As might be guessed from the title, The Sommelier's Guide to Wine: A Primer for Selecting, Serving and Savoring Wine, by Culinary Institute of America professor Brian H. Smith, has a much less chatty style. Smith tries to cover a lot of territory in a smallish book, offering a basic guide for both professionals and amateurs, and it's a little awkward for beginning oenophiles who have to sort through the advice on setting up wine lists and summarizing wine regions down to micro-climates in California. Still, it's not heavy going. In fact, Smith's attitude is generally reassuring: He's working on the premise that if you can figure out what it is you like in wines, you can use that preference as a way of discovering similar wines. And his straightforward explanation of tasting values, which is comprehensive without being pompous, is particularly good. It's a book to grow into.

Eve Zibart is a restaurant critic for The Washington Post and author of The Ethnic Food Lover's Companion.

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