Microsoft's Wine Guide is a multimedia CD-Rom introduction to wine, produced with the assistance of Oz Clarke, the wine writer and broadcaster. The disk opens with an animated introduction by the affable Mr Clarke. Then it offers Wine Tasting With Oz, All About Wine, The World Atlas of Wine and the Wine Encyclopaedia. The tasting guide in particular is fun, covering basics such as glasses and corkscrews as well as the business of releasing the bouquet and judging the flavours.
But it is the encyclopaedia and the atlas that stand up best to repeated sampling. The Wine Guide throws up its share of fascinating facts (the average champagne cork leaves the bottle at 42 feet per second) but there is also plenty of genuinely useful information, on vintages, regions, grape varieties and matching wine to food.
Click on a button and the disk will pronounce complicated chateaux names - essential for avoiding that condescending glance that wine waiters consider an art form. The wine atlas is a veritable travelogue, and the writing as much as the colour photographs are enough to tempt anyone in the direction of the Eurostar terminal.
At pounds 50 in the high street, Wine Guide is an average price for a reference CD-Rom but is much more expensive than the printed equivalent. For less than a tenner, you can buy one of Mr Clarke's wine books, spend pounds 40 on half a dozen reasonable bottles, and come away with enough change for a corkscrew and a packet of Alka-Seltzer.
But the disk links material in a way no book can. I spent a happy hour or so, starting at the food and wine section, and ending up comparing the quality classifications in France and Italy. The Wine Guide is not packed with movies or interactivity, but it turns up unexpected gems in out-of-the-way corners - rather like a good cellar, really.Reuse content