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Dec 20, 2012 11:03 AM

"Wine Grapes" by Jancis Robinson et al.


- entries for 1,368 grape varieties (not counting synonyms)

- latest information, not available elsewhere

- some excellent graphics


- It's expensive: the list price is $175 and the cheapest price I found was $99 including shipping.

- The index doesn't boldface the main entries for "synonyms." It would have taken me five or ten minutes to find the Zinfandel entry if I hadn't read a review of the book that mentioned that it's listed as a synonym for Tribidrag.

- Genetically simliar grapes are listed in the same entry, even when clonal variations make them radically different (e.g. "Pinot" includes Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, etc.).

It's a great book, but I'm looking forward to the second edition.

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  1. Hi Robert. I replied to the email you sent to last night but I'd like to try to clarify for others the way the index works.

    Always in the back of our minds when we were writing was how to make things easy for readers to find, not just to put grape varieties under subheadings that might not seem obvious. But we also wanted to use as prime names, the name of a variety in its region of origin (as long as it is still grown there). Which is why Zinfandel and Primitivo, for example, come under Tribidrag, and why Grenache comes under Garnacha, etc.

    So, to take your example. The entries are alphabetically listed and if you look under Z, you find what we call a signpost entry, ie: 'Zinfandel. See Tribidrag'.

    As a back-up and for any instances where the variety seemed too obscure to warrant a signpost entry (the book is big enough as it is at 1,240 pp), the index also makes two things clear. Any page reference in bold indicates a main entry. Any page reference in italics indicates the first use of a synonym (eg Zinfandel or Primitivo) in its main entry (Tribidrag in this instance). This use of bold and italics is explained at the start of the index so I appreciate it may be missed.

    So if you look up Zinfandel in the index, the page number 1085 is in italics, indicating that this is where it is found in its main entry (even though the heading of the entry is Tribidrag not Zinfandel).

    As you can see, this takes a lot longer to explain than to do. I would expect most people simply to look under Z in the alphabetical order and find the signpost entry, which takes a lot less than 5 or 10 minutes.

    5 Replies
    1. re: JuliaHarding

      Julia, thank you for posting here -- you and your co-authors have indeed written a masterpiece, and I have been most impressed so far.

      To be honest, I hadn't noticed the Zinfandel-under-Tribidrag thing . . . but I haven't had cause to look up Zin yet. Clearly Jancis Robinson's "Vines, Grapes, and Wines" needed an update since it came out in 1986, and while I realize this is a completely different book, the two *are* linked (at least in my own mind). I pre-ordered it, and have had it for quite some time now. I remain in awe of the enormity of the undertaking and the accomplishment. However . . .

      There is a point at which the "prime name" thing becomes a bit silly. The problem with your illustration (Grenache ---> Garnacha) is that it makes sense. The Zinfandel --->Tribidrag does not. As a former wine writer-author-editor myself, I understand the idea of consistency-of-format, but the grape's prime name has become Zinfandel . . . if, in no other way, through usage.

      (How many wines labeled -- on the front or back -- "Tribidrag" have you, or Jancis, or José had? I've been in the wine trade since 1969, and I haven't had a single one!)

      In other words, at some point LOGIC has to play a role here (I would think).

      Be that as it may, again -- thank you for posting here, and thank all three of you for the tremendous accomplishment you have achieved.

      Jason Brandt Lewis

      1. re: zin1953

        Hi Jason. I can understand your comments on our choice of Tribidrag, particularly in relation to what is on labels, but if we had looked only at labels, then which country would we have looked in? Not just for this variety but for so many varieties around the world that are planted in more than one country and labelled with one of any number of synonyms. Why choose Zinfandel over Primitivo, for example (I suppose you might on the basis of area planted)?

        We really did agonise over making the book as useful and accessible as possible but we had to establish some general principles that could be followed and understood. Using the name used in the region of origin also respects that origin.

        1. re: JuliaHarding

          Thank you for a wonderful, and useful volume.

          The one thing that I have observed, along with Robert & Jason, is that it is very highly Euro-centric, and pushes anything (like the Zinfandel) in the US to the "back of the book," with few references to such. Maybe that is the way it should be, but how many cases of Tribidrag, worldwide, are produced vs the number of cases of Zinfandel, in the US?

          While geo-centricity plays a big role, it should not do so, at the exclusion of the US, or other producing areas.

          Just an observation,


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I think the only thing produced from Tribidrag in living memory is DNA test results.

      2. re: JuliaHarding

        I didn't see the italics in the index. The font's pretty small.

        Who grows Tribidrag? I read that Crljenak Kaštelanski was no longer grown in Croatia until researchers tracing the origin of Zinfandel found some in an abandoned vineyard and Zlatan grew some.

      3. I've changed my mind about Tribidrag. At first I thought it was a weird editorial choice. Now I think it's a sound editorial choice emphasizing the variety's odd history that ended up with it thriving in California and Puglia and almost extinct in its original home. The variety is called Crljenak kaštelanski in the area where it has been commercially revived, but per the book that name means "red wine of Kaštela," and the evidence suggests the variety's point of origin is nearby but not there.

        1. The introduction cleared up my confusion about how different clones of a single grape variety could be so different when their DNA was the same: it's not. There are minor differences due to mutations.

          1. I looked at this book and had several problems, but I can't remember all of them,.
            One annoying one was the graphics were too hard to read. The fonts did not contrast sufficiently with the color of the paper.
            Lots of good information, but for expensive as it is, the graphics should be better.

            1. I got the answer, or one answer, to my question, why are Mt. Etna reds so variable?

              The two grape varieties specified by the DOC regulations, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, are actually six or more different varieties, the rest of which were at the time of writing unidentified.