The full title is “Wine Grapes: A complete guide to 1,368 wine varieties including their origins and flavours”, by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. For more information and a peak inside, see the winegrapes.org. Don’t worry about the RRP of £120. It is still an expensive book, but I bought mine for under £64 including postage from UKPaperbackshop, who sell through Amazon.
My immediate reaction on receiving the parcel was to be surprised at how light and modestly sized it was. Then I discovered why the book of well over 1,000 pages was so light. With the exception of the colour plates, which are cleverly and unobtrusively bound in, the paper used is thin and light. It is almost bible-like, which is perhaps quite fitting. I found the overall appearance quite beautiful. The typefaces have a classic feel to them, the relatively light weight makes the book easy to use, and the binding works with the paper quality to ensure the book will lie open at any page without any problem at all.
Having enthused so much about the binding and typeface, I feel I need to point out a couple of glitches. Part of at least one grape pedigree diagram is illegible due to the binding. The problem is that the printing goes too far into the spine and it is absolutely impossible to open the book wide enough to make it all visible. All in all, it is a bit of a blow for those readers wanting to know the details of the pedigree of Briana, a “minor but usefully winter-hardy and increasingly popular American hybrid”, but I think I can live without it. (Update: The other pedigree diagrams affected by this problem are Pinot and Prior. All three are available here as PDFs.) Also, the font used for the grape variety name headers could do with some kerning. When I first saw the variety TAUBERSCHWARZ I was wondering if it was two words: TAUBERSCHW ARZ. In this blog, my browser does a lot better job of kerning the WA combination than the book. And while I am at it, I found a spelling mistake – grindchildren. Lest I risk of becoming the Craig Revel Horwood of wine book reviews, the design and attention to detail still gets a 10 from me!
The style of writing is clear and authoritative, with a regular pattern followed throughout the book, nice use of fonts to add meaning, good lookups to access the information, and plenty of references to chase up if you want more information. It is not designed and written to enthuse the casual reader – with the exception of the plates there are no pretty pictures, and boxes on the page design to attract your attention and draw you in. But that is just the way I like it, and if you are not already eagerly seeking information about grapes it is unlikely you would come to this book anyway.
I was especially pleased to see many varieties have a description of the taste of their wines. From a drinker’s perspective this must be the most important information, and in other wine grape books I have often felt short-changed when this is lacking. I just wonder how the tasting information was collated. Like many other things to do with book, it must have been a mammoth task.
As to the quality of the information… who am I to comment? I am prepared to defer to the authors on that issue. I am convinced.