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November 15, 2015

We are rapidly headed into holiday season, and that means it’s time to think about gifts. Bottles of wine are great, but if you’re not exactly sure what type to give a friend or family member, a wine book is an excellent idea, as long as it is broad-based enough to ensure there’s something to latch onto for any reader.

Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible, which just came out in a hugely revised and updated edition, is just such a book. Essentially it’s an encyclopedia, but it’s not a boring one—it’s designed to be friendly in the age of online info, with copious tapas-sized bits of knowledge on every page.

It’s just shy of 1,000 pages, but packs in about 5,000 pages of information. For geeks like me, there is a deep well of detail and knowledge on display, which we’d expect from MacNeil, a longtime wine educator who used to run the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa.

She’s very good at boiling down winemaking techniques and issues of climate, soil, and other science-y topics. Her sidebar on what we mean when we say a wine has “minerality”—something I say a lot—is worth the sticker price. Having a section on the rapidly expanding wine-growing areas in Asia is bold indeed, and eye-opening for those of us who are just getting accustomed to the idea.

But if you want wine basics, they are here in spades. What to pair with white Burgundy? What are some Greek wines you can trust? What is there to do besides sip if you travel to Hungarian wine country? How do you read a chaotic Italian wine label?

MacNeil answers that and a whole lot more, and I recommend you grab a copy, open it, and start in on a random page. There will be something worth savoring.

Ted Loos is the Travel + Leisure’s Wine and Spirits Contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @looslips.

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