This book is a gem; a cliche, I know, but it has never seemed more appropriate. I "discovered" South West France only six years ago and immediately fell in love with the area. Geographically, the book covers a quarter of France and the diversity of wines grown in the region justifies a book of this size, (pp 356). Oz Clarke and others cover SW France in two or three pages most of which are covered in photographs. SW France does not contain the Classic wine growing areas like Burgundy or Beaujolais, etc, but hidden away in the region are wines every bit as good and generally less expensive, this book leads you to them. Paul Strang has visited hundreds of vineyards and has spoken to the growers. Each one has a story to tell about the history of the region the traditional methods unique to the area or even an individual wine as well as their concerns and ambitions for the industry. Each chapter deals with a specific area and is supported by maps locating vineyards. The black and white reproduction of the maps is less than clear and is the only thing that spoils a perfect volume. Functionally the book works on a number of levels. I use it when planning trips and holidays. Last year (2001) Irrouleguy, Bearn and then on to Gaillac. Next i carry it with me in France and use it as a catalogue for buying wines to bring home, (Domaine Arretxea and Robert Plageoles). Finally, when I am back at home it serves as a travelogue and I frequently dip into it to recall the places we went to and people we met. Wonderful!
This edition is now well out of date, the advances in winemaking over the last 10 years have transformed the scene in SW France. Fortunately PS has updated the book and I recommend that you seek out the new version (which I thoroughly recommend) rather than buy this one.