I confessed to a secret fascination with wine maps here a couple of months ago. At the conclusion of the post "In love with wine maps?" I noted that it seemed long past time for some one to stir a database of vineyard information and some other technology into a pot of Google Earth and provide us with interactive, 3D maps of the world's wine regions we could readily access online.
The project seemed to me to be a perfect fit for an imprint like Mitchell-Beazley which specializes in wine-related titles, or Dorling-Kindersley, as an online extension of its "Eyewitness Companions" series, perhaps.
So I was a little suprised to hear from the people at Frederick Wildman and Sons, a national importer and wholesaler of fine wines, who told me they were about to launch a series of Google Earth-powered vineyard tours/tutorials, accessible to the public via their website.
The "Terroir-Genome Project" as they call it currently consists of tours of regional vineyards in Spain, Italy, France, and Argentina.
The very brief promo video below gives you some idea what you can expect, though in it the camera moves very quickly and there is no voiceover . . .
The complete videos proceed at a more stately pace and mix some atmosphere-inducing (though occasionally distracting) music with the voices of winemakers describing the location, extent, history, and character of the vineyards you seem to helicopter over. Hitting pause allows you to manipulate the image as you would in Google Earth - panning, zooming, tilting, and scrolling across the scene. There are also places where you can pick up 360 degree ground-level views, although these don't appear everywhere and can be hard to find (you have to look for a little orange figure at the right and drag him into the window). Though unvoiced, the tour of the Valtellina in the foothills of the Italian Alps is quite spectacular. (UPDATE: VOICEOVER ADDED FEB 10)
At this point the thing is a little buggy and if you're not familiar with Google Earth, a bit tricky to operate. After a few frustrating minutes you'll learn that unlike a simple video file, each program here has to be loaded before it it can play and that it's best to shut off the feature that reproduces the shift from night to day.
A minor drawback: since the project is designed to promote the Wildman portfolio the focus of each video is limited to properties the company represents. But there's an awful lot to be learned from visiting the vineyards this way -- and honestly, the T-G Project is a grand start.
The Wildman people assure me more tours will hit the site in the next week or so.
Stephen Meuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org