Britons may be knocking back more alcohol than ever before, but good drinks books are as still a precious rarity

But publishers do continue to publish some drinks books, as I discovered on returning from two weeks in the Languedoc to find a small stack of volumes waiting for me in their Jiffy bags. And some of them set out explicitly to woo the younger drinkers, whose thirst for alcohol is fuelling the rise in consumption. This has been going on for a few years now, most notably in the very successful Girls Guide to Wine by Susy Atkins (2002), which used wit, brevity and irreverence to present the basics of a complex subject in simple and accessible terms. Ms Atkins now has a follow-up of sorts, another small (truly pocket-size) book called Cocktails and Perfect Party Drinks (£4.99, Quadrille) which is aimed squarely at the beginners' market. Cocktails and Perfect Party Drinks deals with occasions of every type, from cocktail parties to weddings and more, and it speaks good sense on every page. It's published on 7 October.

I am somewhat more puzzled by a wine book that's aimed even more explicitly at younger readers: Matt Skinner's Thirsty Work (£17.99, Mitchell Beazley). Skinner, an alarmingly young Australian, is the sommelier at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen and overseer of wine education for the restaurant's trainee chefs. He clearly knows his subject, and he is spot on about general principles. "Try to approach wine with an open mind. Don't become complacent or stuck with certain countries, regions, varieties, or producers... always try new things and never ever forget that great wine is made everywhere..."

What worries me about the book is that it tries to do something that perhaps can't be done: to give wine the "bash it up and bung it in the pot" treatment that Jamie Oliver used so successfully for cooking. In his survey of the major grapes, for instance, Skinner praises the variety and versatility of Chardonnay while barely mentioning that much of the variety comes from the use of different oak treatments. Oak is an enormously complicated subject, and Skinner gives it just a few short paragraphs in another section. The result is not entirely satisfying. Sometimes, with wine, you just have to be geeky.

Some problems in Thirsty Work could have been remedied by more attentive editing - such as eliminating the dozens of exclamation marks that litter the pages. The design and presentation of the book also leaves something to be desired. I am not convinced that this is the book to bring budding twentysomething oenophiles into the realms of the cognoscenti.

A different kind of popularising can be found in another Mitchell Beazley book, The Wines of the Napa Valley by Larry Walker (£20). This is part of the publisher's "Classic Wine Library", acquired by them when they took over the wine-list of Faber & Faber. These books really are for geeks, not for the beginner. Hundreds of pages of dense text, not a photograph in sight, and detailed discussion of technical matters, history, and individual wineries. What makes this one more populist is the breezy informality of the writing - very American, if I'm allowed to use that term. It works well here, and it makes this book - about one of the world's most controversial wine-producing regions - a real treat. But not for the under-25s, I would guess. *

Top Corks: Three autumnal treats

Chianti Superiore Burchino 2001 (£5.49 from £6.99, M&S) A nice example, proper Sangiovese characters and a decent bottle age. Drink with your final barbecued steak of the season.

Brown Brothers Moscato 2004 (£5.99, Tesco) This Australian producer handles unusual white varieties brilliantly. Faintest fizziness, suavely grapey, mellow sweetness.

Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2004 (£4.99, Waitrose) This grape variety at this price - you don't often see it, and you never see it this good. Drink with anything you like.

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