Wine Lover’s Page: Book Review: Oldman’s Guide

Robin Garr

First, a strong new entry that I find grows on me the more I browse it. Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine is a hefty (400-page) coffee-table-size paperback by Mark Oldman, a New Yorker who’s in the job-seeking and career-information business by day (check out his popular Website,, and a devoted wine “geek” and wine educator by night.

Designed primarily for newcomers and apprentices in the world of wine but with plenty of interest for more serious students of the grape as well, it’s neatly organized in the form of 108 short articles presented under wine-learning categories like “Appreciating Wine,” “Basic Grapes” and “Basic Regional Styles.” It goes on to varied topics including “food and Wine,” “Restaurants” and information about buying, storing, handling and serving wine, and more. The articles are short – typically two or three pages each – but not at all “dumbed down,” highlighted with bright graphic sidebars and tips from noteworthy wine figures.

I like Oldman’s style, which is first-person, literate and intelligent yet conversational and breezy. I suspect if I sat down with Mark over a few glasses of wine – something I wouldn’t mind doing – we would discover that we share similar attitudes about wine and wine writing.

Just for fun, here’s a quick sample of Oldman’s prose, from Chapter 32, “Red Burgundy: French Pinot Noir, Gloriously Aromatic and Silky.”

There I was, finishing my first barrel sample in the dark, chilly cellar of one of Burgundy’s most celebrated domaines. As I went to pour the remnants of my glass into a nearby spitoon, my host, a renowned wine-maker, reacted as if I were about to leap off a cliff.

“Non!” he barked, grabbing my arm. He then poured the remains of his glass back into the barrel and motioned for me to do the same. I did so reluctantly, wondering if this winery was in the business of hawking backwash at $200 a bottle.”

Well, you get the idea. Maybe this story resonated with me because I shared a similar reaction the first time this happened to me, at a “cult” winery in Spain. But if “literate and intelligent yet conversational and breezy” appeals to you as much as it does to me, you’ll want to put this book on your shopping list.