Entertainment » Books

The World Atlas of Wine Releases 7th Edition

by Kristen Siebecker
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Oct 7, 2013

Do you like to drink wine? Do you enjoy reading books? Do you enjoy fact charts, pretty pictures and cartography? If you answered yes to any of these questions, "The World Atlas of Wine" by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson may be the perfect addition to your bookshelf.

The hefty sized "World Atlas Of Wine" (Mitchell Beazley, 2013) is now in its seventh incarnation with internationally renowned wine writers Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson again at the helm to secure its place as one of the best "go to" books for wine reference and knowledge.

Wine is an endless study and the more I learn, the more I realize I'm only scratching the surface. This edition shows off not only the classic wine growing regions and grapes, but also the massive growth in the wine world especially compared to the previous 2007 edition.

This substantial (both in size and comprehensiveness) book is aimed at those with at least a touch of oenophile in them. In its encyclopedic entries, one can see through the eyes of the experts but with a bit of humor mixed in. There are terrific tidbits of information for the casual wine drinker with a thirst for nerdy wine facts.

The foreword by Johnson and introduction by Robinson both reflect the co-authors' personalities as respected wine writers as they embody a "wine glass half-full" positive outlook into the wine world's current trends. Robinson's playfulness shines through as she coins casual terms like "Chardies" in reference to Australian Chardonnay and California as the "home of the blockbuster."

I love the crafty subject paragraph headings like "Oak as Make-Up" in the "Evolution of Modern Wine" chapter or the cheeky introductions such as for Catalunya, (Cava's home base): "Catalunya has convinced the world - or least more certainly itself - that it is a country apart from Spain."

The layout is resource-focused with lots of facts, wine labels, maps and charts yet each page gently guides your eye by using bold type to point out important names or text. One of my personal chart favorites is the "Making Wine in the Cellar" - an easy-to-follow flow chart with descriptions of how to make both white and red wines.

Highlighted wine labels from each region are an excellent guide to finding wines that represent their terroir. The "New Winery-New Thinking" chart and illustrations that show the spectacular Don Macimiano Icon winery in Chile is quite impressive, and the ever popular "Wine Consumption by Country" chart that puts Luxembourg in front, way ahead of the United States' lowly 35th place ranking, but just below Macedonia.

Regional Discoveries

The maps (it is called an Atlas, after all) are exceptional and specific. They include locations of notable producers and present a clear visual reference of why a wine’s geographic origin can make a difference in its quality. One small quibble is that I did find some of the maps a bit cramped with information that made it challenging to distinguish region boundaries. The map of Central Italy is so detailed that it might require a magnifying glass to fully absorb.

The landscape photography is stunning, especially in the chapter divisions, some of which include double-page spreads of vineyards and wineries in all seasons. Two particularly striking examples are the photographs of snow-covered terraces in Lavaux, Switzerland and a view of the changing leaves of Cahors in Southwest France. Even the caption says, "all vineyards are photogenic in autumn."

Some of the major updates include a much more extended look at maps and wine making regions in the U.S. along with information about China and Japan’s foray into wine making. Also, costal Croatia makes an appearance for the first time. The Atlas acknowledges the very recent transition of France’s AOC quality designation to the European Union’s AOP. All are important facts if you plan to take your wine education to the next step.

Many regions are touted as great wine travel destinations, and the Atlas has no shortage of suggestions for your next viticulture expedition. Tourism is an integral part of the wine business not only to promote the wines that are being made in the region, but also for the economy of winemaking. Destinations are not limited to Italy, France and California. How about Hungary, Greece or New York’s Finger Lakes?

Just as in wine, preference can be totally subjective, and there are a plethora of wine reference books out there: Jancis Robinson’s own "Oxford Companion to Wine" (an alphabetical wine reference dictionary very useful for advanced study of wine); "Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia," which has a more traditional and old-fashioned feel; and "Wine Bible," which hasn’t been updated since 2000, all have their own cult followings.

"The World Atlas of Wine" offers a more modern and approachable take on the world of wine and is the most current, comprehensive and complete compilation. Wine is ever changing, and I’m sure that Johnson and Robinson are already working on the next edition, which will undoubtedly mention winemaking in some yet-to-be-unearthed locale. Fortunately, there will be oenophiles - glasses in hand - ready to partake in their discoveries.

Kristen Siebecker is a Certifed Sommelier and lover of cocktails. She is the co-host of I Feel Vine, a weekly podcast about the power of positive drinking. She also hosts recreational wine classes under the title, Popping Your Cork. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @WineWithKristen.


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