WINE STYLE: On the Grapevine; Clive Platman Looks at a New Version of the Discerning Wine Lover's Bible

Article excerpt

Byline: Clive Platman

One of the joys of visiting France is that, more likely than not, you will visit a wine-producing area and possibly get a chance to sample the regional wine.

There is nothing quite like the romance of buying a wine directly from the producer.

To a wine lover, there is no greater satisfaction in buying wine by this method.

While buying the wine may be easy, choosing wisely is fraught with difficulties. With literally tens of thousands of producers, it is essential for a discerning wine lover to turn to a source guide.

Perhaps the answer may be the French wine bible the Hachette Wine Guide 2002, particularly now that there is an English edition.

The guide contains details of 9,000 of the best wines available in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

These have been chosen in blind-tastings by some 900 experts from some 30,000 samples, and represent the very best from each and every appellation.

The Hachette Wine Guide is a great deal more than a compendium of the best wine producers.

The guide provides an up-to-date evaluation of the wine-growingregions with detailed maps for the wine traveller to follow.

There is practical information on buying and assessing a wine, as well as understanding the label.

One of the vagaries of the appellation controlle system is that the label has no legal requirement to indicate the type of grape varieties, style, or quality of wine.

This acquired knowledge is almost taken for granted and, to the uninitiated, can be baffling. Assessing a wine with a view to purchase can be intimidating and, again, the guide offers some useful guidelines and tasting terms.

The meat of the guide, though, is its thorough evaluation of the individual properties listed.

The best wines are rated on a scale of one to three stars, with price and tasting notes provided.

Not all of the properties listed are open to the public, however. Some are by appointment only, and some do not sell direct. Again, the guide is of assistance.

There is no doubt that the guide will give you a great deal more confidence, particularly when, like me, your command of the French language is poor.

My only criticism is the high price of the guide, which has been set at pounds 25, considerably more than the French version. …