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"Wine Grapes" by Jancis Robinson et al.

pros:

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

- latest information, not available elsewhere

- some excellent graphics

cons:

- 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 www.winegrapes.org 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.

      Cheers,
      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,

          Hunt

          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.

              1. Is this available as an ebook or app or searchable online anywhere?

                It's a little heavy to carry to wine bars and restaurants, which is where I'm most often wanting to look up that sort of stuff.

                15 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  You can join Ms. Robinson's Purple Pages, I suppose, but I have to ask: what benefit do you find from this tome in a restaurant setting?

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Not enough to lug the book around, that's for sure.

                    I frequently use my smartphone to look up grape varieties in a wine I'm drinking or thinking of ordering or buying since I have trouble remembering which are synonyms for each other and so on. Is Ansonica the same as Inzolia or Grillo? Was the old California name for Valdiguie Napa Gamay or Gamay Beaujolais?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      See? This is an example of where you sometimes surprise me. Gamay Beaujolais is a clone of Pinot Noir; Napa Gamay is Valdiguié. Nonetheless, isn't that largely irrelevant now, in that wineries cannot use "Napa Gamay" on their labels, so all you'd find is Valdiguié . . . .

                      As for Ansonica. it's Inzolia, though why I know that, let alone why that's important, escapes me for the moment.

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Yes, but if one is sitting in a tony wine bar, and a bet has been placed, it's nice to know. Right?

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          I didn't realize Tony was a betting man . . .

                          ;^)

                          1. re: zin1953

                            One never knows!

                            Hunt

                            PS - OT here, but where did you dine in Phoenix?

                        2. re: zin1953

                          Before the name changes, I liked Napa Gamay but not Gamay Beaujolais, so when I'm looking at a bottle of Valdiguié it matters to me which we used to call it.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            So, after the name changed, you don't like it anymore?

                            1. re: zin1953

                              I still like Napa Gamay / Valdiguié, at least the Paul Matthews 2010 and 2011.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I think the real question is whether Charbono is actually a decendent of Dolcetto or just a twin of Bonarda? Obviously, I haven't bought the book yet and am still working from her Guide.

                                1. re: ellaystingray

                                  According to Wine Grapes, Jancis Robinson, et. al. -- page 309:

                                  1) Charbono (California) is listed as one of the "principal synonyms" for Douce Noire, as is Bonarda (Argentina).

                                  2) Listed under the category "Varieties commonly mistaken for Douce Noire" are Bonarda Piedmontese, Charbono (Piedmonte), Dolcetto (Piedmonte).

                                  3) Also, " . . . for most of the 20th century, Douce Noire . . . was erroneously identified with Dolcetto Nero from Piedmonte, until careful ampelographic observations and DNA profiling definitely rejected this hypothesis."

                                  4) "Recent DNA profiling has also shown that hte variety cultivated in California under the name Charbono is distinct from the true (but no longer commercially cultivated) Charbono from Piedmonte, and identical to Douce Noire."

                                  5) "In Argentina, DNA profiling has established that the variety known there as Bonarda . . . is identical to neither the Italian Bonarda Piedmontese nor any of the five other distinct varieties that are misleadingly called Bonarda in Italy becasue it is in fact identical to Douce Noire."

                                  Hope that helps . . .

                                  1. re: ellaystingray

                                    Per the book, Charbono is actually the Savoie variety Douce Noir known as Corbeau elsewhere in France and Bonarda in Argentina.

                                    True Bonarda Piemontese is rare (Ricci "El Matt" is the real thing), most Italian wines labeled Bonarda are actually Croatina or Uva Rara.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      Thanks guys. For background, I just had the Tofanelli Charbono 2005 and it was good, not amazing, but a fun wine. It reminded me of quick little note from the 1996 Guide that Galet suggested in might be Dolcetto (as opposed to Alcalde). That made me think of the emphatic declaration of ~15? years ago by the Italians that Zinfandel was NOT related to Primativo...and we know how that all turned out.

                                      So I do appreciate a serious response to what could have been read as a flippant post. Douce Noir it is. For now.

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Robert

                        It's already showing as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.co.uk with a pub date of 13 March. KIndle version is not currently listed on Amazon.com but - as per the physical book came out first in UK I expect it will soon show on .com.

                        1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                          The Kindle edition has been pushed out to July 4.

                          http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wine-Grapes-v...

                          http://www.amazon.com/Wine-Grapes-var...

                      3. In my early 20s, when I was first starting to drink wine and only getting some idea of reds, I asked Vern Singleton for a recommendation for a white wine. "Wente Gray Riesling," he said. That's long extinct, and a few years ago I read somewhere that it was Sauvignon Vert.

                        Today I find that it's the suddenly trendy Trousseau Gris.

                        1. I've changed my mind again about the Tribidrag choice. Every time they mention it they have to say "Tribidrag (Zinfandel)." And if they were consistent, Pinot Noir would be listed under Morillon.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Well, as I said earlier, I understand the IDEA behind the "prime name" concept, but I would have probably opted for "most common usage" and/or "total acreage." Occasionally it might be a conflict (e.g.: Garnacha vs. Grenache), but by-and-large it *should* work out.

                            Were the "prime name" printed in, say, boldface-and-BLUE ink (as opposed to reddish or greenish, for black and white grapes), it would certainly stand out. Granted an additional color of ink would increase publication costs, but with a book this expensive (and thorough) to begin with, I don't anyone would have seriously objected.

                          2. Interesting criticism of "Wine Grapes" from Fringe Wine blog:
                            http://fringewine.blogspot.com/2012/1...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: celestialmundane

                              Seems true that they blurred the line between published and private research.

                              The second edition should be significantly improved if they act on such informed criticism.