Ana Fabiano’s The Wine Region of Rioja (Sterling Epicure, publisher) is one of those rare wine books that hits on all cylinders. It is a comprehensive survey of the Rioja wine region of Spain covering geography, history, terroir, food, and older as well as newer wineries. And, it does all of this in beautiful style. The writing is succinct but thorough, while the magnificent photos in the book tempt one to get on the next Iberia flight to personally visit this awe-inspiring region. The book is a stimulating read, even for one who has already traversed the back roads, mountain valleys, monasteries and vineyards and wineries of Spain’s most important wine region.
Rarely does a book on wine fire on all cylinders. Either it offers full page glossy photos with vapid, irrelevant commentary or it’s filled with techno-speak on clones, geologic soil origins, micro-oxygenation and spinning cones that send spinning the minds of laymen. In contrast, Fabiano’s book is like a good wine – beautiful, balanced and fulfilling.
Because this book provides such a comprehensive overview, I highly recommend it to the wine tourist contemplating a trip to Spain. In addition, while the description and discussion of individual wineries is not exhaustive, it covers the most important ones—both old, like La Rioja Alta, and new, like Ysios, that the wine tourist is likely to visit. The winery descriptions are complemented by in-depth presentations on key winemakers and historical figures of the region.
Two aspects of Rioja not commonly covered in books of the region merit special mention. Rioja’s wine country has some of the most spectacular modern architecture anywhere in the world. From Frank Gehry’s Hotel Marques de Riscal to Santiago Calatrava’s Bodegas Ysios and Iñaki Aspiazu’s Baigorri wineries, the avant garde modern complements the medieval monasteries and classic churches of the region.
The book also covers food, including a colorful tapas crawl through Logroño. While there’s a certain pleasure in simply ambling along Calle Laurel sampling the wide variety of tapas, Fabiano gives us a guide to help us find some of the best. The final chapter of the book discusses pairing Rioja wine and food, including selected recipes.
There are other books in English on Rioja and its wines that go into greater technical depth about the vineyards, winemaking and wines of the region—John Radford’s The Wines of Rioja and the University of California’s The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain come to mind. And then there are technical reports like the International Wine Review’s The Wines of Rioja. But none does a better job than Ana Fabiano’s The Wine Region of Rioja in presenting the multifaceted beauty of the region and in whetting the appetite of the reader to travel there and taste the great wines of Rioja in situ.
Published by Sterling Epicure, New York, NY in 2012.
Don Winkler, Editor, International Wine Review