Why We Still Need Dead Trees (August 2019 Wine Product Review Bonus Edition)

image: Amazon.com

The virtual ink is barely dry on the previous edition of a wine product review roundup, and yet I find myself compelled to offer yet another (consider it a bonus?) roundup for the month of August, with the pending release of the 8th Edition of The World Atlas of Wine (Octopus Publishing, 416 pages, about $65).

image: Amazon.com

The Atlas is, of course, the work of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, the former of whom I consider myself a fan-boy of, and the latter of whom I’m fortunate enough to consider an acquaintance (the first time that I met her, in Portugal, she tried to introduce herself to me, at which point I countered with something along the lines of “no, that’s not how this meeting is going to go down; you’re amazing, and I’m an insect!”… real smooth on my part). Its release is always newsworthy in the fine wine world; this is the first major revision to the tome since the 7th Edition back in 2013. it’s widely – and justifiably – considered an essential resource for anyone serious about obtaining fine wine knowledge, and it has no equal in terms of painting portraits of the best of the wine world’s terroir locations. But is it worth shelling out $60-some-odd?…

If you don’t yet own the World Atlas, then yeah, because you are seriously missing out on one of the classics of modern wine references. In terms of upgrade-worthiness, the 8th Edition is a more infographic-heavy release, features all new photographs, a new visual design, several new maps (including soils for the Beaujolais Crus… long overdue, thankyouverymuch…), a few new 3D map inclusions, five map extensions, updated illustrations, and revised text throughout. Interestingly, while this is a larger edition than past releases, the form (while still coffee-table-large) is a bit more compact and (thankfully) lighter.

image: Amazon.com

What I found the most compelling aspect of the new edition, however, is the focus on weather impacts and wine business trends; Robinson and Johnson – arguably the two finest living English language wine writers – turn the steely British gaze of their keen, measured prose squarely on the potentially controversial topics of sustainability, wine fraud, natural wine, orange wines, and climate change, without so much as blinking.

Now, do we still need the World Atlas of Wine in dead-tree form? That’s certainly debatable. I was sent a sample of the book in good, old-fashioned, gloriously-outdated hardcover, and it’s gorgeous. Having said that, there’s a bit of a last-of-a-dying-breed feel to this release, and at this point, it’s practically begging to go digital…


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