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The best books of 2006: Choose a book that will educate the palate; There's a wealth of knowledge to be had about wine.

Byline: By CLIVE PLATMAN

Bordeaux by Oz Clarke, Little, Brown, pounds 18.99

In spite of the phenomenal prices demanded by the leading chateaux for their 2005 opening offers, Bordeaux is a region currently in the doldrums.

Only the tip of the iceberg participate in the futures market, hiding a sorry tale of overproduction, lack of demand and rock-bottom prices.

Over recent years, the region has been well covered none has widespread appeal.

There is no other region on Earth that produces such an amazing array of fine wine, at so many different price-levels, and on such a grand scale, yet remains so out of touch with its customers. Bordeaux, in a nutshell, is poor at marketing and a rotten communicator.

This latest work by Oz Clarke must therefore be a godsend. As a populist wine-writer, he is peerless.

With his forthright approach, he peels away the layers of snobbery to reveal the dynamism and commitment that has remained ever-present. He also gets to grips with the prime movers and shakers that make this region so fascinating and absorbing.

Wine Report 2007 by Tom Stevenson, Dorling Kindersley, pounds 9.99

Although launched four years ago, this is a publication I look forward to with increasing anticipation each year.

It is an insider's guide to the world of wine and Tom Stevenson, the editor and contributor, has assembled a team of experts to provide the latest coverage in their area of expertise.

All the main producing regions are reviewed, with additional sections on wine auctions, wines on the web and grape varieties, among others.

Within each section, there is a top ten list of best quality, fastest improving and best value producers. Understandably, it is a reference that will appeal to anyone seriously interested in wine.

Oz & James's Big Wine Adventure by Oz Clarke and James May, BBC Books, pounds 18.99

Released to coincide with the BBC TV series, my eyes rolled upwards as I thought, "who dreamed up this celebrity pairing?"

This time, wine guru, Oz Clarke, has teamed up with petrol-head James May from Top Gear, to roam around France and discover French wine.

Of course, May's image is parodied as the Frog-hating, beer-swilling Little Englander, and Oz is portrayed as the prattling, pretentious wine-bore. Mercifully, within the context of the book, there is little to be seen of Top Gear's Mr Slow, but there is an awful lot of information about the subject in hand.

This is an exceptionally well-presented, down-to-earth guide which cuts through the fear and snobbery that surrounds the subject. It is a great advertisement for France and, if you want to learn and understand French wine, you could do a lot worse.

The Wine List 2007 by Matthew Jukes, Headline, pounds 9.99

There is a lot more to The Wine List than first meets the eye. Compiled by the popular wine writer, Matthew Jukes, it offers more than a simple compendium of his 250 best recommendations, skilfully chosen as they may be.

The intrinsic problem with most wine lists is that they are virtually out of date by the time they go to press, and certainly do not last beyond Christmas.

So, what makes this pocket-sized guide so useful are its excellent sections on food and wine matching, and a succinct gazette of the very best producers in each wine region worldwide. Throw in a directory of UK wine merchants, and the work is no longer ephemeral. A good stocking-filler.

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson, OUP, pounds 40

When it was originally launched in 1994, the OCW achieved universal acclaim but, in a fast-changing world, it can quickly become tired.

The third edition, published this autumn, has therefore been eagerly anticipated.

It is simply the most complete wine encyclopaedia you can ever wish to buy. Presented alphabetically, it begins with Abboc-cato, Italian for medium-sweet wine, and finishes on zymase, a group of enzymes which encourage the conversion of glucose and fructose into ethyl alcohol.

In between, every facet of wine is covered.

This third edition has included more than 300 substantive new entries on such topics as globalisation, the politics of wine, brands and co-fermentation. There are literally hundreds of amendments, and all the main wine regions have undergone major revisions.

An invaluable reference, this latest edition will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about wine. An essential for the serious wine-lover.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 2, 2006
Words:735
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