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The Wines of Spain (Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library) Hardcover – 18 Jun 2006

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The transformation of the Spanish wine industry over the last 20 years has been astonishing. From a state of very considerable decay it has re-invented itself with great vigour and style. Four decades ago such reputation as the wines of Spain had rested on the declining quality of Sherry and the occasional majestic Rioja towering above the surrounding sea of mediocre, oxidised table wines. "How things have changed!" exclaims Julian Jeffs in the introduction to his valuable The Wines of Spain, the latest addition to Faber and Faber's series of wine books. Over the course of two years Jeffs put in a great deal of intensive research in Spain, travelling the length and breadth of the country, visiting growers and tasting their wines. The effort has paid off in a wealth of engrossing detail.

The volume is organised into sections dealing with the main provinces or geographical regions--Aragon, Catalunya, Andalucia and so on--then within those by the individual Denominacion de Origen (DO). Within each DO the leading or most interesting bodegas are profiled, allowing Jeffs to build up a cumulative portrait of the regional characters. Especially evocative are the portions of the book dealing with the ancient and distinguished Sherry houses in Andalucia, many of them of course founded in the 18th or 19th centuries by British or Irish merchants. The account of the great Bodegas Vega Sicilia in Castilla is emblematic of the progress of the entire Spanish wine industry: Producing some of the world's finest wine up to the 1920s, it fell into poor practices and the quality and reliability of the wine suffered badly. Under the modernising current owners the wine has regained its former reputation. According to Julian Jeffs, Vega Sicilia "is on a Wagnerian scale, with all that master's subtlety and complexity." --Robin Davidson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Spain grows some of the finest wines in the world, yet 20 years ago it was known internationally only for Sherry and Rioja. Things have been changing very fast and there is no more exciting country in the world of wine. Now world-class wines are grown in Costers del Segre, Navarra, Penedes, Priorato, Ribera del Duero, Rias Baijas and Somontano, to name just a few areas. Spain today provides a local market for fine wines and enthusiasts with the money to create vineyards and bodegas of the highest quality, vying with each other for the honeours. In the course of two years the author travelled all over Spain, researching and tasting the wines. He travelled into remote places looking for fine vineyards, and found them. This book is the culmination of his research. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A literate monograph, and useful as well! 22 Aug. 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Why Spanish wines?
When experimenting with wines that suited my budget (less than ten dollars a bottle), I found that most French wines disappointed, while ALL the Spanish wines were very good.
Hence, Spanish wines.
A quotation from the book supports, at least in part, my observations -
"It is now almost impossible to buy a bad Rioja"
Julian Jeffs book is extremely well written, with thorough discussions of the climate, the soil, the grapes, the wines and the Bodegas of the various regions in Spain. Interspersed are several interesting historical details and cultural and literary references. Wonderful to read in the chapter on Sherry was Falstaff's speech in praise of "sherris-sack" from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2 quoted in full. Even better was to find out that they have a monument to G. K. Chesterton in Sitges, a Catalonian town where he often visited.
Refreshingly, this book does not have any photographs - it is not wine-porn! Instead there are lovely line drawings by Wendy Jones, that blend in well with the text, without distracting from it. Again refreshingly, wines are not classified individually. The book will not drive the potential wine buyer to worrying about the relative worth and merits of an 85 point wine compared to a 90 point wine. The classification is done for each region by rating the vintage years on a scale of 1 (least good) to 7 (best). There are additional comments about individual wines in the discussions of the Bodegas.
The book is useful for the Spanish wine enthusiast, and it is good reading for anyone interested in wine.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A great text on Spanish wine, though not the best 24 Nov. 2007
By Christopher Barrett - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recommend "The New Spain" over this book, but if you want another view into wine, this is a great addition.

Pros: superbly written, great information
Cons: average maps, not as in depth as others
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Great Reference book for all your Spanish wine needs 20 Aug. 2008
By Flippy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Recently, I conducted a Spanish wine seminar at the wine shop I work at. I used this text and Radford's The New Spain for reference purposes. Both were excellent and irreplaceable.

Radford's book is great for its photography and chapters on each wine area, focusing on history, culture, viticulture, vinification and grape varieties; Jeffs' book offers more nuts and bolts. He organizes the main regions into Catalonia, Aragon, Rioja, The Centre-North, Castilla y Leon, The North, The Levant, the Centre, Extremadura, Andalucia, and The Islands. Within each of the main regions, he looks at the various sub-regions and further breaks it down by detailing average rainfall, altitude at which the vineyards are grown, soil, climate, grape varieties (from major to minor) etc...

If you read Radford's book, you get a broader, more polished picture with history and gorgeous photographs. He too divides Spain into the main regions and then looks at each area in context to the region and history. Radford includes information on viticulture but his focus is on making the area more comprehensive in terms of illustration and overview. Jeffs, without the use of photography (there are plenty of maps though), provides the details that bog down narratives. Radford you can read cover to cover as if exploring each area one-by-one. Jeffs is the book you look for in need of reference. It is more like an almanac. He too provides history and a bit more detail when discussing the bodegas. In Radford you get a few notes on the bodegas in Spain. In Jeffs, he provides more information and more detail.

My one gripe with Jeffs is that when you want to look for a specific DO in the book, like Terra Alta for example, there is no actual page number on the table of contents referring you to the DO. You basically have to go to Catalonia and then search page by page until you find it. Either that or go to the index to find the page numbers which is equally inconvenient. There are also some other typos and little mistakes. The North is listed on the Contents page as being on page 112 when really it is page 197. Small, just little bumpy hassles that need mending. Otherwise this book is full of enough information to make this reference book a must have for wine and Spanish wine lovers.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great information, too many typos 21 May 2007
By Melaney Simer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I am a Certified Sommelier and have been in the wine business for the past seven years. I found this book to be one of the best I have read on the wines and regions of Spain. The information is detailed and Interestingly presented. I did find the amount of typos a bit disturbing, but not enough to stop me from recommending it strongly.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Literate, useful and wise 13 Aug. 2008
By Lynn Hoffman, author:Radiation Days: A Comedy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an eminently readable book that's especially important these days as Spanish wines increase their market share due to their great value/price ratio. (You get a lot of wine for your euro-battered dollar). Jeffs is a good writer, his prose is lucid and his take on the subject is interesting. I have also found his tasting notes to be reliable.
It is true that the maps are below the standard that has been set in other wine books, but let us consider that a minor flaw like Barabara Walters' lisp or Steve Carlton's lack of a move to first base. Take your copy to the wine shop and you'll save the cover price on the first trip.

Lynn Hoffman authorThe New Short Course in Wine
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