Review: The World Atlas of Wine – 8th Edition

In 1971, when Hugh Johnson released the first edition of The World Atlas of Wine, he would’ve had very little idea that by its 8th edition he would’ve teamed with Jancis Robinson and sold over 4.7 million copies worldwide. Today, it’s effortlessly claimed as a collectors’ item for any wine aficionado, and a quintessential guidebook for professionals. It’s the ease to understand its language that does the magic. Jancis’s art of drawing a visual of a place, and Hugh’s quirk is a brilliant marriage.


Since its last update in 2014, the wine world has evolved. The new addition has 20 totally new maps of its 230. Some even precise to its soil characteristics, colour-coded to understand finer details, and even presented in 3D to show the effect of air currants, water bodies nearby, vineyard elevation, etc. These maps, alongside the editorial information, succinctly explain the variety of quality factors that are responsible for high quality grapes, and, thus, the quality of the wine. Informative summary in boxes for every region is relevant and on point. This information is what makes a consumer make smarter drinking decisions, and enables the professional in making more informed sales.


Another element that can be noticed is the inclusion of climate change impacts, and their influences on the financials of a wine. Climate change has made some lesser known regions or country gather more 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, Alentejo, Central Coast, Chile, Yarra Valley, Marlborough, and China have been further expanded. By doing so, a statement has been made. These countries and regions will be putting more and more bottles on our tables in the times to come.


The new edition has a more attractive feel from the cover on. Its jacket has a more geographic feel. It comes in a green and a red cover, green reminds one of lush vineyards, and the red displays the hues of what fills our glasses. Pictures are more interactive and practical, with special inclusion from newer countries like China and Japan. The initial chapters, that seem repetitive for the pros, have more colours added to them. Mock labels, bottle opening steps, wine tasting process, and other infographics have Jancis and Hugh in them, giving them a more personalised and quirky feel.

Over all, the book is a delight. To explain the world of wines in 417 pages is an academic landmark, a genius in its own regard. The World Atlas of Wine is the go-to guide for any service professional or a wine student. Its inclusion of practical issues, ability to explain financial value of a plot, region, wine, or a wine house is unique. My only complaint from the book is India’s exclusion. We’ll have to wait another few years and keep our fingers crossed even tighter, and hope that we make it on the next cut.


First Published in Sommelier India Wine Magazine in March 2020

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