The Wine List

Teacher's pets

Mark Oldman, who has taught wine courses for 15 years, brings his no-nonsense approach to bear in Oldman's Guide to Outsmarting Wine (Penguin), a new handbook to help you navigate wine lists, labels, stores, stewards, and anything that intimidates the novice. With straightforward explanations, Oldman steers readers through wine-world jargon and—let's face it—pretension to help them select a vintage with confidence (or, as Oldman says, pretend to). All faking aside, the author picks a few of his favorite bottles.

Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
($12) from New Zealand, has the zingy bowl-of-limes acidity that I call the crackly kiwi factor. New Zealand's uniquely sunny but cool climate gives its Sauvignon Blancs a citrusy quality and a seductive aroma of tropical fruit.

Americans are generally less familiar with Argentinean wines than with, say, those from Chile. So I didn't know what to expect from the Susana Balbo Malbec 2002 ($28). It turned out to have a plummy, blackberry richness that made it downright hedonistic.

Rich, heady, with a powerful berry aroma, the Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses 2002 ($25) is one of the best bottles emerging from Priorat, a rediscovered region tucked in the mountains southwest of Barcelona.

Zardetto Prosecco NV
($11), from the Veneto region of Italy, is a bubbly that will clear your palate, amplify your appetite, and give your neighbors bottle envy. It's so uplifting it has earned the nickname Prozac-co.