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Aug 19, 2010

Wine writers, columnists, whatever you want to call us – and be nice, we try hard to do a good job – sometimes get a bit carried away when it comes to descriptions.

Recently, Karl du Fresne got a bit toey over the use of "water over river stones" to describe the gentle mineral aroma in some wines – we couldn't help but wonder if it was us he was poking the borax at.

And speaking of `having a go' at others – we were left in stitches over the challenges presented by the phrase "nice textural movement in the glass". What a cracker. The average punter would be left wondering what on Earth this meant and whether it would taste any good.

If we can't laugh at ourselves who can we laugh with?

As we've begun on a critical (albeit tongue in cheek) note, it's a great time to take at a look at a new publication on the world of wine.

What's a Wine Lover to Do? by Wes Marshall is described as an illustrated guide with 334 essential oenophile pointers and tips.

We own dozens of books that go over the same basic wine and tasting information – everything from where the bubbles in champagne come from to wine and food matching. This latest offering delivers some slightly quirky offerings that set it apart but there is a great deal of doubling up on information from one book to the next as well. What's a Wine Lover to Do? is fun because it offers an American perspective.

What's in this latest offering? How to remove a broken cork, how to minimise dribbles when pouring and wine openers to avoid, are some of the sage bits of advice readers might find helpful.

Once a keen drinker leaves the relative security of wines from home, stepping out into the big wide world can make things confusing. This is another area that, in parts, is covered well in Marshall's book. Bordeaux versus Burgundy: what's the difference? A good question well answered.

Unfortunately, Wes doesn't appear to know a great deal about New Zealand wines and wine regions. Listed at the very end of the chapter entitled Wine Regions of the World is a subheading Other Wine Countries: New World – and there we are. The entry consists of a number of half truths which are a little disconcerting. Hawke's Bay is mentioned for its pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. Yes, the region is home to those varieties but it's famous for its exceptional Bordeaux-style blends that can beat the best the Old World producers can rustle up in a blind tasting.

Then we have the "huge, grapefruit aroma sauvignon blancs from Marlborough" – another oops in terms of dominant aromas. By the time he wanders into Central Otago he gets it right – it may end up being the second greatest area in the world for pinot noir.

I think what we have here is an example of an American who knows a great deal about America and American wines, trying to take on the world and falling a bit short.

On the up side there is plenty of information and no pretension. The maps, diagrams and other illustrations are eye-catching and relevant.

Interesting fact: wine is made in every state in the United States.

While California, New York, Washington and Oregon account for 97.8 per cent of US wine production, every state now has a winery and many of them take advantage of what is called the "agritourism" trade.

While some northern states don't have a thriving grape-growing industry they make wine from grape juice purchased from another state.