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Review: Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine

Jose Peñín’s annual Guide to Spanish Wine is the most comprehensive guide around for those of you interested in the current vintages of a vast number of Spanish wines.


By:  Doug Bond
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Author: José Peñín
Publisher: Grupo Peñín
Year: 2009
Language: English
Stands out for: the most detailed review of currently available Spanish wines

Peñín’s book focuses on providing ratings of several thousand individual wines produced across Spain. Densely packed, the tasting notes take the form of a list of adjectives and nouns rather than descriptive sentences and are combined with the ubiquitous score out of 100 for each wine. Whilst John Radford’s New Spain takes a broad-brush approach covering the history of every region, the Peñín Guide goes for depth and only includes wines actually available in the year it’s published.

Elvis Costello once said that writing about wine is a really stupid thing to want to do. Reducing wine to a numerical score is pure lunacy. To be fair, Peñín does recognise the limitation of scores and makes no claims to perfect objectivity. Indeed, if all you’re looking for is a simple guide to the likely taste and quality of a given wine then you are unlikely to find any surer guide.

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The pity is that Peñín is clearly an engaging and gifted writer. The introductions to the impacts of soil and terroir on wine are amongst the best I have ever seen, although within the confines of this book likely only to appeal to a specialist audience.

As a simple shopping list style guide for briefly dipping into, this book is unsurpassed. However, a little more breadth of commentary could have made this worthwhile browsing for the casual reader and not just the wine nerd.


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