GENEVA, SWITZERLAND / AMONG THE VINES – Wine Grapes, an encyclopedic and historic guide to 1,368 wine grape varieties, is notching up awards at a remarkable pace, with the latest just announced: the inaugural Fortnum & Mason award for a Drink Book, given to authors Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz Tuesday 14 May. The book was published in October 2012.
Vouillamoz is well known in Switzerland in particular for his work in determining that canton Vaud is the birthplace of Chasselas, a grape whose zenith as a wine grape (it’s often a table grape in France and Italy) is reached in Switzerland. (see my article on Chasselas, featuring his presentation to the Mémoire des Vins Suisse group in 2011).
E-book coming soon
Another excellent bit of good news has been released by publisher Penguin, that the heavy tome – it weighs several kilos despite onion-skin style paper – which costs £120 for the cloth-bound hardback in slipcase, will have an e-version, price to be announced.
The e-book is scheduled to come out in September 2013.
The book has won four other major awards:
James Beard Foundation Book Awards; Best Beverage Book of 2012 (US – 3 May)
André Simon Awards; Best Drinks Book of 2012 (UK – 15 March)
Gourmand World Cookbook Awards; Best Drinks Book of 2012 (elected to Hall of Fame) (Intl, awarded in Paris – 23 Feb)
Wine & Spirits Magazine; Best Drinks Book of 2012 (US – Nov 2012)
The book provides a wealth of up-to-date information on grape varieties, from their origins to how they grow, where they are planted, how their wines taste.
It features information on grape genetics, the specialty of Vouillamoz, who is Swiss, some of them published for the first time in the book. It includes beautiful century-old ampelographic illustrations. Jancis Robinson is the writer, Julia Harding, the researcher (she is a Master of Wine), with botanist and grape geneticist José Vouillamoz providing the scientific expertise.
My personal assessment of the book
I’ve been using the book since October and it is, quite simply, excellent. It is readable, a wonderful resource and, most importantly for anyone who cares about precision, many of the old and outstanding questions about the history of grape varieties are answered, thanks to genetic research.
A slightly dazed José Vouillamoz talked to me about the book shortly after it came out and he described its arrival as very much like a birthing process, after several years of gestation. And the book is indeed a behemoth in the world of wine writing, for its bulk but also its significance.
The authors’ work paid off: if there are any complaints they are niggling – the binding is annoying for a couple of pages, but given the size, I’m not surprised.
I didn’t expect to find myself sitting down and simply reading pages in the book for the pleasure of it, but that is in fact the case.
I can recommend it as a gift for any real wine-lover, without reservation.