If you're planning on heading to the nearest bookshop to snatch a copy of British wine writer and Financial Times columnist Jancis Robinson's new "Wine Grapes" as a gift for an oenophile friend, you'll need a little red wagon. Or a sherpa.
The massive (and quite definitive) tome weighs in at more than 6½ pounds on my bathroom scale. But its 1,280 pages includes everything any wine lover will need to stump opponents in wine trivia games, ace the Master Sommelier test and exponentially increase his or her knowledge of ampelography (the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines).
Written with Master of Wine Julia Harding and grape DNA profiling expert José Vouillamoz, the book covers some 1,368 grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon gets some nine pages, Pinot Noir even more, including a Pinot Pedigree Chart to study.
But the really juicy bits are the histories and definitions of obscure grapes, such as Feteasca Alba, meaning "white young girl," "an old variety that probably originates in the historic region of Moldavia ..." Who could expound on the difference between that and Feteasca Neagra and Feteasca Regala? Or name the Russian variety used to make a nutmeg-flavured red wine? Or "the Middle Eastern variety with gigantic bunches that are said to resemble the heavy cluster brought back from Canaan by Moses' spies?" The reader of this book, that's who.
A delightful reference to set alongside the "New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary" and the "World Atlas of Wine."
I'm just wondering when we can expect the wine grapes flash cards?
"Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours" by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz; Ecco, $175.