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“Next time, can you ask them to send a paperback?” Thus spake my wonderful postman after handing me The World Atlas of Wine, by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. And I couldn’t blame him: at 2.25kg, this volume is no joke when added to an already-full postbag.
The first edition of WAW was published a frightening 42 years ago, in 1971. It is scarcely less frightening that the third edition, the first wine book I ever owned, was published in 1985. When Mr Postman brought the new edition, the seventh, I got out the original and set them side by side.
The comparison was eye-opening for reasons of size alone. The 1985 edition is a full 100 pages shorter than the new one – and a veritable featherweight, just 1.65kg. And it makes you see just how much the world of wine has changed. In 1985, the New World had 28 pages and New Zealand was summed up in a sidebar the size of a credit card. Now the New World has 92 pages (excluding Asia), 7 of them devoted to New Zealand.
If you want to expand your wine knowledge without moving too far into the realms of geekery, and can only buy one book, buy this one. It’s worth the cover price for the maps alone, but the text, extensively revised since the last edition in 2007, carries more weight of authority than ever.
Such a big book leaves little space for wine, so: here are two. One comes from an area unmentioned in the WAW: Puy de Dôme Pinot Noir 2011, Cave de Saint Verny, from a mountainous area that’s officially part of the Loire but is really in the Auvergne. Supple, unoaked, bright Pinot character. Available from a number of independents and the Wine Society, but probably cheapest at Majestic (£8.99 when you buy two bottles).
Wine two is a house favourite chez Ehrlich. The new WAW gives little space or thought to the wines of La Mancha, but Castillo La Paz Tempranillo/Syrah 2011 (Waitrose, £7.99) is an example of what this vast area can do. Big and spicy, autumnal wine par excellence.