Graham Harding's A Wine Miscellany: A Jaunt Through the Whimsical World of Wine is the opposite of a coffee table book: It's a barstool volume, a collection of items concerning historical dates, quotations, trends and bits of trivia that would be fun to pass down a row of compatible consumers. None of the entries is more than two or three paragraphs, and they proceed in a stream-of-consciousness manner susceptible to no, inviting digression.

Among the offerings are recipes for marijuana wine and ypocras (a sort of mulled wine); discussions of the type of wine referred to by Omar Khayyam and Homer; the oldest wines uncovered archaeologically, the oldest vintages drunk and the oldest purchased at auction; celebrities who buy wineries (though Harding overlooks Fess Davy Crockett Parker, one of the pioneers of the Santa Barbara County industry); the Robert Parker culture and backlash; and the invention of the robotongue. He lists the various saints named as patron of winemakers (I've always deferred to St. Laurence, whose riposte to his Roman torturers, Turn me over, boys, I'm done on this side, also makes him the saint of comedians and barbecue); the relative cost of wine-producing acreage in various countries; and the family relationships between E. &andamp; J. Gallo, Thunderbird and Two-Buck Chuck. Wine dilettantes will use these tidbits to impress friends; connoisseurs will enjoy testing their knowledge against Harding's.

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