This came from Amazon today. A heavy beast of a book in its seventh edition, this is the third I have owned. As a general guide to any topic for the lay person, it is the standard. Well, maybe that baseball stats book is the standard for somethings but, you know, I am more of a maps man than a numbers man. As if I have to explain that to you! Hugh Johnson has been joined by Jancis Robinson again as editor as she has since the fifth edition. In the foreword he acknowledges she is more the driving force behind this 42 year series of books.
What does the atlas provide to the beer nerd? First, evidence. Anytime you will hear a beer prophet exclaim upon how wine isn't, can't, couldn't, shouldn't compared to beer... well, at least you will, once you have a even a few hours reading, be aware that you are likely listening to a fool or, worse, someone just earning a fee. Second, you will be provided a wealth of analytical devices not often seen in beer and brewing. Degrees of abstraction are employed in mapping as well as text. So, where possible, the scale allows you to see where one might walk to a field. Elsewhere the map may illustrate how far it is to drive from Rochester NY to the Finger Lakes. Topographical lines. Third, you get a bit of botany, history and production techniques. But you also get a bit about how to store, chill, value and enjoy wine from different perspective - including competing ones. You are told to trust yourself as you explore what there is to experience. The text trusts you will have to make your own way, your own decisions - and offers guidance to the traveler.
Then, there are the 331 pages of growing regions from the high and mighty of Bordeaux to the much more modest wines of places like Mexico or Moldova. The volume of data in the form of maps as well as photos, labels, varietals, key tasting elements and a few stars for each zone is stunning until you realize when reading a familiar topic that each is treated only in summary. In the end, you are left with the impression that it is only an introduction, a key to entering the topic. Not the sort of thing that will necessarily set you up for the weekend dinner party so much as the thing that can set off a lifetime's obsession.
So beware. If you are facing a beer shelf of increasingly expensive small single serving bottles you may start to wonder what's over in the next aisle, to wonder how for less per glass a wide range of different sensations are available which can build upon rather than compete with your love of good beer. Or you could beware and never try.