Robert M. Parker, on the other hand, has never been to everyone's taste: His exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, consideration of vintage and history may be too much for all but the serious oenophile, but the fourth edition of his Bordeaux: A Consumer Guide to the World's Finest Wines is a remarkable achievement, the sort of book those real admirers will read for pleasure as armchair chefs read the most elaborate cookbooks. Bordeaux is Parker's passion he's been making tasting trips twice a year for more than a quarter century and his influence on winemakers' styles is somewhat controversial, but Parker's knowledge is undisputed. His writing skirts the edge of spoonable jargon, but it never falls over into simpering. Consider this description of the 1996 Chateau d'Yquem: "Light gold, with a tight but promising nose of roasted hazelnuts intermixed with creme brulee, vanilla beans, honey, orange marmalade, and peach." If that makes your mouth water (and it does mine), this is the Christmas bonus you've been dreaming of. Eve Zibart is a restaurant critic for The Washington Post and author of The Ethnic Food Lover's Companion.

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