30 Second Wine Advisor: Wine books for the holidays

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Wine books for the holidays

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Stockings hung by the chimney with care? Christmas tree lights or dreydls, menorahs or manger scenes or even a Festivus Pole. Shop 'til you drop or try to let materialism fall away. Whatever the holiday season means to you, chances are you're making a gift list for at least a few special friends, relatives and loved ones.

If your gift list includes a wine lover, your job is simple: Wine books are just about always in good taste, and easy to pick up at a local book shop or online. Let's take a quick look at a few of my perennial favorites.

Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine is a massive volume, edited and frequently revised by Jancis Robinson, the British Master of Wine who's one of my favorite wine writers. Robinson has assembled a worldwide team of experts to cover just about every wine-related topic you can think of in clear, direct (but not dumbed-down) prose. Even in the age of Google and Kindle, this one's worth enjoying on good, old-fashioned paper between heavy covers.

Click here to buy The Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, from Amazon.com in hardcover for $40.95, a 37 percent discount from its $65 list price.

If you're into wine geography, with topographical maps to help you visualize the vineyards, and color photos and detailed discussions of the places that provide our wine, you can't do better than Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine.

Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine is currently available for $31.50 in hardcover from Amazon.com, a 37% discount from its $50 list price.

And speaking of Johnson, another favorite wine writer from England, his annually updated Pocket Wine Book 2012 was out early this year, hitting the book stores in August. If you didn't get yours in the Nouveau shipment, it remains a book that I recommend year in and year out; although its substance remains the same, Johnson adds new information, updates vintage information and provides much more in each edition. Easy to tuck into pocket or purse, it contains tasting information and one- to four-star ratings for many thousands of wines. It's an indispensable reference and a perfect stocking-stuffer for the wine "geek" on your list.

Click here to buy Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2012 from Amazon.com for $10.19, a 32% saving from its $14.99 list price.

There's still plenty of time before Hanukkah or Christmas to get these books delivered - and gift-wrapped, if you like. In the spirit of full disclosure, should you choose to buy these books through the links provided (and buy other books while you're in Amazon.com during that session), we'll receive a tiny but welcome commission to help us pay the rent at WineLoversPage.com. Thanks in advance for that, and happy holidays to you and yours.

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Today's Tasting Report

Monte Antico 2007 Toscana ($14.99)

Monte Antico

Dark, blackish purple with a clear ruby edge. This blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon yields a wine with a distinct Tuscan personality, really more reminiscent of Chianti than of its French-heritage varietal components. Black cherries and dried fruit on the nose add a subtle hint of spice. Fresh and tart on the palate, clean black-fruit flavors are consistent with the aroma, a bone-dry flavor shaped by crisp, food-friendly acidity. U.S. importer: Empson (U.S.A), Alexandria, Va. (Nov. 24, 2011)

FOOD MATCH: While it would be fine with the classic pairings, rare beef or tomato-sauced pasta, it's a natural with pork and poultry, too. It was particularly good at Thanksgiving time with shredded turkey in sage cream.

VALUE: This wine is widely available around the U.S. For $10 or less, often a dollar or two less. The $15 price tag at Woodlawn Park Kroger in Louisville is an embarrassment. Still, it's an good value at any point up to the lower teens and a great buy when you can find it for $9 or less.

WHEN TO DRINK: A few years in the cellar under good storage conditions, cool and dark and on its side, will do it no harm, but it's fine to enjoy now.

WEB LINK: Here's a tech sheet on Monte Antico on the U.S. Importer's website.

Compare prices and find vendors for Monte Antico at Wine-Searcher.com.

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