A Hedonist in the Cellar, by Jay McInerney

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I always used to subscribe to Iris Murdoch's dictum, that learning to appreciate fine wines is to "spoil one's palate" and lose for ever the joy of drinking the cheap stuff. But Jay McInerney makes a compelling case against this view: it's worth learning about and paying more for good wine, just because you'll have far more fun by doing so.

A witty, knowledgeable and unintimidating guide, McInerney takes the reader on a tour of the great European, New World and South American wines, and introduces us to a gallery of memorable characters. He'll tell you how to impress a sommelier (order a German Reisling). He glories in the pleasures of absinthe and pronounces on the best wines to drink with Asian food. He has a nice line in literary comparisons (Burgundy is "the Turgenev to Bordeaux's Tolstoy"). The book is a bit too laden with facts, names and places to read in long stretches (in one paragraph I counted 51 capital letters), but if you're thinking of becoming an oenophile, it is ideal for dipping. Or should that be sipping?

Bloomsbury £8.99