Celebration of the triumph of Italian winemaker Angelo Gaja, who has raised the once cheap and obscure Barbaresco wines to award-winning world status. Steinberg, a consultant for the European Community, conducts wine tastings at a leading Roman wine shop. Wine from fruits other than grapes may score well with wine writers, but these wines, Steinberg says, ``should be drunk within a year of harvest and will not live to develop the complexity that is part of greatness.'' Steinberg focuses on the people involved in winemaking as richly as he does on vines and the processes of fermentation and maceration, the making of casks, the selection of custom-made bottles, the search for cork, and so on. He sticks largely to Gaja and to the making of his single-vineyard Sori San Lorenzo of 1989 vintage. Barbaresco wines come from vineyards in northwest Italy and--aside from single-vineyard wines--are a hierarchy of blends from this district as devised by Gaja. Gaja first bottled Sori San Lorenzo in 1967. In 1987, the Barbaresco vintages failed to meet his standards; to keep his prestige, he bottled only half his normal amount of Barbaresco--and in 1984 none at all: ``That decision about the 1984 was very painful,'' Gaja says. Not only winemaking but barrel-making receives Steinberg's keenest eye, as does the battle between steel and oak barrels. Page after page impresses with the complexity of wine and winemaking-- the bottomless thought that goes into microclimates among leaves, into yeasts, acids, and balancing out minute quantities of substances that make each wine distinct. Great human warmth bathes a wine-lover's delight: one of the best yet about wine.