Anyone who has been to a wine shop or a wine tasting is likely familiar with wine maps (and a wine lover’s fondness for them). In wine shops, you’ll see them on display on shelves and as handouts.
So why all the maps? Today, we explain why wine maps are so treasured by wine enthusiasts. We’ll also share where you can get great wine maps of your own or even have one made.
Whether you want a wine map for wine education, as home decor, or to plan a trip, we’ve got the lowdown on all the best wine maps.
Studying wine maps, an integral part of wine education, is more than just knowing the location of wine producing countries; it’s learning about sometimes (often) obscure sub-regions, influential climatic or geographic features such as water and terrain, and even trade routes.
Why All The Wine Maps?
Wine is an agricultural product. With the label on the bottle indicating origin, a bottle of wine evokes a sense of place. Lovers of wine often have a case of wanderlust and scouring over wine maps (as you enjoy a glass of wine from the region) can help satisfy some of that fervor for travel. Or, if you’ve already done a great deal of traveling in wine country, maps can take you back to the rolling hills of Napa Valley or the terraced vineyards of the rustic Rhone Valley.
More so than other agricultural products (there are no asparagus maps, for example), wines carry the characteristics of the places they are grown in their taste, color, and aroma. Wine reflects the quality of the soil and the sunlight of the region, as well as the particular details of elevation and climate. You can learn a lot about a wine by studying the map of where it is grown.
“Maps are key to understanding wine,” says Quentin Sadler, cartographer and head of e-learning for the Wine Scholar Guild, a Washington, DC, organization that offers specialized, regional, wine certifications. “They can show you so much….how the landscape works, what sort of conditions you have and, therefore, what styles of wine to expect.”
“They bring alive the differences: you can see the proximity of the sea, the nearness of the mountains. They put you in that location, you can see how wine regions interact, for instance how the western wines from France’s South-West are closer in style to Bordeaux while the eastern appellations are more similar to the Languedoc. That all makes sense once you study the map.”
Do I Need A Wine Map?
You certainly don’t need a wine map to enjoy wine, but it can definitely be an entertaining and educational accompaniment for your evening pour. In fact, many sommeliers and wine collections have larger collections of wine books and maps than they do of wine.
Generally speaking, the more detail the better. But, says Steve De Long, designer of professional maps and other wine education tools, “while details are important, accuracy is much more so. It’s shocking how many times I’ve seen regions in the wrong place. This is specialized knowledge, but the resources, wine laws, satellite maps of vineyards, etc., do exist to make them accurate.”
Just as in wine, maps come in all manners of styles. As its name implies, those produced by the Wine Scholar Guild are geared toward students seeking specialized knowledge, De Long’s maps can cross over from education into wall art, and others have created coloring books and puzzles to tease the mind into place memory.
What Are The Different Purposes For Wine Maps?
Wine maps are used for a variety of purposes and by different types of users. Here are a few:
- Wine Maps for the Wine Trade – These maps tend to focus on geography, individual vineyards, geology, water, proximity to bodies of water and mountains or valleys (elevation), regulation aspects like the delimitation lines for an AOC (appellation d’ origine controlee) or appellation (e.g. what land is in or out of scope for labeling purposes).
- Wine Maps for Decorating – Wine maps are very colorful and make beautiful art for dining rooms, living rooms, and kitchens. Perfect decor for wine lovers.
- Antique Wine Maps – Antique wine maps are great for collectors and can be found on eBay or Etsy or sometimes even in antique shops.
- Wine Maps for Wine Pros – Wine pros, who may use maps for educating others about wine, tend to rely on the Wine Scholar Guild, De Longe, or The World Atlas of Wine.
- Wine Maps for Travel Planning – Tourist wine maps can be found on the websites of wineries in the region you plan to visit.
Ready to study? Here are a few ways to navigate those wine roads.
Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region by Peter Liem
Keenly focused in the Champagne region, Liem’s elegant boxed set includes a separate set of seven reproduced maps from Louis Larmat originally published in 1944.
De Long Wine Maps
Created by De Longe, an architect, and his designer wife, the maps and map sets cover 24 regions in a variety of formats: individual maps, sets for bookshelves, wall posters, and digital. The highly detailed maps are clearly labeled with text, color coded, and include important geographic details. All are sourced so users can be confident of the information.
Wine Map Book and Wine Regions Coloring Book by Joanie Metivier
The Canadian sommelier and writer developed a duo of study books: one a regional coloring book and the other a more advanced version of 50 blank maps with the theory questions typical of exams.
Wine Folly by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack.
A graphic design with sommelier accreditation, Wine Folly offers a set of maps for download or hard copy sale. Themed by country and appellation and including the grape varieties, the 12×16 print versions are spill and tear-proof. The information, however, is unsourced and historically has been less careful about fact checking. So buyer beware.
The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Janice Robinson
The latest update of this venerable atlas leaves almost no stone unturned, covering all the regions with detailed maps and auxiliary information on wine making. Heavily concentrated on Old World regions, but now including more comprehensive information on formerly slighted, further flung regions. Highly readable, despite the weight of the book.
Many regional wine bureaus include maps on their websites, but for general knowledge, here are a few sites to check out.
- Wine Scholar Guild – Easy to read and pleasing to the eye, these highly detailed maps show sub zones and geographic features. Downloads from the website.
- Vineyards.com – They may not be visually inspiring, but this is a good virtual clearinghouse of wine maps across the globe, with some notable wineries pinpointed.
- Winemaps.com – A global source that concentrates on places to drink. Not so much an educational tool, but handy to see where you can get a well-deserved glass once you’ve completed your studies.
Interest in maps is increasing, along with consumer interest in knowing where their food and drink comes from. This is also true about wine maps for wine enthusiasts.
Currently, there are a number of wine maps on the market intended for various audiences. We’re big fans of the Steve De Long maps as well as the The World Atlas of Wine.