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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

on 4 July 2006
If you are expecting an autobiography of Hugh Johnson, you'll be disappointed - this is his jottings/ramblings on wine and anything biographical is almost coincidental. It is not his life story. It is, of course, beautifully written and from this aspect streets ahead of his competitors. This is not a book full of gobs of blockbuster fruit flavours, but of understated, evocative prose. But at times it does teeter on the brink of becoming pompous - all those black tie dinners with the wine aristocracy drinking impossibly ancient bottles, and endless comments on the very old bottles he has in his almost medieval cellar at his mansionly home. On the subject of Robert Parker he is also pretty outspoken, and perhaps needlessly so, and it begins to smack a little of jealous snobbery. If the wine world is full of sheep, perhaps not all the blame should be heaped upon the anointed leader. But just as the book becomes a bit too crusty, he gets back to the real business, and there is nobody who writes better about wines and travels amidst the vineyards.
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Putting the brilliant wine writers Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson together to update the 4th edition of Hugh Johnson's classic work was an inspired choice. Each is superb on her or his own. Together, they are stunning in this, their first collaboration!
Whether you want to give a wonderful gift or simply to have a great wine reference, this book is an outstanding choice. The World Atlas of Wine will deepen your pleasure in wines you enjoy, and guide you to wonderful visits to outstanding vineyards and wineries during your travels. Hopefully, your tasting experiences will benefit as a result!
If you do not know the predecessor works, let me describe the book's layout. It begins with brief sections on the history of wine; basic facts about the influence of soil, temperature, varietals, wines, wine-making, storage, serving, and tasting; and has helpful information about how to read labels and interpret technical terms.
The heart of the book comes in individual essays about wine-growing regions around the world. These are very complete. France has 58 sections, Italy has 18, Germany shares 14, the United States is covered by 12, Spain is represented by 8, Australia has 7, Portugal has 6. Many other countries are covered as well, including parts of the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, North Africa, South America, and smaller countries in Europe.
Each individual wine-growing region is organized around an updated map. For this 5th edition, 148 maps were redrawn from the 4th, and 30 new maps were added. These maps show where the major wineries are, different vineyards, qualities of grapes, altitudes, major roads, and locations is cities within the area. In some cases, these maps are also supplemented by detailed examples of soil differences and temperature gradients. Each region has at least one beautiful color photograph to give you a sense of the geography. Within the accompanying essay is a detailed discussion of how the locale affects the taste and qualities of the wines that are produced there.
Anyone will find themselves learning a lot from this atlas. Even if you were familiar with a region ten years ago, chances are that it has changed. The atlas will bring you up-to-date. In addition, you can learn about new regions and wineries whose wines may interest you.
A nice feature of the book is a bound ribbon for marking your place.
Considering the remarkable quality of the contents and reproduction of the maps and images, this book is extremely fairly priced.
The predecessor four editions have sold 3.5 million copies over the last 30 years. I think we can safely assume that this volume will sell in the millions as well. If you already own the 4th edition, you would be well advised to buy this one also.
Where else can understanding local conditions help you appreciate more about what is going on? How can you gain that experience and knowledge?
Let curiosity pull you forth from old habits . . . into better ones!
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on 20 March 2012
This edition of Hugh Johnson's biography falls inconveniently between two types of book : too big for the library shelf but too small for the coffee table ! Gloriously illustrated, very well written in a semi-colloquial style, it is like being taken by a favorite Uncle round his favoured haunts. There is far more about wine than there is about HJ himself although the reader may glean much information about the author inasmuch as he wears his preferences on his sleeve; for example the pleasure that a particular wine may bring in pleasant circumstances - drinking in congenial company out in the garden under an apple tree, or at a restaurant table in view of the sea - often bears no relationship to cost or ranking. This is extremely good news for most of us who do not have cellars to age wine for decades, nor the inclination to overspend on first growth clarets and "Grand Cru" Burgundies. He also declares a penchant for crisp white wines, and in particular believes that Reisling has been much under-rated over the years. This is surely a matter of one man's opinion.

I do not feel qualified to comment on his criticisms of Robert Parker's percentages of perfection. Perhaps they do represent a lazy man's best chances of obtaining good wine, although seldom best value for money. Like Johnson, I would always look further afield, hoping to find something special that Parker's steamroller overlooked. I believe there is always an element of personality in any assessment of wine, however scientific the approach may be, and that simply working from the average does not always help an individual to find his or her best choice.

This book is an excellent companion for wine-buffs of whatever distinction, but if I had to have but one volume in the same price range to keep me informed it would not be this but the latest edition of Hugh Johnson's outstanding "Wine Atlas of the World" written in collaboration with Jancis Robinson. Actually... I believe it is worth owning both !
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on 16 November 2006
One of the first books I bought about wine was The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and the latest edition is even better. It was at its conception, and it remains, a fantastic concoction of information, wine labels, descriptions, and photos, all surrounding a map of a specific region or location. It does not really provide specific suggestions or scores on particular wines, but nevertheless it is a great read on a winters evening. The one abiding memory I have of this book is the way it conveyed to me the idea that wine can be made from a fantastic variety of grape and is produced in an enormous number of places and not just a few select locations in France (on a winters evening you can travel from Bergerac, through the Valais, to Stellenbosch).
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on 17 March 2002
Pick pretty much any wine from the top quality racks of your local supermarket, and chances are you will be able to find the exact spot where it's made, and read some comments about it in this atlas. The maps are just superb. I have renewed my interest in the whole art of wine appreciation from this one book. Highly recommended.
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on 4 March 2007
This is a great reference book for any wine lover no matter their level of expertise.

The depth of detail is perfectly balanced by the book's easily accessible style of writing which means that, as your knowledge of wine develops, the book still manages to inform.

This work deals not only with wine but also the effect of the "terroir" from which it comes thus giving a really comprehensive understanding of the art of wine.

The book is a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys a glass & wants to expand their knowledge; it's also an essential reference point for anyone wishing to have a career in wine.
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on 8 June 2003
This really is an excellent publication. As someone who has recently taken up an interest in the subject, I found the book to be a valuable introduction to the geographical origins and characteristics of the world's wines. The first section takes you through the genreal aspects of wine histrory, winemaking , tasting , grape varieties etc. Tbe rest of the book covers the world's foremost wine producing regions and describes each area in some detail.
The focus of the book is the regions ( this is an atlas after all .
The book quality is excellent... wonderful maps , good photos and detailed illustrations.
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on 1 September 2015
This was a perfect present for a French friend and wine enthusiast who, despite the fact that he has very little English, was delighted with the mapping and immediately set to checking his 'cave' of wines to see which were listed. My copy arrived in impeccable condition which was important as it was a gift.
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VINE VOICEon 11 March 2006
Everyone who loves wine loves this book.
I have seen criticisms from other reviewers which are in one sense valid e.g. poor coverage of Austria.
The reality is, it is almost impossible to buy Austrian wine of quality in this country lately, or Hungarian etc etc.
The wine market has changed and until things settle down a bit, this book gives the critical coverage that any wine fan needs for the core historic areas.
The edition of this book that comes in 5 years time will be something that all wine lovers can use but until the world settles itself down, this is the best choice in wine books that you can make
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on 18 March 2016
An interesting & well put together book
So glad o bought it
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