In 1971, when Hugh Johnson released the first edition of The World Atlas of Wine, he would have had very little idea that by its 8th edition he would have teamed up with Jancis Robinson and sold over 4.7 million copies worldwide.
Today, this comprehensive guide is a collector’s item for any wine aficionado, and the quintessential wine bible for a professional. The magic is in its ease of reading. Jancis’s art of creating word-pictures of places, and Hugh’s quirkiness is a brilliant marriage. Since its last update in 2014, the wine world has evolved. The new edition has added 20 new maps to the 230 already featured, some so precise that they indicate regional soil characteristics, colour-coded to describe their finer details, and are even presented in 3D to show the effect of air currants, water bodies nearby, vineyard elevation, etc.
The maps along with the editorial text succinctly explain the variety of factors responsible for high quality grapes, and, thus, the quality of the wine. Informative summaries in boxes for every region are relevant and to the point. This information is what helps the consumer to make smarter drinking
decisions, and enables the professional to make more informed evaluations and sales.
Another new element is the inclusion of the impact of climate change and its influences on the cost of a wine. Climate change has made some lesser-known regions and countries gain greater relevance. Considering this, special pages are devoted to St Helena, British Columbia, Uruguay, Brazil, Lebanon, Israel, and Cyprus. It has also strengthened the demand and need to further understand some regions.
Thus, sections on Alentejo, Central Coast, Chile, Yarra Valley, Marlborough, and China have been expanded. By doing so, a statement has been made. These countries and regions will be putting more and more bottles on our tables in times to come.
The new edition has a more attractive feel from the cover on. Its jacket has a more geographic appearance. It comes in a teal green and red cover; green reminding us of lush vineyards, and red displaying the hues of what’s in our glasses. Pictures are more interactive and practical, with special inclusions from newer countries like China and Japan. The initial chapters, that seem repetitive for the pros, have more colour added to them. Mock labels, bottle opening tips, the wine tasting process, and other infographics have Jancis and Hugh in them, giving the infographics in a more personalised feel.
Over all, the book is a delight. To explain the world of wines in 417 pages is an academic landmark, a major achievement in its own right. The World Atlas of Wine is the go-to guide for any service professional or wine student. Its inclusion of practical issues and its ability to explain the financial value of a plot, region, wine, or estate is unique. My only complaint about the book is the India coverage. Although up-to-date information and photos were shared, no maps were available. We’ll have to wait another few years and keep our fingers crossed that there is sufficient viticultural and organoleptic progress in India plus cartographic support to merit greater coverage.