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In love with wine maps?

Posted by Stephen Meuse  November 22, 2011 02:23 PM

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IMG_4978.JPG The handsome map of Burgundy's Cotes de Nuits you see at right is hung on the wall behind my desk. It's not that I have frequent need to refer to it - I just enjoy looking at it. Though nearly five feet long and two wide, I occasionally hover over it with a magnifying glass. Up close it looks as you see it below. 


Vineyards have whimsical names here - some in indecipherable local patois, others readily translatable as The Steps of the Cat, Behind the Oven, The High Walls.

If you love wine maps, as I do, you find the ones provided in books woefully inadequate.  Even so standard a reference work as Hugh Johnson's (now Jancis Robinson's) World Atlas of Wine is shockingly lacking in this department. It's maps are perennially tiny, hard to read, and aesthetically unrewarding.

One technique I've experimented with is viewing vineyard areas via Google Earth, where you can get something like the view below. 

The drawback is that you really need another map to tell what you're looking at.For example, I need my big wall map or some other help to give shape to the vineyard that's known as Clos de Vougeot, which I've outlined in red in the next image. Its lower boundary follows the shoulder of Route Nationale 74. 

There are lots of interesting things you can do in Google Earth once you've homed in on a place of interest. In the image below, the program displays the sun's illumination of the slope on August 18, 2011 at 5:31 a.m. local time. 

You can see how the rays of the morning sun strike the highest elevations first, showing in a dramatic way (impossible for a contour map) how the lower parts of the slope are still in deep darkness at this early hour.

A friend in San Francisco recently sent me a link to a site selling wine maps that included one that appears to have been designed by Charlie of the MTA, below left.

It's a bit strange at first, but a closer look reveals some very nice detail, as this view of bits of the Cotes Chalonnaise and northern Rhone show.cv6.JPG

I also like their more conventional maps of France, Italy, the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and California quite a bit. At 24" X 36" these are all large format things, which means they can squeeze quite a lot of information into them. In these maps, too the detail is presented in more stylized way.  Note the line of latitude that references a corresponding European location.  

It seems to me it's long past time for some clever individual to leverage Google Earth and a few other applications to provide us with interactive, 3D maps of the world's wine regions we could access from anywhere on iPads and other tablets. 

Why Mitchell Beazley, the publisher of the aforementioned wine atlas hasn't already made the leap to an eBook that would offer features like this is a mystery to me.  How about it, M-B?

Ellen Bhang

About By the Glass

Ellen Bhang writes about food and wine and reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe. Wine is the focus of her degree in the Gastronomy master's program at Boston University. She can be reached at


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