San Francisco Chronicle: Let Santa Build Your Cellar—If He’s Busy, Ask for One of These Books

Linda Murphy

Stanford University graduate Mark Oldman moved to New York and became a wine educator 14 years ago. His “Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine” (Penguin; 364 pages; $18) promises, as so many wine books do, to simplify the complex world of vino. Oldman does it well, and with a sense of fun and celebrity.

The beauty of “Outsmarting” is in its 108 short (two to three pages each) chapters; each tackles a varietal or region with the same format — text description plus highlight boxes that address how to read the label, top producers and Oldman’s favorite wines and pairing suggestions.

“Chardonnay: The World’s ’It’ Wine” is a typical chapter. It includes a quote from pro golfer and vintner Greg Norman; the “Cheat Sheet” explains what a “big” California Chardonnay is all about; the label decoder says that Chardonnay is a grape and not a region; there are several Oldman wine recommendations; and “Fit for Feasting” suggests that Chardonnay goes with fatty fish and sauteed sweetbreads.

What I particularly like about the book is its pronunciation guides for tongue-twister varietals, producers and regions. Too, we learn that singer- songwriter Tori Amos prefers red Bordeaux, chef-restaurateur Mario Batali digs white and red Burgundy and golfer Norman favors Kistler Chardonnay from California — and his own Greg Norman Estate wines from Australia. Never miss a marketing moment, Greg.