OK, Christmas has long gone, but you don’t need an excuse to by a present!


If you look on the internet you’ll see many ‘Estuches de Navidad’ being sold by lots of bodegas in Spain. I’ve looked at several, and they all seem to be good value, though I’ve actually not had the time to sample any of them.

However, when in Alicante recently at an excellent tasting (article soon-ish!) I did taste the contents of one such special Christmas offer. It was beautifully packaged and the contents (that’s estate grown and pressed extra virgin olive oil, single estata crianza Tempranillo/Cabernet/Merlot red wine and a 2kg round of super artisan mature Manchego cheese) were really tasty – approximately 60€! On enquiry I was told that there are a number of other estuche offers – so my first recommendation is to visit http://www.lajaraba.com/en/ !

My other recommendations this year are literally, literary! I’ve read five wine books/guides this year, which have firstly been great reads, but which also have the advantage of being used for reference purposes for many years. So, in no particular order you may be interested in the following:

‘Rosé’ by Elizabeth Gabay MW really is, well obligatory, for anyone who loves rosé/rosado wine! It has to be the most comprehensive of the books written on the subject, dealing with everything from how it’s made, the countries that make it, the importance of shades – in fact it covers everything rosé! The author manages to convey all the information in a thoroughly reader-friendly manner. One of my favourite sections is entitled, ‘The Business of Rosé’, dealing with: its commercial growth; its seasonality; levels of sweetness; to age or not to age; its labels and bottle design; escaping the ‘girl’ stereotype; and lots more. As I said, a fascinating book! You can buy it here www.infideas.com/books/rose/.

My recent Cork Talk was all about my next book recommendation, but it certainly needs to be added to this article as well. ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, by Sarah Jane Evans MW is the go-to reference work for the wines of half of this dynamic wine producing country – with her next book, no doubt the same for the other half, the south! If you, or your partner/friends have an interest in Spanish wines this is a must.

I know a bit about Spanish wines, but Master of Wine Sarah Jane, tops this – and some! An expert in all things wine, the author’s specialist subject is Spanish wine – who better therefore, to write this comprehensive book, and in such depth. However, this is certainly not just a factual reference book destined to gather dust on the library shelf. Sarah Jane’s writing skills, allied to her knowledge and personal experience of Spanish wines make, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, interspersed as it is with entertaining anecdotes and producer profiles, a thoroughly good read! www.infideas.com/books/ 

La Semana Vitivinicola have produced a dual language Guide to Spanish Wines and Olive Oils, the ‘Guía de Vinos y Aceites’. I’ve had the pleasure of serving on a number of wine judging panels with its author, Salvador Manjón Estela, whom I find to be an extremely knowledgeable professional, as well as being friendly and approachable guy!

There are guide books about Spanish wine, which I always recommend, and do so again here. The Peñin Guide, also available in English, is the most comprehensive, with many thousands of entries, and an expert panel of tasters. The one I use most, though is the Proensa Guide to the Best Wines in Spain – again Señor Proensa, responsible for all of the tastings, with others, is also a renowned expert. But I have to say that the Guía de Vinos y Aceites, is right up there with the best as an honest guide to Spanish wines – plus it has the advantage of including olive oils as well, all in both languages!

The dreadful recent depression, whilst certainly being a dark cloud here in Spain, also had some silver linings. In a slant on the English proverb, Necessity is the Mother of Invention, bodegas desperate to source income to replace that from lost wine sales, started to commercially produce olive oil from the, sometimes centuries old olive tress they’d always used solely for the family. Recommended ones are all here! www.sevi.net

‘The wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova’ is a book written by Caroline Gilby MW which has been of great use to me, and will be in the future, when I delve further into the wines of Eastern Europe – having been so impressed with those of Romania, as regular readers will know.

Wines have been made in the Eastern states of Europe for millennia, Caroline’s book gives fascinating insight into the history of wines in these three countries, including some rather distressing stories of how wars and political upheaval have impacted upon them and of course the people who have, and do, produce them. Factual, comprehensive and informative as well as engaging. www.infideas.com/books/

Finally, entirely in Spanish, by another wine judging colleague and friend of my mine , Jesús Flores and his colleague, Miguel Carbajo, ‘101 Historias, 100 Recetas’. A super book packed with Spanish History, Recipes and Wines – I’ve tried a number of the wines, and the recipes, and again, it’s a good read and a useful reference!

colin@colinharknessonwine.com Twitter @colinonwine

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