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Book Review – Valencia Land of Wine by Joan C. Martin

Valencia land of Wine

I love to read. I say this as someone who has read very little lately. Sometimes the world of blogging, and my Google Reader, seem to devour what time I have each day to dedicate myself to the written word. I find that I turn more often to a book on tape or a podcast about the latest world events, rather than reach for a physical tome. Both enjoyable and fine alternatives to holding pages in my hand, but I do miss reading books. Fortunately, I find that my reading comes in spurts where I’ll consume 3-5 books in one month and then take some time off from it. Right now, I feel like I’m heading into one of my reading phases, and just in time as the rooftop slowly warms. With Spring soon to come, I assume that I’ll find myself more often with a glass of wine in one hand and a new volume in the other, lounging happily on our terrace.

I say all this because I just received a new book to read/review and it appears to be the perfect motivation to reinvigorate my desire to read. Valencia Land of Wine is a book that came to me by way of a friend in Valencia. John Maher is someone I met about 12 months ago when attending the Vino Elite wine show. We connected through his site Wines of Valencia and later attended a fun tasting together put on by the folks at Verema.com.

John is the editor and translator of this book. Having moved here in 2006, he found that he had a similar problem to me when researching Spanish wine, and in his case, Valencian wines. After spending ample time looking for information on what he could see was a very rich and vibrant wine culture, he kept running into articles that had been published in El Pais‘s Valencia edition, all written by a man named Joan C. Martin. The story goes that after a quick call to the paper’s office, he was put through to Joan’s cell phone, which led to a meeting between the two very shortly there after. Joan – a wine maker, writer, and champion of the regions diverse wines – turned out to be just who John needed to help him better understand this diverse region. When John realized that the articles were just sitting in an archive and were threatened to being lost to the sands of time, he made Joan an offer that I’m glad was not refused. John asked to translate Joan’s articles if he could collate and publish a collection of the stories in English. Joan agreed.

What makes this book such a great start for my current reading binge is that it’s a collection of 60+ short articles that were once published in the local paper. Each one takes on the theme of a bodega, style of wine, or grape variety. Approximately 500 words per article, if that, and full of names, places and things that make me want to schedule a trip down the coast as soon as possible. Joan introduces you to new wineries, styles of wines, old histories, and imbues it all with his expert knowledge culled from a lifetime among the wines of Valencia.

Too often as English speakers, we are offered books full of thin tales, dumbed down for the foreigner’s benefit, about wine regions we’re all too familiar with. What I love about this book is its lack of apology for the styles and wines he writes about. Though I have not read all the columns in the book, preferring to pick at one or two a night, I will say that each one I have so far read speaks of the wines with such pride and conviction as to their quality. After each tale, I find myself wanting to set aside a month just to taste the wines that make up the three regions of D.O. Alicante: Alicante, Valencia and Utiel Requena. In Spain, most people wouldn’t even know that these regions produced anything but Turron and oranges. While outside Spain, with the exception of vacationing Brits and Germans, most people probably don’t know these wines exist at all. Therefore, I hope this book can change this just a little.

I do have one criticism. Because I have tasted many wines from this region, I was interested in knowing if he covered of them in the book. Turning to the back of the book, I quickly realized that he didn’t include an index. Bummer! I think that this book could be a nice reference for people, especially if it included an index. On the other hand, this is minor when compared to the fact that this is the first, and to my knowledge, the only wine book covering this quality Spanish wine region.

I thoroughly recommend this book but with one caveat. If you are the type of person who needs to taste along as he reads then you better make a trip to Spain before getting this book. Many, if not most, of the wines mentioned are not available in the US, UK, or elsewhere. Though, this is slowly changing. I’ve found my eyes light up more than once when I recognized a wine I had once sold or purchased, but these were the exception and not the rule. However, if you are an importer looking for new stars to add to your portfolio than this book is a must!

Ryan Opaz

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