Tips for beginners
Andy Besch, a downsized TV executive who had ordered enough wine during his 30 years on an expense account to try his hand at selling the stuff himself, opened West Side Wines in Manhattan in 1999 and became the neighborhood's wine guy. Now Besch has written The Wine Guy: Everything You Want to Know About Buying and Enjoying Wine from Someone Who Sells It, a wine primer that employs a question-and-answer style condensed from conversations with his customers over the years. One of the 21st-century user-friendly writers, Besch is at some pains to demystify the selection process. He emphasizes several points that wine drinkers are too often advertised out of believing, the most pertinent being that price does not equal quality. His Wine Guy's Credo begins with Treat Yourself, encourages experimentation and curiosity and concludes, sanely, Relax. It's only a beverage. Besch also urges buyers (especially men, who he admits are truly more reluctant to ask directions) to get the advice of the wine seller, and offers a useful section on finding a good wine guy (or gal) and how to help the wine seller help you. The sections on learning to taste wines and recognizing the basic grape varietals are short enough to swallow in one sitting, though not so simplified as to be condescending. (Personally, considering that Jeffrey Grosset won the first-ever Riesling winemaker of the world award, I think Besch underestimates the Rieslings of Australia, especially the Clare Valley, but as he himself would say, that's my taste.)Eve Zibart is a restaurant critic for The Washington Post.