This book was first written in 1986, and hasn’t been updated since 1992, so it’s a little outdated — and that’s a shame.
However, it is still an excellent reference for those interested in learning more about different types of grapes, and at less than twenty bucks is a bargain compared to the newer and shinier books available.
Do not buy this book if you want to see beautiful photography — there isn’t any. All the images are hand-drawn illustrations, mostly of wine maps and grape bunches (including leaves). DO buy this book if you are an intellectual, and looking for a “textbook” on grapes. Author Jancis Robinson — a Master of Wine and one of the most respected wine educators in the world — does a great job of presenting hard facts intertwined with bits of opinion in this remarkably researched book. No grape goes unturned, as Robinson describes nearly every vine variety on the planet, and its relationship to the soils and regions.
Though it would be nice to see a new edition of this wine book, it has several timeless qualities. The first, 38-page chapter (“Where Grapes Grow and Why”) is fundamental to understanding wine and essential reading for anyone looking to further their wine education. Along the same vein (or vine?), Robinson fully profiles the “classic” grape varieties, going into great detail regarding history, development, and characteristics of each.
Bottom line — this is will be somewhat dry for those looking for light reading and pretty pictures, but is an excellent reference for people who are serious about furthering their wine education and getting a more intellectual understanding of wine.