A mango smells of mango, but finding mango in the bouquet of a glass of white wine is another matter. Knowing there might be mango on the nose helps, but then the predominating melon might be altogether overlooked. Learning about wine involves more drinking than reading, but to get that learning curve moving at a reasonable angle, wine books play a useful role. Esoteric wine books are impossible to find in Hong Kong, and the world market demands general books by named writers. This does not necessarily mean general is always bad. Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 1998 (Mitchell Beazley, $150), is a fantastic little companion. Johnson does not have the space to offer the perfect solution every time, but the amount of information contained offers the reader little pointers as he, ultimately, must decide which for him is superior. The at-once feared and feted Robert Parker would never give so much leeway in his weighty tome Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide (Dorling Kindersley, $240) now in its fourth edition. Parker uses rather irritating terms such as 'funky' and 'well-endowed' when describing wines, yet this American author remains opinionated but authoritative to the last. He is very much a writer for the wine expert. Discovering Wine (Mitchell Beazley, $250) by Joanna Simon is excellent for those just starting out. It even teaches a novice how to taste, complete with pictures, though there is nothing like practice to learn to spit without dribbling. The book helps with fundamentals such as classic wine styles, which glasses to use, and how to match food with wine. A brief overview of countries and regions is supplemented by sensible answers to key questions like what a winemaker actually does. Clean and clear, this is one of the best introduction-to-wine books around - all the more surprising then that Simon's Wine With Food (Mitchell Beazley, $300) is such a mess. Poorly designed with too many colours, over-fancy photographs and too many typefaces, it is complicated and complicating. Matching food with wine can be simple or complex depending on how you play it, but anyone who buys this book is looking for advice. Any useful hints unfortunately get lost. Jancis Robinson's The Oxford Companion to Wine (Oxford, $420) may look academic, but it is beautifully simple to use. This is the wine world's answer to Larousse Gastronomique, with a breadth and depth of information rendering it suitable for the beginner and the well-informed. A reader can look at terms like bottle variation or oxidation, or find out that foot treading is extinct except for in the Douro, and beaujolais is traditionally served in a little bottle called a pot. A text like The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson (Dorling Kindersley, $425) is a very different animal, very much geared for those who lay down wine for investment rather than open up a precious bottle to enjoy every night. The most accessible and informative books are often those which do not try to be encyclopedic. Books on specific regions or specific countries are likely to be written by someone with a particularly intimate knowledge. From a consumer point of view, concentrating on developing knowledge in a particular region is often a way to get the best out of wine lists, not to mention the easy way to appear extremely knowledgeable. Texts like The Champagne Companion by Michael Edwards (Apple, $225), which present basic information to 100 key houses on easy spreads, complete with pictures of labels for easy recall, occupy a great niche market. If reading a book about wine has its limitations, scanning Food and Wine Online (VNR, $300) is to render wine a horribly dull subject. Do not read this book. But its pointers to sites which allow on-liners to chat about how to match wine with food or some great little number they bought last weekend may well serve the wine-hungry with the immediate and market-relevant information which wine books simply can never deliver. Better still, get friendly with a member of the Hong Kong Wine Society.