From grand cru to cheap plonk, Janet Swift tastes a variety of offerings in the wine rack
If you enjoy drinking wine, and want to learn more about it, the latest source of expertise is CD-Roms that provide instant access to information made more enticing by multi-media trappings.

The Microsoft Wine Guide opens with pleasant sounds of corks being pulled and liquids being poured. The entire presentation revolves around Oz Clarke, an inspired choice of wine expert since he is well known in the US, where the software was produced, in his native Australia, and in Britain, where he is on the regular team for the BBC Food and Drink programme.

Video clips are used to advantage throughout, particularly when Oz conducts his Tasting Tour of 18 varieties of wine. His descriptions covey the aroma and bouquet of the wines so vividly that you are almost driven to open a bottle and join in. Oz also gives advice about matching wine to food, how to plan your own wine collection and when to drink stored wines, with vintage charts for detailed information. The atlas section has interactive maps and photographs and acts as one gateway to the programme's wealth of factual material. The test of any database that comes pre-supplied with information is in its relevance to the real world. I was pleasantly surprised to find wines I have actually drunk and enjoyed among the 6,000 included, not only from France and Australia but also from Spain and Bulgaria.

Wines of the World has a more extensive database of more than 20,000 wines but is heavily biased to American viniculture. There are four main sections in its Wine Browser - American varietals, Bordeaux and Port and Personal Wines, an empty database where you can input information about other wines. Multimedia is used in its other three main sections. Wine Quality covers cultivating vines, grape varieties (eight of which are briefly described with photos) and making wines, about which there is a narrated video as well as long text descriptions (taken from the book The Companion to Wine) that can be read by scrolling through or as a printed out. Wine Appreciation relies on photographs plus lengthy chunks of text to give recommendations for wine varieties to accompany specific foods and hints on tasting, serving and storing wines. It uses photos to illustrate wine colour and annotated graphics to explain how to understand wine labels, plus short videos illustrating how to remove a broken cork, decant wine and so on. Its Region section is very comprehensive including Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.

The Interactive Wine Guide is another American offering and its multimedia items concentrate on Californian wines and viticulturists. It has a limited database including details of only 52 wine types. Its world map shows 13 wine-producing countries, including England, but there is just a page of printed information on each and, as elsewhere in the title, no photographs.

Microsoft Wine Guide, pounds 29.99 (Microsoft Home 0345 002000)

Wines of the World, pounds 42.99 (Education Interactive 01425 272235).

Interactive Wine, pounds 14.95 (World Library

01993 778077).