José Peñín‘s pets probably know more about Spanish wine than I do: It’s a complicated region to get a grasp on, hindered by a difficult-to-understand collection of wine regions (68 of them are formally recognized, and there are dozens of lesser regions, too), a variety of grapes not widely grown elsewhere, and the fact that you will see very, very few Spanish wines on the U.S. market.
Peñín and his crew offers ratings on a whopping 8,100 Spanish wines with his latest book, the Peñín Guide to Spanish Wines 2008. I highly doubt you’ll find a better authority on the region anywhere, and over the course of nearly 1,000 pages you’ll not only find review after review, but also helpful information on understanding Spain and its wines, including maps, color photos of wine brand labels, and even phone numbers and email addresses for most of the wineries covered.
My only complaints: I couldn’t find a listing for the last Spanish wine I tried in the book, which was a disappointment but not a crushing one. A bigger concern is that Peñín’s ratings tend to fall in a pretty narrow range. (He uses the 100-point scale but virtually everything scores in the 80s. It’s a stretch to find ratings in the 90s and after a few days of flipping through the book I’ve yet to find a single review in “classic” territory, 95 and up.
At about $30, it’s probably not for the casual wine drinker, but anyone with even the slightest interest in Spanish wine will be well-served by owning a copy of the book.