First, a confession. I love maps. The first extra application I installed on my handheld PDA was Google Maps. I also drive this magazine's art department nuts with my corrections for maps we publish, as in, "No, this dot should be about 1/8 inch to the right, and just a tad down."
No doubt, some psychologist could explain my fascination with maps. Maybe it was something that happened in my childhood. But I just go with it, because it helps in my job, particularly when I try to get a handle on wine regions.
First time I visited Italy, back in the 1980s, I found my favorite wine region map, the free one published by the Chianti Classico Consorzio. It not only showed all the roads, even the little dirt roads that wound through the hills, but placed all the wineries and indicated the hills and valleys.
For me, ideal wine maps not only show the lay of the land, including roads, hills, valleys and streams, but locate wineries and vineyards, and boundaries of regions and sub-regions. In maps that cover several regions, climate information can explain differences among regions that may seem relatively close.
Among my favorite wine books are the wine atlases by Hugh Johnson (now done by Jancis Robinson), Oz Clarke and James Halliday, which do all of that. Vinmaps sells an excellent series of individual maps, some covering entire countries and others zooming in with extraordinary detail on vineyard sites in several regions in California, Oregon and Washington.
The latest approach to wine mapping hit my desk recently from Max Allen, one of Australia's leading wine writers. He writes for the Weekend Australian and Australian Gourmet Traveller, among others. His two-sided Wine Map of Victoria covers the entire state on one side, the other focusing more tightly on the regions nearest Melbourne, where Allen lives (and visitors to Australia are more likely to go). A separate inset maps rainfall, sunshine and average January temperatures (usually the hottest month in the southern hemisphere) by region, and which have the most Chardonnay, or PInot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz and Riesling planted.
The map does an excellent job of showing the contours of the land and where the various appellations fit. Victoria's best known include Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Heathcote, Macedon, Rutherglen and Pyrenees. Allen pinpoints the winery locations and writes several paragraphs for the edge of the map about each region, covering the climate, history and best grapes. It's virtually a fold-out atlas. Only the specific vineyard locations are missing (a failing of virtually every Australia map I've seen).
The two-sided map (38 1/2 inches by 28 3/4 inches) is not sold in the U.S., but inveterate Australophiles and map lovers can order it online for about $18 U.S. from www.australianwinemaps.com.
Scott Oneil — UT — November 30, 2007 3:51am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions