edited by Sue Courtney
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The New Spain
By John Radford
With the forthcoming Spanish Wine Fair (July 3-5) it seems appropriate to review a Spanish wine book. The New Spain is one of the new writings on the wines of this country that seem to have escalated in quality over the past few years.
The book nicely introduces the topic by summarising the history of wine in Spain. Then follows a summary of the major regional divisions, the grape varieties, the climate and soil and lastly the laws and labels that lead to Spain's classification system.
Detailed chapters on each of the major regions follow, coloured coded in the outer margin for easy reference. Each region's introduction includes a detailed map, with and inset showing the location of the region in greater Spain.
Some of the regions are new to me, such as 'Green Spain, the most Northerly region on the eastern side of Spain. So I thought it better to turn to a region I knew, such as Castille-Leon which incudes the famous wines of the Ribero del Duero, to see if the book mentioned the any of the wines I know and to see what new information I could find.
The section on the Ribero del Duero is indeed comprehensive. There's another map, this one of just the Ribero del Duero region. I read about the beginnings of the country's most famous (and most expensive) wine, Vega Sicilia - no book on Spain would be complete without mention of this wine. And how Vega Sicilia led to the recognition of the Ribero del Duero as a Denominación de Origen (DO) and eventually to the world-wide respect of Ribero del Duero wines. Some of these wines are now 'cult' wines, such as those that carry the name Pesquera.
The book is studded with photographs, many showing the dramatic landcapes of this fascinating country. The landscapes are so varied you marvel at the perseverance of the people who struggle to make wine in some of the conditions the photos depict. The old and the new show a sharp contrast - donkeys and wicker baskets to stainless steel vats and tankers.
This book contains a wealth of information in its 224 packed pages. It is well written and easy to read and I shall enjoy learning about the New Spain as I finish reading this book while sipping on a Rioja.
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