Don’t pack all of these books in your suitcase unless you are happy to add 10 kg to your luggage! In any case, we hope the following recommendations help wine lovers to discover interesting readings for the summer.
As SWL is a bilingual website, we have included books written in English and Spanish -some of them have actually been published in both languages. There are also some wine pairing suggestions.
Written by Roald Dahl, the brilliant Welsh storyteller of Norwegian descent, this story is simply delicious. You don’t have to know anything about wine to enjoy its refined plot with an unexpected end. Dahl could well be the writer of choice for wine lovers and their children given his many outstanding children’s books (Mathilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and short stories.
On its eight reprinting of a 2014 Spanish edition by Nórdica Libros, it features beautiful illustrations by Iban Barrenetxea. Taste deals with contemporary recurrent topics like the need to know about wine to achieve social recognition, wine snobbery, experts’ arcane language that sets them apart from ordinary consumers or the fascination of blind tasting. In addition, this is a perfect warm up to start your summer reading. You are likely to go through the book in a flash and be left with the feeling of wanting more.
Ask a member of your family or friend to pour a red wine blind to drink while you read this short book and try to guess the grape variety and region. If you are familiar with Bordeaux, it could be a cru wine from the 1855 Classification.
Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez y La Fábrica
29 € en la tienda online de La Fábrica
This is a revised, extended edition of a book published by the Diputación of Álava, the local authority in the Basque province, in 1995. Commissioned by Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez on the occasion of its 25th anniversary, owners Telmo Rodríguez and Pablo Eguzkiza wanted to bring to light a key period in the emergence of fine wines in Rioja that has been a source of inspiration for them throughout their careers. The contents are included in a research paper written by German historian and Professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country, Ludger Mees.
The book is a full account of the improved quality of Rioja Alavesa wines in the second half of 19th century as part of a project spearheaded by the Diputación and the Practical School of Agriculture and warmly welcomed by a group of winegrowers including Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga, Marquis of Riscal. The Diputación hired French enologist Jean Pineau to teach Bordeaux techniques in the region with the aim of producing wines that could stand on equal terms with those of the top French châteaux. With the Médoc Alavés seal guaranteeing the highest quality, a marketing campaign was launched to spread the word about the new wines in Madrid.
Comprehensive research in different archives has shed light about how the wines were made, key winegrowing techniques, alcohol levels or the main grape varieties grown at the time.
The text reveals recurrent problems such as the odd producers trying to take advantage of the new seal and selling wines that didn’t meet the strict aging times (three years was the set minimum to achieve a distinctive finesse). By then the Médoc Alavés had been awarded several medals at the 1964 Exhibition of Bayonne and in Bordeaux in 1865. Confronting quantity and quality, standing out over competitors, integrating technique and tradition or designing a unique, terroir-driven wine regardless of trends remain relevant issues nowadays.
In the foreword, Pablo Eguzkiza explains that the aim of this new edition is to “inspire new winegrowers to recover their vineyards, cellars, villages and wines just as we were inspired by the book’s first edition.”
The best pairing for this book is a village wine from Rioja Alavesa. Our first suggestion is Lanzaga, the village wine made by Telmo Rodríguez and Pablo Eguzkiza in Lanciego, but you could also try others made by producers who were present at any of the two book presentations held in Lanciego and Madrid: Artadi, Artuke, Bilhar, La Marquesa, Mendieta, Mozo Wines, Ostatu, Tentenublo, Tierra…
After four editions in Spanish and two in English, the first solo book by Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate’s taster for Spain, is emerging as a bestseller in its field. With beautiful photographs by Estanis Núñez and a foreword by Robert Parker, the book reviews 14 producers who have set new styles and quality standards in Spain highlighting the tremendous diversity of Spain’s wine producing areas. Gutiérrez writes about Atlantic wines from the Canary Islands to Galicia -Envínate, Guímaro, Rafael Palacios, Forjas del Salnés- whose influence is present in Bierzo, historical areas that have been revived -Equipo Navazos (Jerez) and Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez (Rioja)-, Mediterranean producers (Raventós i Blanc, Sara i René Viticultors, Pablo Calatayud, Rafa Bernabé, Casa Castillo), the renaissance of Garnacha in Gredos (Comando G), a new approach to Ribera del Duero (Dominio del Águila) and even a Basque cider (Malus Mama) that manages to emulate the complexity of wine.
Gutiérrez is deeply passionate about wine and it comes through in his writing. His coloquial tone (almost as if he were talking to a friend) helps readers feel like travel companions -I couldn’t help thinking of Adventures on the wine route, a great classic by American wine importer Kermit Lynch. Gutiérrez makes you want to explore the landscapes, visit the vineyards, meet the winemakers and drink their wines. He always says that he is at his happiest exploring vineyards and meeting the people behind the wines rather than locking himself in a room to taste 200 samples.
For his part, Núñez manages in his photographs to capture the beauty and amazing diversity of wine landscapes in Spain. All chapters include tips about local cuisines, often with the producers themselves cooking a regional speciality. The new vignerons is a genuine summer reading, as quaffable and enjoyable as most of the wines featured on the book.
According to your mood and budget, you can choose between entry-level wines reflecting their regions and grape varieties or the producers’ most exquisite terroir-driven wines.
Sarah Jane Evans MW
£30 on the publisher’s website. Enter the discount code SWLSummer30 to get 30% off the standard price. Postage fees: free in the UK, £7 in Europe for a single copy
Spain’s northern wine producing areas have always wielded a particular attraction over wine writers. Following Alain Huetz de Lemps’ masterful Vignobles et Vins du Nord-Ouest de l'Espagne published in the late 1960s, Jesús Barquín, Luis Gutiérrez and Víctor de la Serna followed in his footsteps and wrote about the leading producers in Rioja, Navarra, Bierzo, Galicia, the Basque Country and the Cantabrian coast for The World of Fine Wine. Master of Wine Sarah Jane Evans initially set to write a single book covering the whole country, but she soon realized that "Spain has become so diverse and so interesting that it needed two separate books to manage the story." Unlike the two aforementioned works, Aragón is also included. A second book will feature the Mediterranean, centre and southern regions. The wines of Northern Spain is only available in English.
Rather than a book to read from the comfort of your sofa, The wines of Northern Spain is an insightful guide showing the amazing diversity of Spanish wine. Hundred-year-old wineries coexist with benchmark producers behind the winemaking revolution of the 1980s and 1990s and 21st century winegrowers on a mission to recover forgotten terroirs and grape varieties (Asturias, Cantabria, Arribes or Sierra de Salamanca are mentioned). It is a handy book for international wine lovers with an interest in Spanish wines, specially if they visit the country as Evans includes personal tips about restaurants, hotels or historic buildings.
Written in a direct, informative style, the book offers a general introduction to the wines of Spain and brief descriptions of its wine producing regions including basic data, latest developments as well as weaknesses and strengths. Evans does not shy away when it comes to revealing her favourite wines and styles and proves that she is up to speed on the Spanish wine scene.
It would obviously be unfair to recommend just one region or wine style for the reading so how about a tasting with friends? Ask them to bring a bottle of their choice, preferably from a remote wine region.
14.25 € at Aliana Librería Gastronómica
Published only in Spanish, the book goes beyond the usual names to delve deep in the history of wine. It includes 100 major Spanish wine personalities, from Publius Usulenus Veiento (1st century B.C.), a Narbonne-based négociant who used to buy wine in the Lower Empordà and sell it in Gaul -we know about him because the amphorae had his name engraved, a rudimentary form of wine labelling- to the late Pedro Vivanco, the driving force behind the impressive Vivanco Museum of Wine.
Other figures include Columela, “the first Spanish agronomist”; Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, who wrote the first book in Spanish on agriculture (1513); Arnau de Vilanova, author of a distillation manual; Simon de Rojas and Clemente, the first ampelographer; the founders of Spain’s great wine dynasties, travelers like Richard Ford (who also gets a special mention in Sarah Jane Evans MW’s book), as well as researchers, Hispanists, wine pioneers and architects like César Martinell, an expert in agrarian buildings combining usability and a Modernist style in Catalonia in the early 20th century.
Only five women make it to the list, three of which, as writer Enrique Calduch explains in his column titled Invisible women, were pubillas. This Catalan word refers to women who were entitled to inheritance because they had no male brothers. Anna de Codorníu, Dolores Sala (Freixenet) and Teresa Camps (Juvé y Camps) are all from Cava families, Bàrbara Forés comes from Terra Alta in south Catalonia and María Teresa Solano was the marquise after which Bodegas y Viñedos de la Marquesa in Villabuena de Álava (Rioja Alavesa) was named.
I really enjoyed reading these well-documented stories that should be seen as an inspiring model to achieve excellence in current times. A fabulous idea by wine journalist Andrés Proensa and his publishing company Vadevino.
I’d pour traditional wines to match the reading: Sherry or sweet fortified wines from all over Spain evoking the glorious times of Canary wines (more on this below), Málaga, Fondillón, Malvasía from Sitges and many others.
Carlos Cólogan Soriano
Con la colaboración de Caja Siete y Mutua Tinerfeña
Beyond the famous figures who drank it (America’s founding fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin or English explorer James Cook), Tenerife Wine is an insightful analysis of the Canary Islands wines in the second half of the 18th century. Most of the information comes from the thousands of letters and papers in the Zárate-Cólogan archive and documents the comercial activity of different families in the wine trade. The author has left out Malvasía’s flourishing period between the 16th and 17th centuries to focus on the trade of Vidueños (Vidonia in English) or Tenerife Wines, a commodity that was exchanged for products from the colonies. The myriad ships that covered the flourishing Atlantic commercial route and even the British Royal Navy stored Tenerife wine in their supplies.
These wines played a major role given the strategic location of the Canary Islands and their high demand. According to Cólogan, the Vidonias or Tenerife wines were made from white grapes to which “red wine and brandy from Mallorca was in order to obtain a similar texture to Madeiras.”
The book not only includes numerous wine trading letters written in those days, but provides a detailed account of the turbulent history of this period in history, marked by the loss of power of Spain and France in the international scene and the rise of England and the United States. The book is chronologically arranged with relatively short sections covering very specific issues making it easy to navigate the wealth of information contained in over 700 pages.
Readers could pour one of the exciting wines that are being produced in Tenerife and which are attracting the attention of sommeliers and wine critics worldwide -our top trio includes Envínate, Suertes del Marqués and Borja Pérez. If you prefer to replicate the ancient fortified style, Canari Malvasía from Bodegas El Grifo in Lanzarote could be an option, albeit from a different island. It is a blend of old vintages that have been separately aged; it may come close to some of the wines mentioned in the book.
Andrew Caillard MW
Penguin Random House
Written by Australian Master of Wine Andrew Caillard and presented during the 160th anniversary of Marqués de Riscal, the book is published in English and Spanish. It was conceived after a tasting held in Elciego in 2015 featuring over 100 vintages from Riscal’s historic cellar. One of the lucky attendants, the critic and co-founder of the Australian auction house Langton’s, proposed to compile the experience in a collector’s book following the model of The Regards of Patience that he had written for Penfolds.
The final result is the chronological story of Riscal since its foundation by Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga and his son Camilo in the second half of the 19th century. While these were turbulent times in Spain, the arrival of American pests (powdery mildew and phylloxera) to European vineyards marked a turning point in the history of wine. The book contains extensive references to El Médoc Alavés, a project in which the Hurtado de Amézaga family played a prominent role so this book and the one published by Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez complement each other. Compared to the information provided from the 20th century, this period is particularly well-documented and comprehensive.
According to Caillard, the book offers a compilation of anecdotes and fragments of history united by one of the most extraordinary wine collections in the world. In the foreword, he compares Riscal’s Botellería Histórica (where every single vintage since the inaugural 1862 is stored) to Picasso’s Guernica, Gaudí’s Casa Milà, Dalí’s La persistencia de la memoria or Lorca’s Romancero gitano. The account of facts is often interspersed with explanatory charts, key terms, basic facts on Rioja and the region’s grape varieties, a photo of the participants in the 2015 tasting or the use of hot tongs to disgorge old bottles Port-style. Wines are grouped by periods and paired with facts, events or key figures of their time. The best vintages are always highlighted (1862 is among them) and described by the experts that attended the tasting.
The book is not easy to find thought. It cannot be ordered by phone or online. It can only be bought at the winery.
Obviously, this reading asks for some Riscal on the glass, if possible (but this will depend on your budget) a relatively old vintage.
80 € en la web de Bullipedia
Summer can also be that time of the year to undertake academic readings that require a great deal of concentration and time, particularly if you are to load your mind with basic, solid concepts that must support further knowledge. This is the aim of Bullipedia, the encyclopaedic, massive task undetaken by Ferran Adriá, former chef at ElBulli and his team with sommelier Ferrán Centelles overseeing all contents related to beverages. This first volume is only published in Spanish.
Another reason to devote a certain amount of time to this reading is its size and weight. Given that the encyclopaedic concept is also physical, this is not the kind of book you can carry in your bag to read on the underground or that fits in your bedside table.
Following a didactic approach, it delves into definitions, typologies and classifications without overlooking the historical background and the evolution of bevearges over time. The information is presented in a direct, often schematic way including tables, diagrams, highlighted information and photographs that help to assimilatate key concepts. Don’t miss the moving dedication to the late Juli Soler, Ferran Adrià’s partner at El Bulli. He was the man who welcomed guests, guided them trough the striking, long menus and, more importantly, inspired a new generation of top sommeliers in Spain.
Pair your reading with any of the drinks whose composition is shown in the final part of the book: water, milk, orange juice, coffee, green tea, a refreshing lemon drink, cocoa shake, red wine, beer, a mojito or some kind of wine spirit.