“The World Atlas of Wine – 7th Edition” by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

The 7th Edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson ~ Publication date: 7th October 2013, by Mitchell Beazley {an imprint of Octopus Books} Hardback £40.00

Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine first came out as long ago as 1971, and the 4th edition which I bought when it came out in 1994 has been an often consulted and reliable friend throughout the intervening nearly twenty years. Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine first came out in 1994, but it’s the (current) Third Edition of 2006 which has been another, rather different, but equally reliable friend for about seven years.

So, the teaming up of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson for each edition of The World Atlas of Wine since 2001 represents a dream team for wine enthusiasts.  I was tempted to call them the Doyen and Doyenne of British Wine Writers but The Times has put it rather more appropriately in calling them the Bordeaux and Burgundy of Wine Writers.

Why, then, would I unhesitatingly recommend readers of The Foodie Bugle to invest in the new 7th Edition of The World Atlas of Wine?  The essential format of the book is a winner, and fortunately, this has not been tampered with materially since its inception.  To call the new 7th Edition “an old friend with a face-lift” would not be right as it would imply that the underlying concept had aged, which it has not.

It is, truly, an atlas.  Thus, at its heart are seriously good detailed maps of where wine is grown and produced worldwide, organised into chapters by country and regions, with detailed sub-divisions for the more important wine producing countries, and in many instances, you can see the more important individual estates on the maps.  If you are drinking a wine that knocks your socks off, it adds to the frisson to be able to put your finger on it on a map… In the accompanying texts, which are succinct and readable, after introductions on key attributes and trends for each region, the wines are described, along with how geological and climatic influences affect their style and so on, and the texts and maps are shot through with evocative photographs as well as reproductions of some of the more important wine labels of the region.  There is also invaluable guidance for the uninitiated on how to make sense of the otherwise bizarre information on wine labels.

The introductory chapters (before the Atlas proper) consist of easily digestible but informative and authoritative units of mostly single or double page spreads on the history of wine, grape varieties, how wine is made, how to serve, store and taste wine, and so on.

A word about what the World Atlas of Wine does not do, and how it contrasts with other books on wine which are available.  As I have said, it is an atlas, organised geographically, in contrast to, for example, The Oxford Companion to Wine, which is alphabetically organised.  Neither the World Atlas of Wine nor The Oxford Companion to Wine contain detailed information on individual vintages, nor on wine and food matches, for which you are best served by one of the annually updated pocket wine books, of which the best are those respectively by Hugh Johnson and Oz Clarke.   The former (like his World Atlas of Wine) is organised by geography, the latter alphabetically.  Between these two annual pocket books, Oz Clarke has generally a more colloquial and genial style but Hugh Johnson is not without the occasional flashes of dry wit: I particularly like his comment in the wine and food matches section, in the context of the notorious difficulty of matching eggs with wine: “As a last resort (my italics…) I can bring myself to drink Champagne with scrambled eggs”…

To conclude, the 7th Edition of the World Atlas of Wine is big, authoritative but readable, and beautifully produced.  Given the dynamic nature of the wine industry, it is worth buying a new edition when it is fresh (new editions have historically been spaced by around five to ten years), and investing in addition every year or two in one of the shorter annually updated pocket wine books.

Further Information

Octopus Books  www.octopusbooks.co.uk  Follow on Twitter @Octopus_Books

Hugh Johnson www.tradsdiary.com Follow on Twitter @littlestjames

Jancis Robinson   www.jancisrobinson.com Follow on Twitter @JancisRobinson

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