At 525 pages, this hardcover tome is an ultimate reference book on the wineries of Australia, complete with maps of regions and intimate details of each winery. Broken out by region, the book helps explore what makes a down-under wine truly unique.
The introduction covers general winemaking knowledge - sunshine hours, necessary nutrients for vines, what various grapes need to grow, and so on. Once this general grounding is complete, the book goes on to begins to address the specifics of each wine region in Australia.
Each region has a map showing the locations of sub regions. The region's history is reviewed, with notes about key individuals involved and landmark events. Humorous information, such as the fact that the Barossa Valley was originally named "Barrossa" and lost an R due to later misspellings, can serve for endless after-dinner discussion.
In addition, the key grape varieties used in Australia are also reviewed. A page on Riesling compares how it grows in Geisenheim, Clare Valley, Edna Valley, and Mount Barker. The charts show how rainfall, humidity, sunshine hours, and even altitude vary, and explains how these differences affect the grapes. This is interesting reading for any wine drinker who likes to compare wines from different areas.
The real meat of this book, however, is in its winery details. Each winery in Australia is listed by the region it is located in. The address, phone and FAX # are listed so you can easily contact them. In addition there are details on the area of the vineyards, the winemaker, year of foundation, soil types, grape types grown, and leading wines. If that's not enough for you, there are also notes on hours of operation, recent awards won, and relationships with other wineries.
Wine lovers who are looking for ratings of vintage years, or of ratings of individual wines, will be disappointed. The book does not use stars or wine bottles or any other system to indicate which wineries are worthy of attention and which are not. In a way, this helps to extend the life of the book. Instead of having material which is out of date quickly, its generalistic approach to the wineries in Australia helps it supplement the slim tomes on "Wines of the '90s" which would have this sort of information.
On the downside, the core of the book is rather dry. While the information on the regions and grapes themselves are quite interesting, the pages and pages of cookie-cutter information on the wineries can get tedious to go through. While the founding date of a winery wouldn't change, the other details do, such as the winemaker, owner, key wines produced, and so on. In addition, wineries are coming into being all the time, while other wineries shut down.
I appreciate the book as a reference tome, and keep it on my shelf, but in the age of the Internet I can often find the address of a winery just as easily on the web. I would have greatly enjoyed it if the book also included reviews of the wines, and notes on the quality of vintages. Yes, this would mean the book would have to be reissued every 5 years or so, but I figure I'll have to buy a new version that frequently anyway, to keep up with the most recent information on the wineries listed.