Whether Montessori or Merlot, kindergarten or Cabernet, the importance of a good instructor during the formative years is crucial. That's why newcomers to the world of wine could do a lot worse than having a corkscrew in one hand and a copy of Jancis Robinson's How to Taste in the other. A revision of 1983's Masterglass and published in the U.K. under the superior title Jancis Robinson's Wine-Tasting Workbook, How to Taste is a primer by a certified Master of Wine and star of the PBS series Jancis Robinson's Wine Course. From acidity to Australian Shiraz, oak to Oregon Pinot, Robinson delivers chapters of information and theory, intermingled with shaded "Practice" exercises, presented in a style as off-dry as one of the author's beloved Rieslings (the tannin in a lesser vintage Barolo is "like sucking on a matchstick"). Sometimes tuition at Jancis U. runs high: the lesson on sugar/acid balance culminates with expensive Sauterne "Practice." And even if Robinson risks, by dropping words like "charred" and "umami" early in the book, sending novices back to tear open a fresh box of Franzia, vinous virgins are encouraged to stick with it. By the time they get to the glossary at book's end, they'll be identifying wines at blind tastings with professional accuracy--which, Robinson encouragingly reveals, and she ought to know, is about 50 percent. --Tony Mason
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"Perhaps the most talented of the world's wine writers...[with a] seemingly infinite ability to fashion informative, accurate books that are essential reading." -- Robert M. Parker, Jr.
"The woman who makes the wine world gulp when she speaks...as unpretentious as Beaujolais Nouveau." -- Jerry Shriver, USA Today
"I have watched her slowly tighten her grip on the wine world with awe...Don't be fooled by her twinkling television persona; her serious purpose is to open the wine world to all comers, at all levels. In the process she has become a household name -- for good." -- Hugh Johnson
"The Julia Child of wine." -- Peter M. Gianotti, Newsday
"She is simply the best wine writer working today. No one else comes close to Robinson's combination of tasting acuity, prolific and authoritative writing, and wit." -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar
"A thorough, no-nonsense approach to unlocking some of the mysteries of appreciating and enjoying wine." -- Frank Prial, The New York Times
"For those who want to learn how to taste wine, the Robinson approach is hard to beat!" -- Gerald D. Boyd, San Francisco Chronicle
"By a long measure the best wine writer in the world." -- Paul Levy, The Wall Street Journal