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Become a wine expert at home

If you don't know what a master sommelier is _ or a sommelier, for that matter _ Andrea Immer still wants you to have a glass of wine with dinner tonight.

At home, with whatever you usually eat, even if it's takeout pizza. If you're feeling more ambitious, perhaps with Poached Eggs With Roasted Tomatoes and Crispy Sage, a recipe from Immer's latest book, Everyday Dining With Wine (Broadway, $29.95).

Immer, who's one of a handful of wine experts in the United States to earn the profession's top title, has been working to demystify wine through books and a series of CDs that combine entertaining advice, music and menus. Her mix of expertise and comfortable practicality has won Immer a James Beard Award for wine mastery, as well as a post as wine consultant for Target stores.

Her newest book is heavier on recipes than previous ones, which focused more on food and wine pairings. Many dishes are ready in 30 minutes, to send the message that wine is just as appropriate with a quick dinner as with a holiday feast or special occasion restaurant meal.

Immer sat for a Q&A session recently in Atlanta at a book signing. Immer, who's pregnant, skipped the wine and talked about the challenge in persuading others to try a glass more often.

Why do you encourage people to experiment with wines at home?

It's the least expensive way to do it. Restaurants are far more expensive, and there's performance anxiety. (At home) you can taste some and finish it the next day if you like.

What wines should you always have on hand?

There are two or three wines to keep around that would go with a wide array of foods. For white, it's pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. For reds, I'd say a chianti or pinot noir. These set you up for the most common dining situations. Start experimenting.

What would you never serve with wine?

One of the hardest things to match is that fermented cabbage condiment in Korean cooking, kimchi. Swedish meatballs are tough because there's an inherent sweetness that yanks the fruit out of wine and makes it taste flat.

What's the best way to learn more about wine?

Open up more wines and take a few tastes. You don't need three bottles of the same white and three of red. Get three kinds of white and three of red. Play a little. Set a price point, say, $9 a bottle, and go into a store and ask for their best wine at that price. They won't think you're a cheapskate. They'll look for their best because they want you to come back.

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