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Review: Oz Clarke’s wine guide 2002 (CD-ROM)
Thanks to his appearances on BBC’s Food and drink, Oz Clarke is probably the most visible and popular British wine critic. And thanks to Websters, his publishers, he’s more or less cornered the market with his wine CD-ROM, which is now the world’s best selling multimedia wine program. Websters have created a small industry around recycling and repackaging Oz Clarke’s work in several different formats, and they have now licensed this product to Focus Multimedia, a leading UK publisher of this sort of material. So how good is it?

First, a quick word about the format. The strength of electronic publishing is that it’s possible to squeeze a huge amount of material onto just one CD-ROM, and then, if the product is well designed, it is then a simple task to retrieve the material you are seeking. Terms can be cross-referenced, and information can be accessed in a logical way. On the other hand, it can be hard to sell multimedia products like this: with a traditional wine encyclopaedia, the bulk of the book and a quick leaf through can give the reader a good idea of the quantity and quality of information contained within, whereas all CDs look the same. And books are portable in the sense you don’t need to be at your computer to read them. But if you can get over this, then CD-ROMs are unparalleled as reference sources and learning tools.

What do you get? The information is broken down into five categories. First, ‘All about wine’, which is introductory material aimed at novices. Then there’s ‘Wine tasting with Oz’, a series of video clips showing beginners how to taste. The ‘Matching food and wine’ section may or may not appeal to you (I’m a little sceptical about this sort of strict guidance), but with 1200 suggested pairings it is certainly thorough. The fourth section, entitled the ‘World atlas of wine’ is good, but suffers from disappointingly dull maps. However, it is the fifth and final section, the ‘Wine encyclopaedia’, that makes this CD-ROM such a useful resource. This contains reviews of some 6000 producers and 10 000 individual wines; 150 producer reviews are new this year as are 800 wine reviews. There’s also a guide to grapes and vintage/maturity charts. Navigation is logical and straightforward: clearly a lot of Websters’ multimedia expertise has gone into the design of this CD-ROM. With regard to the content, I like the style of the writing, and most of the opinions are pretty balanced. In areas where I have specific expertise, I found little to criticise. This product should appeal to a broad readership, and with its easy navigation you can selectively retrieve the level of information you are after.

Criticisms? Perhaps my main gripe is that the authorship of each entry is not disclosed. Although this is advertised as Oz Clarke’s wine guide, you aren’t just getting his opinions. A glance at the credits reveals that a team of some 22 different contributors are responsible for this content. These inputs are not specifically credited; I think they should be. A second criticism is that a lot of this material is available elsewhere. Oz (or his publisher?) is very efficient at recycling material, using it in many different publications. My final gripe is that the window size is a little too small. On my 19-inch monitor, with it’s 8.5 x 6.5 inch display it looks a little bit lost. No doubt this is a technical limitation.

List price is £19.99, but this title can be obtained for the discounted price of £9.99 from either amazon.co.uk or directly from the manufacturers; this makes it very good value and certainly worth purchasing as a reference source or a novel gift for a wannabe-winegeek friend. Alternatively, you could win one of the three copies that I have to give away.

Go to the catalogue entry at www.amazon.co.uk

Or contact: Focus Multimedia Limited, The Studios, Lea Hall Enterprise Park, Armitage Road, Rugeley, Staffs WS15 1LH Tel: 01889 570156 E-mail: general@focusmm.co.uk

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