozes-Hermitage, for example, is supposed to taste like.
Jancis Robinson's Guide To Wine Tasting is an excellent contribution to this subject for beginners. I didn't realize until around page 150 that the book had originally been published in 1983 under the somewhat unfortunate title, Masterglass, but I think we can forgive her this youthful indulgence. Because over time, she has truly become the heir apparent to mantle of most prolific British wine commentator, eclipsing my other English heroes Michael Broadbent, Hugh Johnson, and Clive Coates. With multiple books, a TV show, videos, a weekly column, a new DVD and a website ... she is, to paraphrase wine newcomer Howard Stern, the Queen of All Wine Media.
This book systematically lays out the factors that contribute to the taste of a wine, and how to appreciate them. It follows the model of a "wine course," in that each chapter combines theory and practice, the practice consisting of specific instructions of what wines to try that best illustrate the principles being taught. Like all good teachers about wine, she staunchly advocates blind tasting as the key to developing your own wine appreciation faculties. Just keep in mind that to pursue the practice, you'll need a willing accomplice to pour the disguised wines for you so you can really benefit.
Two things make this slender volume particularly noteworthy and a valuable contribution for amateurs of all stripes. First, Jancis is one of the most democratic and unintimidating wine writers on the planet. She goes out of her way to make beginners feel at ease, correctly observing that in many cases the less you know, the more accurate your initial impressions can be. She also makes it clear that even experts routinely embarrass themselves at this game, which is half the fun and often offers a better learning experience than actually guessing correctly. No one interested in learning more about wine appreciation will feel condescended to within the pages of this book.
Second, I give Jancis a lot of credit for being willing to describe specific flavors that derive from major grapes, variations in winemaking practice, and geographical differences, since that is after all why I most wanted to read the book. It is not as detailed or quite as specific as I would like, but it does an admirable job nonetheless and can refresh the core knowledge of a more experienced taster just as well as empower a newcomer.
I don't have much to criticize about the book. There's a very bad typo on page 47 where Brunello di Montalcino is described as coming from the nebbiolo grape (instead of the sangiovese clone, brunello), but this is correctly stated later on. I also think the selection of some of the second-tier grapes she characterizes is a little odd (why even bother with trebbiano if she says it's undistinguished, when she ignores other Italian white grapes that make wonderful wines). Finally, there are a few pages whose layout contains very little information (I counted one with fewer than 50 words) and since this isn't an art book, it gives the appearance of padding.
Nevertheless, this book provides all the basics of what you need to know to not just enjoy tasting wine, but to actually appreciate it.
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Short Course in Wine--REALLY Short, October 11, 2001
By 
Bill Marsano (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Jancis Robinson has so many credits I've given up on them. I simply call her the high wine priestess of Britain. That might seem intimidating, but fear not. For all her encyclopedic mind, Robinson delights in passing her knowledge on (as distinct from the kind of person who won't share for fear other people will know something too). Some wine writers like to bully and mystify their readers, but Robinson has her ego under control. She'd rather make new friends for wine than just about anything else except drink the stuff.
And so she is the perfect guide for learning <how> to taste: how to focus on and identify--and later describe--the layers of aroma and flavor wines contain; how to remember them so you can compare in the future; how to match them with food; how to get interesting insights from tea cups and a mouthful of toothpaste.
I said "really short" and I mean it. In the past two years I've seen a handful of books for wine beginners that ought to have been <weighed.> Robinson gives you about 200 pages--pretty small pages, too, with plenty of excellent and informative illustrations. Moreover, this book isn't necessarily for beginners. Most people <haven't> been taught how to taste effectively. And that means there are plenty of serious wine amateurs around who know a great deal about wine except how to taste it.
This book will open your eyes and reward your taste buds.
------------------------
Bill Marsano is a contributing editor of Hemispheres, United Airlines' in-flight magazine, for which he often writes on wines and spirits. One of his Hemispheres articles won him a James Beard medal in 1999.
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88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refining Your Palate to Find Terrific, Affordable Wines!, September 29, 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
If you decide to read only one book about wine tasting, you can happily make it this one.
Unless you have tasted many wines, chances are that you have not yet found the 20 wines you would like the most in your price range. If you are like me, you don't want to spend thousands of dollars to locate wines you would like better than what you now drink. What can you do? Read this book, and start tasting along with some adventuresome friends!
In the mid-1970s, I was fortunate to work for Heublein which made and imported many fine wines. At dozens of tastings, I was introduced to hundreds of superb wines and had a chance to buy them very inexpensively. From that rich experience, I have been given the opportunity to select wines at many great restaurants and many social occasions. People always marvel at how much I know about wines.
Can I let you in on a little secret? If you use the process in How to Taste, you will probably exceed my wine knowledge in a few months. What's the reason? Well, I haven't tasted geographically as widely as this book suggests. I know a great deal about French, German, and California wines but relatively little about those coming from other locales. In fact, I plan to use this remarkable book to guide myself into a broadened palate.
Jancis Robinson is a wonderful wine tasting resource. She obviously knows her stuff. She breaks the most complicated issues down into simple, constituent pieces that can be easily grasped. She knows how to give you the experiences you need to find wines you will like better with a minimum of effort and expense. And she writes well, so the words go down easily.
Each chapter has theory and practice sections, along with tasting exercises (sometimes of common foods rather than wines). The bulk of the book has separate sections for the major grape varieties and wine types that builds on the basic knowledge she helped you build in the beginning (white -- Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and the Rhone Whites; red -- Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Sirah, Grenache, and the southern French and Italian reds; sparkling; sherry; port).
The exercises usually involve "blind" tastings, so you'll need a partner. But that is what makes wine tasting fun! It's an enjoyable social event.
Did you know that the average adult can detect over 1000 distinct flavors? I was fascinated by the regional taste influences. Californians often detect "bell pepper" notes in their wines, for example, while others usually do not.
Taste is heavily influenced by smell. So you'll learn to taste when you sense is smell is very fine, and to be sure that the room and people are as odor free as possible. The tricks for helping the wine develop its bouquet are detailed here, especially having the right kind of glass with a stem for twirling and sniffing.
As to tastes themselves, the most significant are sweetness, sourness, saltiness, and bitterness. You will learn to detect where on your tongue you detect each one. You will also come to appreciate which balances of these qualities appeal the most to you. Sweetness without the right acidity lacks spark, for example. Naturally, with wines you also have the effect of how much alcohol the wine contains (weight), the impact of oak casks (when those are used for aging as with Chardonnays), and the various ways that wine can spoil (usually because of a cork failure).
Finally, mouth feel is part of the experience of tasting. The tiny bubbles of methode champignoise explode gently against all parts of your mouth while induced carbon dioxide bubbles leave wholes in the taste and seem coarse.
You will learn a way to test a wine for cleanliness, balance, length, and look and how to take notes so that you'll be able to "remember" your experience.
A big problem with wine tasting is that the more you taste, the more your tongue becomes anesthetized by the alcohol. You can also become tipsy. So tastings often feature spittoons or other places to expectorate. The book explains how to handle that. Soon, you will know "the noble art of spitting."
Each variety and wine type is then characterized by these taste qualities so you'll have some idea of what types of wines are likely to tickle your newly trained palate.
Now that you know what you want to taste, the book also directs you on when, where, and how to direct your tasting.
Once you have identified your favorites, Ms. Robinson goes on to suggest some unusual combinations of wines and foods that you may not have considered. Obviously, foods and wines can wonderfully compliment or negate one another. She also has some non-traditional ideas about red wines and fish that I suggest you try.
How to Taste is also delightfully enhanced by many beautiful color photographs. I particularly liked the ones that captured the subtle colors of the grape varieties and wines made from them.
After you have learned all of this about tasting, I suggest that you also put your new talent to work in identifying healthier foods that you can eat which will also make your dining tastier for you.
A votre sante!
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting, but sometimes lacking, March 4, 2004
By 
Ahh! (Darting about) - See all my reviews
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The topic of wine can intimidate many people and Jancis goes out of her way to diminish the fear factor. Many of her explanations are excellent, her exercises are fun and she is always encouraging and positive. The best part is that she really does help the reader identify and isolate the different building blocks of taste: for example, what does acidity feel like on your tongue, and what does it taste like in a yoghurt versus lemon, and finally in a young pinot noir versus and aged cabernet? However, at times I found that Jancis did not give enough information and left me confused. For instance, she says that Riesling wines fall into the semi-sweet category, but neglects to mention that this is only for German Rieslings; Rieslings from Alsace are very dry. Buy this book if you are willing to spend homework time in the wine store and reading other books, supplementing what Jancis tells you herself. Also, since most of these exercises are based on blind tastings, buy the book only if you have someone with whom to do them.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great overall intro to a fine art, April 22, 2003
By 
K. Lansford (Littleton, CO USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book get 5-starts from me, as it relates to being an introductory "course" on the fine art of tasting wine. All the major grape varietals are described in easy to digest language for the novice, and Jancis' writing style is witty and fun. Like all artistic endeavors -- in order to refine one's art, more information is required. While this is an excellent foothold for learning the art of tasting wine, the true beauty of this book is that it subtly entices one to move forward in a search for more information and guidance. I also recommend "Windows of the World - Complete Wine Course" for a more intermediate step toward gaining more knowledge, and then the ultimates - "The Oxford Companion to Wine" and "The World Atlas of Wine".
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars veni, vidi, vino!!!, December 21, 2001
By 
Noel Molloy (Werribee, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
Excellent book for the novice winetaster. It is as interactive as a book can be, setting exercises to supplement the theory involved. It doesn't allow the reader to become bored with the language of wine, rather it explains it in a non-patronising manner. Will be a constant reference book for me.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing quite like it, November 9, 2006
There are dozens upon dozens of reference books that explain wine in very technical terms. The Oxford Companion to wine has in depth entries on everything from the making of sparkling wines to polyphenols such as resveratrol. The World Atlas of Wine contains remarkable maps and explanations of all of the mapped regions. These are, of course, essential to anyone wanting to learn about wine.

But this transcends all reference guides. This book tells you how to truly enjoy this enchanting beverage *and* teaches you about wine along the way.

If you go through this book, and not only read but actually work with the practical tastings, you can not help but come out of it comfortable enough in your own understanding and convictions to "rap" with experienced oenophiles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blind Taster's Handbook!, November 24, 2007
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I actually put this book at about a 4.5 rating. This is a great little handbook that helps educate the reader about blind tasting and tasting terms. As far as learning about critical evaluation of wine this is a must unless you have access to the WSET Advanced Handbook (you have to be a WSET student). Bravo Jancis on another great read.

Pros: has great tasting games and tips, great terms, well written
Cons: limited scope, some non-pertinant info
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone learning about wine!, November 1, 2011
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This review is from: How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine (Hardcover)
As the title suggests, this book is certainly a 101 course in how to taste so that you can increase the pleasure of your wine tasting experience. Nearly half of the book is dedicated to how we taste and although this much coverage may initially seem a bit over the top, every page offers new information. If her writing style were described as a wine, I'd say it is a crisp, clean, beautifully aged, full-bodied, well balanced wine, seasoned with a warm toastiness, and hints of dark fruit. She's direct and uses an instructional and educational format, yet injects humor at every turn, while offering the reader practice exercises to fully comprehend the information. Her wealth of knowledge on the subject is evident in her details as she covers every aspect of tasting, examples of how it relates to wine, the flavors in wine, what causes those flavors, how the flavors compare to foods, the grapes that will taste different in each terroir, and how the wine-making process will further influence the flavor of the wine.

She begins with taste, at its most basic level, describing the art and science of it. We do it every day, just as we breathe, without awareness, and yet, once we become fully aware of how our senses react to different flavors and aromas, we begin to have a deeper appreciation of the experience. Right from the beginning, she offers a practical exercise to try to demonstrate this. Have someone blindfold you and offer you different foods with the same texture to see whether or not you can tell them apart (slices of a plum and nectarine, for example). Then try it with similar bodied wines (a merlot and a cabernet sauvignon, for example) to see if you can identify the variety.

Our senses of sight, smell, and taste are so closely interconnected that when we consciously engage all three, the taste experience is heightened. In fact, I now have a deeper appreciation of these senses and for my father's unfortunate condition. He lost his sense of smell in an accident when he was young and whenever he eats, he has to wait until the food reaches the back of his throat before he can tell you if it pleases him. I never understood this until I tried the exercise Jancis suggested. Hold your nose while eating something you're familiar with. So I tried this and was surprised that I couldn't taste the flavor, even as it reached the back of my throat. So, I suppose the flavor experience is different for us all. Still, I couldn't help but feel sad for my father because he's unable to enjoy the full flavor of foods. Anyone who has ever had a cold can probably relate to how tasteless foods are when their nasal passages are blocked.

Jancis elaborates on the importance of sight, smell and taste and how each carries a different message to our brains. The first thing we notice is either how something looks (how appetizing it appears) or how it smells (when walking by a restaurant or my mom's kitchen...yum). This desire builds within us and creates an expectation of how great the food will taste, our mouths begin to water and we can almost taste it at this point. Notice what happens when we actually take a sip or a bite. "Different substances give off different vapors" (14). Think of wine versus bread, or steak on the grill versus a bowl of sugar. The strongest vapors you can taste without actually putting them into your mouth. Alongside this lesson, she illustrates the sweetness in wine, the sugar content, and what that does to our mouth. There's a practice exercise to determine where on your tongue you experience this best, so you'll notice the amount of sweetness the next time you try a wine. Throughout the book, she teaches you something about taste, (such as this lesson on sweetness), then she relates it to wine, and includes some very useful charts divided into red and white categories.

The major tastes (acidity, sweetness, salt, and bitterness) are described in depth and how balance in wine is important and signifies quality. If we stop to notice, different parts of our tongue (front, back, center, and sides) are sensitive to these different tastes. She elaborates on the wines that exhibit these flavors and points out which regions do this superbly. She compares the regional differences in wine-making and terminology. Other flavors such as tannins, astringency, weight, alcohol content, dryness, and cleanliness are covered at length. She includes bad aromas and flavors that you may encounter in wine such as oxidation, sulfur, TCA, reduction, carbon dioxide, and volatile acidity. The quality of a wine can be determined by its cleanliness, balance, and length and all senses should be engaged during this.

Jancis explains what to look for visually (deposits, range of color in reds and whites, lighter at the rim, and legs), aromatically (and that one should avoid strong perfumes, after shaves and food smells to properly taste a wine) and finally when you taste the wine, what temperature it should be served and what foods (mints, gum, vinegar) to avoid to fully enjoy it. Guidelines for storing, chilling, serving, decantering, choosing the right glasses, spitting (or not to), and keeping notes are provided.

There is an entire section on the predominant grapes, their nuances, their distinguishing flavors, their attributes, what regions/climates they grow best in, regional differences/names, if it is used for blending, whether or not it is common practice to age it, and what vessel to age it in. The last section explains how to pair wine with food and as we discussed in class, the old rules are thrown right out the window. One rule to follow is a full-bodied wine would pair well with full flavored foods, and a lighter wine with lighter foods. Some of the old standards apply where the acidity in a white wine would best pair with seafood and a full-bodied red with a steak, but since it's a matter of taste, these are just recommendations.

Jancis' charts, exercises, and tasting glossary at the end provide us with the right amount of information to make the most out of our tasting experience. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand wine and get the most pleasure out of drinking wine. I now have a deeper understanding of the subject and as a result, a deeper appreciation of our senses and of wine tasting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beginners essential book, February 16, 2008
By 
J. F. James (Ocean Isle Beach, NC) - See all my reviews
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There are three books I recommend to all eager students of wine: Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World Wine School"; Karen MacNeil's "Wine Bible" and Jancis Robinson's "How to Taste". Jancis's book is a fun guide to learning the most important part of wine, the taste. Knowing how to taste and compare wine makes it so much fun. Even if you don't do all of the exercises, you will learn a lot and enjoy wine more.
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How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine
How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine by Jancis Robinson (Hardcover - November 25, 2008)
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