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Review: The New Spain - A Complete Guide to Contemporary Spanish Wine

Elvis Costello once said: “Writing about wine is like dancing about architecture. It’s a really stupid thing to want to do”. Yet not only do I write about wine, I read about it too.

By:  Doug Bond
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Author: John Radford
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley
Year: 2006
Language: English
Stands out for: combining breadth of coverage with readability

Admittedly I do also drink a fair bit of the stuff and have gained more from this than any amount of vinous literary study. Nevertheless wine books can play a role in guiding us towards better drinking. Two books that stand out for those seeking to explore the wines of Andalusia are Jose Peñín’s annual guide to Spanish wine and John Radford’s The New Spain.

The New Spain is a more leisurely affair. The most recent edition was published in 2005 so it lacks the lacks the bang-up-to-datedness of the Peñín Guide. Whilst there are suggestions as to the best producers in the differing regions of Spain, this is not the place to come looking for information about a specific wine. Instead the focus is very much on the history of each of Spain’s autonomous wine regions.

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Radford is clearly passionate about Spanish wine and not just the most famous/prestigious regions. I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as him during a trip to Rioja last year. Whilst the other tables populated with members of the British wine trade contented themselves with ordering the most expensive wines from the list, we were treated to a tour of some of the lesser known, fascinating and occasionally downright bizarre wines from the region.

This magpie-like approach to wine is reflected in the book. Yes, there are major features on the likes of Rioja and detailed profiles of the most famous producers. But there is also four pages covering wine from the Balearics and another two dedicated to the Canary Isles. Perhaps most admirably there is lightness to the writing that makes this book accessible for even the most novices of wine lovers. Until a new edition comes out this remains one of the best introductions to Spain’s diverse wine culture.


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