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Barcelona Wine Tasting: The Lesser Known Regions of Spain

Header - Manchuela

Spain is a vast, wine producing country; the third largest in the world, in fact. With more acres dedicated to viticulture than any other country on the planet, and leading the way in exports by volume, you might expect the wine-drinking world to be quite familiar with the vinous offerings from our corner of it. However, not only is this not the case but even within the major cities of Spain itself, the wines you’ll find in many bars and restaurants tend to centre around some of the largest, best known regions in the country. This makes complete sense from a commercial perspective but it is a little sad that some perfectly good wine is passing us by untasted, simply because the wines have such a limited market here.

The other factor to consider is that some regions simply don’t produce a great deal of quality wine, hence their respective obscurity. The reason that DO Ribera del Duero, DOQ Priorat and DOC Rioja are amongst the most prestigous regions within the country is their ability to produce reasonably large quantities of good quality wine, year after year. This is a problem for producers who do make excellent quality wine in the lesser known regions, as it’s considerably more difficult to be heard when the label on your bottle says “DO Cigales” instead of “DO Ribera del Duero”. The same is of course true for other wine producing countries as well, just ask any producer in the south of France or Italy, eastern Germany or even some of the lesser known regions of California, South Africa and Argentina. This week, we’re going to focus on five wines from the lesser celebrated regions of Spain and well… celebrate them!

 

Marko White

DO Bizkaiko Txakolina (Basque Country). When it comes to cooler climate white wines in Spain, Rias Baixas, Rueda and Ribeiro tend to dominate proceedings. However, in 1994 DO Bizkaiko Txakolina was created in the Basque Country, in the very north of Spain. Whilst still considerably warmer than most of northern Europe, this is a chilly, wild part of the country by Spanish standards and so it comes as no surprise that the majority of the production here is white; a perfect pairing with the local seafood. White wines tend to be produced from Hondarribi Zuri ,with some 80% of all plantings, supported by a mixture of Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Folle Blanche and other international varieties. The wine we’ll be tasting is Marko 2015 by Oxer Bastegieta, a family winery better known for their small production of high quality wines in Rioja under the label “Oxer Wines”. Crisp, clean and very acidic; DO Bizkaiko Txakolina in a glass!

Vara y Pulgar 2012

VdlT Cadiz (Andalucia). If you haven’t come across ‘VdlT’ before, it simply means ‘Vino de la Tierra’ and is a step down from DO in the appellation pyramid, coming from a broader geographical zone with laxer regulations when it comes to the production of wine. VdlT Cadiz was originally created to take advantage of the surplus of Sherry grapes, in order to make light, dry wines for the local markets of Jerez, Sanlucar and Puerto de Santa Maria. There are, however, one or two very brave and amibitious producers using older, almost extinct grape varieties in tiny quantities, such as the Compañia de Vinos del Atlantico, a project set up in 2002 to showcase these sorts of wines from across 18 lesser known regions of Spain. Vagar y Pulgar 2012 is such a wine, made from the exceedingly rare Tintilla grape variety, considered to be a mutation of the medium-bodied, floral Graciano from Rioja. Whilst they didn’t make it into our tasting, Barbazul are also a good producer of this variety, blending it together with French varieties for a rounder profile.

 

Finca Sandoval 2010

DO Manchuela (La Mancha). This is a great example of a wine producing region that should be doing better than it currently is. Whilst located inside the enormous DO La Mancha, having separated in 1982, it has considerably more rainfall, cooler winds, greater concentrations of limestone in the soil and opportunities to grow at altitude; basically, there’s no reason why top quality wine can’t be made here. Like most of Spain, the cooperative structure is vitally important and that might be holding proceedings back a little in terms of innovation and risk taking, whilst producing a large quantity of young, fresh wines for the local market. To showcase the potential here, we’ve gone for Finca Sandoval 2010, produced by the Finca Sandoval estate. Famously created by veteran Spanish journalist, Victor de la Serna, in 1998, it takes a more modern approach to the appellation. Blending the native Monastrell and Bobal together with a healthy dollop of Syrah and then ageing it in new oak for 11 months for the stabilisation of colour, addition of flavour and some extra tannin brings this style into a new, modern era without overwhelming the flavour of the grapes themselves. Delicious stuff.

 

Terrer d'Aubert

DO Tarragona (Catalunya). With the creation of DO Montsant, DO Tarragona has very much sank back into the production of young and easy red wines, some interesting sweet and rancio wines from Garnacha and produces a surprising amount of white grapes which head to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia to be turned into the most basic expressions of Cava. This anonymity does no favours for the region and so it’s left for quality-minded producers to make their own success and hopefully, put DO Tarragona back on the map. Vinyes del Terrer is such a producer, and we’ve chosen their Terrer d’Aubert 2010 to showcase it; an unusual blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha, aged for 14 months in 5,000 litre French barrels for a long, slow ageing with minimal oak flavour. Fresh and clean, dominated by black fruits, graphite and floral notes; are we drinking young Bordeaux here or Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon? I’ll let you be the judge.

Traslanzas

DO Cigales (Castilla y Leon). DO Cigales is a large but relatively unknown wine producing region, not far from the considerably more illustrious DO Ribera del Duero. Historically important for producing stunning rosé wines, it has now turned its attention to replicating the success of its neighbours by focusing on Tempranillo as a grape variety for red wine production and indeed, has not only the same limestone bedrock as the rest of its competitors but also large, ‘pudding stone’ rocks that lie on the surface of the vineyards reflecting the suns heat. Bodegas Traslanzas are one of the more celebrated producers in the area and their signature wine is a beautiful expression of Tempranillo, with lower alcohol (13.5%) and enormous amounts of freshness, even after 8 years of age. Telmo Rodriguez, famous wine-maker and terroir-guru, claims that the soils of this area are absolutely perfect for Tempranillo production but the truth, as always, is in the glass.

Whilst there are many, many more areas, wines and producers to discover, I’m very much looking forward to sharing some of these lesser known areas in this weeks tasting. There are, at the time of writing, still three spots available so if you’re interesting in attending, it will be on Thursday 19th at 19:00, 25 euros per person. If you’re interested in a spot, please contact me at fintankerr@winecuentista.com for payment options.

Thoughts on: Judging Quality in Wine

wine-judging

So, I spent the entire of yesterday learning how to taste and analyse sparkling wines as objectively as possible, in exam conditions. This ranged from cheap and simple Prosecco to incredibly expensive Vintage Champagne, Lambrusco to sparkling Shiraz and a little bit of everything in between from all corners of the globe. As usual, the WSET method of tasting focuses mainly on the students ability to correctly analyse a wine, breaking it down in terms of flavours, aromas and the structure. However, at the Diploma level a great deal more emphasis is then placed on your ability to qualify the quality level of the wine, ranging from ‘poor’ to ‘outstanding’ with a substantial amount of justification needing to be given regardless of your decision.

I’ve always appreciated the methology I’ve learnt from studying with the WSET; it’s a very rigorous, methodical approach that forms a solid foundation for practically any sort of tasting you’ll be required to do professionally in the industry and can easily be built upon to be a little more flexible. Essentially, it’s designed on the following framework:

Balance – Is the wine balanced? Does anything stick out unpleasantly, or does any one part of the wine overpower the others? Sometimes very acidic wines can become a little tart if the flavours aren’t concentrated enough. Sweet wines can taste cloying and sloppy if the acidity is too low to support the sugar concentration. Alcohol can be quite aggressive and hot if it’s unreasonably high in the context of the wine. Even something you really enjoy in a wine, say bright, fruity flavours, can make a wine quite disappointing if everything else falls flat by comparison.

Length – How long do the desirable flavours last for? Some wines can be quite basic and still be well balanced. Some wines can be quite basic and give the impression of quality, often due to manipulation of oak, lees contact and extraction. A good, long finish however, is essentially impossible to achieve without healthy, top quality grapes and as such, is a mark of real quality.

Intensity – How intense are the flavours in the wine? This is something I find is often misjudged as it’s easy to confuse power and size with intensity. You can have a 15% ABV Barossa Shiraz that has real intensity on the palate but at the same time, a 9.5% ABV Riesling from the Mosel Valley can pack just as much of a punch. Intensity is the strength and impact of those flavours and how they’re delivered. I recall Jancis Robinson MW referring to her first experience with Musigny Grand Cru as being like ‘an iron fist in a velvet glove’ which very much encapsulates the concept.

Complexity – How complex are the aromas and flavours in the wine? Is it a young, simple wine or is there a level of development there? Can you easily distinguish between primary fruit flavours, secondary influences of wine-making and the tertiary effects of bottle ageing? Does it improve the wine as a whole?

wset-outside

Now, it’s fair to say that this system isn’t perfect. I’m sure many of us can think of a wine that is absolutely delicious without being overly complex. I’m sure that, as individual consumers, some of us like wine that is sometimes a little bit unbalanced providing it’s in favour of an attribute we happen to particularly enjoy. It’s also been noted that certain wine styles, particularly those with levels of brett, volatile acidity and other ‘faults’/quirks fare quite poorly, regardless of how tasty they are. This is where individual tasting scope and common sense comes into play; the system is after all, just a foundation to be built upon, not a stand-alone all encompassing solution. On a more personal note, below are three additional factors I subconsciously process when drinking wine outside of exam conditions:

Provenance – Is the wine easily identified? Put simply, I want wine to taste like the grape(s) it’s made from and the place it comes from as I appreciate tasting flavours and styles that have been built from decades of consistent work, regulation and tradition. Innovation is important but it has to have a solid basis other than some mad wine-makers personal philosophy if I’m going to part with hard earned cash in order to acquire it.

Accessibility – Can I drink this now or do I have to wait for a number of years before opening it? Put simply, a lot of high quality wines are quite aggressive when they’re very young and require time in the bottle for the components to integrate, soften and become more expressive. This is a problem if you live in Barcelona and rely on good friends with wine fridges to store your modest collection. As a result, I rarely buy wine anymore that I won’t be drinking within a year or two at the latest. This is a really personal one and if I had anywhere remotely appropriate for long term ageing, one I’d scrap in an instant. Probably.

Most importantly -Is it delicious? The most subjective factor of them all. Do you want to pour yourself another glass of it? Is it good enough that you’d want to share it with your friends? This may be no more objective than Alice Feirings consideration of ’emotional impact’, but it’s less pretentiously presented (I hope). I may be a wine geek but if I’m rushing to share a wine with someone, it’s far more likely to be this point than anything else.

I suppose the most important consideration of systematic tasting and analysis is to have a few criteria to go by, regardless of what they are. This is ultimately how we develop our own preferences, tasting experience and slowly start to unravel and learn the world of wine from a practical point of view. As soon as you start to stop and think about a glass of wine, your relationship to wine starts to change; for the better, I hasten to add! If you don’t already, the next time you drink a glass of wine take 30 seconds to ask yourself ‘What do I like about this wine?’ It’s well worth the time!

Thoughts on: Spanish Wine in 2017

2017

Spain is a vast and diverse country when it comes to wine and like much of the world, has benefited greatly from improvements in viticultural sciences, wine-making technology and communications which has led to a revolution of style and quality over the last few decades. However, despite still being the 3rd largest producer of wine in the world, I feel that our quality wines aren’t well understood or represented outside of a few niche retail outlets and restaurants. Spain is often described as a ‘sleeping giant’ and there’s certainly some truth to that. Despite being the biggest exporter of wine in the world by some distance on volume, we’re 3rd when it comes to value. A great deal of our wine is still disappearing in tankers to the south of France or appearing for outrageously low prices on UK supermarket shelves which is not good for the longevity of our own brand, whilst also managing to really irritate French producers in the process. Not only that but Spaniards are drinking less wine than ever before, with consumption declining year by year, and barely half of what it was in the 1960’s.

Not all is doom and gloom however as there are a lot of producers in Spain working hard not only to improve the quality of their wine but also to educate consumers and make them aware of the differences in style and quality of what they’re making. Artadi have famously left DOC Rioja in protest at what they perceive to be a lack of support for quality minded producers, Catalunya has introduced Spain’s only real single-vineyard system, Cava is in the process of finalising a system to recognise and support premium, terroir-linked expressions of their wine and high altitude wines from Madrid and Galicia are gaining support for their cooler, fresher styles of local grape varieties. So what’s the future for Spanish wine? It’s hard to say, as we’re still losing ground to beer, gin and cocktails but there does seem to be a better level of engagement at the quality end of the spectrum, which is no bad thing. With that in mind, here are the regions and styles I’m going to really dig into this year in some depth, as they’re the ones I’m most excited about.

Rioja

rioja

I consider Rioja to be the greatest wine region in Spain, which is not a popular opinion in my little corner of it. Historically it benefited greatly from the phylloxera epidemic that essentially reset wine as we knew it across the world and spent most of the 20th century leading the way in terms of wine regulation, innovation and, very importantly, marketing. Today it’s a tale of two halves; cheap, nasty Rioja that you’ll find on your supermarket shelves are best to be avoided and are a constant thorn in the side of quality minded producers who want to link their wines to specific sub-regions, villages and vineyards and have this recognised on the labelling. However, much like Cava, as soon as you leave this zone and move upwards of €10 a bottle, the wine gets very good, very quickly.

Stylistically you can expect two types of red wines; the more extracted ‘modern’ style that often spends time in French oak and resembles Ribera del Duero in profile, and the more traditional style that undergoes a long maceration, fermentation and ageing process and is often aged in American oak, or more commonly a mixture of the two. It’s not only red wines either, with some of the very best white wines I’ve tried from Spain hailing from Rioja; usually creamy, floral barrel fermented Viura and Malvasia. In 2017 I’m looking forward to investigating more of the single-vineyard expressions of Rioja as well as saving my pennies and trying some of the premium expressions from my favourite producers. I hope the Consejo Regulador finally gets its act together and allows for more specific labelling practice although I’m not holding my breath here!

Favourite producers: La Rioja Alta, Muga, Allende, Marques de Murrieta, Lopez de Heredia, Ramirez de Ganuza

Producers to drink more of: Artadi, Remulluri, Artuke, Olivier Rivière, Oxer Wines

Costers del Segre

costers-del-segre

When it comes to new, exciting wines Catalunya is always right in the mix. A lot of attention has been made recently over the quality of white wines from Terra Alta and Emporda. However, clearly I’m going to different tastings as the wines I’ve tried from Costers del Segre have been a mile ahead of either, both in individuality and wine-making quality. Costers del Segre is often overlooked as it’s completely dominated by Raimat, a good quality producer with a broad portfolio of wines but unfortunately who also cast a very long shadow.

Whilst there are some very good red wines being produced, I foresee the future of Costers del Segre being based on white wines, both types often made from a blend of indigenous and international grape varieties, the two rivals being Chardonnay and Macabeo. Of the wines that really stood out for me, Macabeo was always involved at some level and I can’t think of another region where this relatively humble grape showcases itself quite so well. Simpler versions are high in acidity, very refreshing and showcase a nice mixture of florality and citrus fruit whereas the most interesting examples are usually barrel fermented, which the grape takes to well. I’m looking forward to trying more premium examples of Macabeo as well as exploring some of the more unusual international blends that usually fall flat in other regions.

Favourite producers: Clos Pons, Castell del Remei , Costers del Sió , Raimat, Vall de Baldomar

Producers to drink more of: Cérvoles Celler , Cooperativa L’Olivera , Castell d’Encús

Ribeira Sacra

ribeira-sacra

Now here’s a region that’s been turning some heads over the last few years, both locally and abroad. Quite literally the ‘sacred hillside’, Ribeira Sacra has more or less designed the blueprint for cooler climate Mencia in Spain, for which it is becoming deservedly famous. It’s also one of the most visually stunning wine regions in Spain, if not the world, and more and more enotourists are discovering the rolling hills and meandering rivers as much as they are the excellent wine.

Whilst there are some very good white wines being made from Godello, Treixadura and Loureira the real strength of Ribeira Sacra is red wines made from Mencia. Not only that, but other, often indigenous varieties, are starting to be produced in quality wine with Merenzao probably the most exciting. Most reds from Ribeira Sacra tend to be lower in alcohol, high in acidity and are mostly unoaked. In the case of Mencia it showcases itself beautifully with signature notes of violets, white pepper, raspberries and wild herbs. Delicious even when young and best of all, these wines don’t command premium prices and work exceptionally well in the heat of Spanish summer. In 2017 I’m looking forward to trying as many of the indigenous grapes as possible whilst stocking up on relatively inexpensive, high quality wines for the warmer months. It’s a hard life.

Favourite prodiucers: Raul Perez, Dominio do Bibei , Fedellos do Couto , Guimaro

Producers to drink more of: Anything I can get my hands on!

Cava

recaredo

One of Spain’s most famous vinous productions and a huge part of everyday life in Catalunya; the one wine that never seems to fade from popularity. Cava is a very unusual appellation in the respect that it isn’t limited to a single geographic location, and can indeed be made in as many as 8 regions throughout the country, although the vast majority is made within Penedes and indeed, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia in particular. Cava must be made in the traditional method and has to be aged on the lees for a minimum of 9 months before disgorgement. However, as mentioned earlier with Rioja, the real beauty of Cava lies in the better quality versions over € 10 a bottle with extended lees ageing and high quality base wines.

The real development in Cava is the clear need for a system that showcases these better wines, especially those linked to a specific plot of land known as a ‘Paraje’. The new classification is set to be rolled out in early 2017 and reads like a who’s-who of my favourite Cava producers. It’s long overdue as Cava has been producing some top class wines for a while now, often under the radar even locally, and hopefully this will give some more visibility to the quality potential of the industry and showcase to other regions across Spain that a link to terroir is a positive step forward. In 2017 I’m looking forward to drinking my way across as many quality producers as possible and trying more cavas made from indigenous red grapes such as Sumoll and Trepat. I have an exam on sparkling wine in March 2017, so it’s a great excuse to indulge myself a little.

Favourite producers: Recaredo, Gramona, Raventos i Blanc, Llopart, Alta Alella, Mestres

Producers to drink more of: Juve y Camps, Sabate i Coca, Agusti Torello, Pares Balta, Albert i Noya

It looks like I have a lot of drinking to do this year! If you live in Barcelona and you’re interested to learn more about Spanish wine, don’t forget to check out Maestrazgo Wine Club where we meet on a regular basis to discover and drink wines from not only across Spain, but the world of wine as well.

Barcelona Wine Tasting Newsletter: January 2017

Every month I send out a simple newsletter to the members of Maestrazgo Wine Club; a small group of wine-lovers who meet once a week to explore the world of wine together in a small tasting room in Barcelona. For more information on Maestrazgo Wine Club and how to book a wine tasting in Barcelona,check out this page for more information.

winter-pruning

January: The vines start the New Year in much the same condition as the rest of us; fast asleep. The leaves have long since gone, and the green canes that grew in the summer before will have lignified; that is, turned brown and woody. Any extra carbohydrates will be stored deep in the trunk of the vine and this is a sign that winter pruning can begin. Traditionally pruning starts on the 22nd January or the feast of the patron saint of vignerons, St. Vincent, although for practical reasons it tends to begin a lot sooner. Winter pruning is an arduous but necessary task as it determines the numer of buds left on the vine for this years growing season and subsequent harvest. Not the most thrilling of jobs in the cold winter but there’s little rest when it comes to the production of good quality wine!

Hello Wine Lovers! Happy New Year to you all! 2016 was a wonderful year but now we’re looking ahead to the promises of 2017 and regardless of what the wider world has to say, we fully intend to pick up where we left off and carry on exploring the world of wine together. I’m back in London for some more studying this month, leaving us with space for 3 tastings and I thought it would be a good time to go back to some basics. We’re going to kick off by looking at some of the most interesting and exciting regions in Spain to look out for during 2017 with our tasting on the 5th January; “Bold Predictions: Regions to drink in 2017”. On the flip-side of this, on the 19th January we’re going to take a moment to explore some of the lesser celebrated regions of Spain with our tasting “The Lost Ones: Lesser known DO’s of Spain” before finishing with a tasting of a bedrock of the modern wine industry “International Wine Tasting: The Wines of Bordeaux”. As always, the wines we present will be different to those you’ve tasted in the past as we take a fresh look at Spanish and Catalan wine, as well as a modern traditional look at that great French classic; Bordeaux. I’m delighted to have everyone along for another year and I look forward to seeing you all soon!

Events: Maestrazgo Wine Club

5th January– Bold Predictions: Regions to drink in 2017 – 25 euros p/p
19th January – The Lost Ones: Lesser known DO’s of Spain– 30 euros p/p
26th January – International Wine Tasting: The Wines of Bordeaux – 30 euros p/p

Articles: I probably spend too much of my time reading online articles about wine. However, as a result I can find and select a choice few to share – here are my three favourites from last month!

1. ‘Classic, Trusted Wine” by Andrew Jefford. This is a little longer than most articles by Jefford, or indeed compared to the articles I usually link, however, it’s a really lovely look at why appellation law exists and what effect that has on the consumer. It’s all about trust in the end, but how is that built? Read on! http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opinion/jefford-on-monday/classic-wine-reputation-351630/

2. ‘Why regulating “natural wine” is very good thing’ by Miquel Hudin. Perhaps one of the most commonly asked questions I get asked is “What is natural wine?’. This consumer confusion is entirely justified, because it’s very difficult to explain exactly what “natural wine” is! This is down to a lack of certification and regulation, meaning that legally the term currently means nothing. Miquel takes a look at some of the contentious points to navigate when making the definition, and offers his refreshingly caustic view on proceedings. https://wineonsix.com/why-regulating-natural-wine-is-very-good-thing/

3. ‘Cava de Paraje Calificado – what’s it all about?’ by Amaya Cervera. You may have heard that DO Cava has been working to produce a new quality level within the industry, to help define the truly excellent, aged Cavas that are available on the market today. It was originally meant to be ready for Christmas 2016 but it appears likely that it will be authorised in early 2017 instead. From 36 months minimum ageing to grapes sourced from limited areas known as ‘Parajes’; exciting times for Cava indeed! http://www.spanishwinelover.com/learn-220-cava-de-paraje-calificado-whats-it-all-about

Wine of the Month: I’m constantly on the look-out for wines of real quality and value; I rarely purchase anything over 30-40 euros a bottle and more commonly you’ll find me drinking in the 6-25 euro range.

trossos-vells

Alfredo Arribas Trossos Vells 2013 : What a wonderful wine. ‘Trossos Vells’ is a 100% Cariñena wine taken from 9 small vineyards around Masroig in DO Montsant. Each individual plot is vinified separately before being blended and aged in old, French oak for 12 months. It really is a big, delicious expression of Cariñena full of dark black fruits, black pepper, dried herbs and sweet spice. Almost inky, purple in colour and an absolute must-taste for Montsant fans. At around 18 euros retail, this is superb value for money.

Wine Facts
Some fun and interesting facts about the world of wine. Terminology, myths and FAQs; as science becomes more ingrained in our industry, we discover new and exciting realities every day!

“Are screw-caps a sign of cheap wine?” – Definitely not. A screw-cap is a relatively new style of closure that has been extensively championed by both Australia and New Zealand, although it is starting to make an impression in Europe as well. The concept of aging wine is to find a closure that allows a small, predictable amount of oxygen to enter the wine over a period of time, faciliating chemical change. Whilst screw-caps still don’t have studies from aging over 20 years, early studies suggest that this could potentially work for aged wines in the future. For younger wines, the screw-caps are cheaper, easier to open and mean there is no chance of cork-taint in your wine. Don’t be put off by screw-caps!

“How do you know if a wine is corked?” – This one can be tricky as not all corked wines are easy to spot. The culprit is a chemical known as TCA (trichloroanisole) which usually forms due to natural fungi from the cork tree reacting with the chemicals used in the cork making process; namely chlorine. Small amounts of TCA are often undetectable or don’t spoil the experience of the wine. However, if your wine smells suspiciously like wet cardboard/rotten wood/wet dog, this could well be TCA. Always re-cork this bottle and bring it back to the store you bought it from; whilst they are not obliged to exchange the bottle, all good stores will.

‘Finish’ – This is a term used to describe how long the desirable flavours stay present in your mouth after swallowing/spitting the wine. The ‘desirable’ part here is very important as it is common for wines to leave an after-taste but this is not always pleasant and can consist of a acrid bitterness or a stinging sensation from a level of unbalanced alcohol! Whilst there are some minor faults in a wine that can be smoothed over by clever wine-making, long, complex and enjoyable finishes are usually the mark of a truly lovely and well-made wine.

Social Media
These newsletters only come out once a month and there is a limit on space for content. If you use Social Media and want to keep up with regular wine updates and occasional rambles, feel free to connect with me on any of the following platforms.

Blog: winecuentista.com
Facebook: Wine Cuentista
Twitter: @Wine_Cuentista
Instagram: wine_cuentista

That’s it for this months newsletter. I hope you enjoyed it and please, if you have any suggestions or things you would like to see get in touch! Either respond to me here or email to fintankerr@winecuentista.com I can’t wait to see you all soon for more wine, food and good company. 🙂

Fintan Kerr

2016 in review

fintan-and-jose

Well, 2016 has been quite a year! You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a great deal in December this year and that’s because I’ve been busy planning an exciting, packed 2017 but I did want to take the time to round up the year, and highlight some of the great things I’ve experienced. Whilst the Western world has been somewhat turbulent politically and economically this year, the wine industry has remained steady, sane and really very interesting, with lots of new discoveries, classifications and new wine styles emerging throughout the year. My own experience of 2016 has been on the whole pretty positive, only marred by the aforementioned global issues and I have an awful lot to be thankful for. Here are some of my personal highlights from the year past.

Maestrazgo Wine Club: At the beginning of 2016 whilst on holiday in Argentina, I had to give up a project I’d been working on for almost a year and start from scratch with the goal of building a group of winelovers living in Barcelona. I remember building the group on Meet-up.com, opening a tasting for the week after I arrived back and crossing my fingers. I needn’t have worried because it booked up within the day, and I opened a second one which also filled up remarkably quickly. Since then we’ve done 35 tastings over the year, with a different topic every single week, exploring the world of wine with a wonderful group of people. It remains the highlight of my week and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have such an active, interesting group of people attending my tastings. 2017 is set to continue in the same vein with some new events and ideas planned for the year ahead. Stay tuned!

Wine education: If you’d told me 18 months ago that I’d currently be halfway through my WSET Diploma with Distinction and Merit grades for all exams I’d have laughed at you, as at that point I was just getting started with my education and this looked like a distant dream. It’s been pretty tough going financially travelling to London and back on top of the course costs but I couldn’t have spent the money any better; my understanding of the world of wine has come on leaps and bounds over the past year, largely due to the excellent teaching of the WSET and the format of the course. 2017 will see the end of the WSET Diploma and an opportunity to regather and prepare myself for the arduous, 3-5 year battle for the Masters of Wine title. I couldn’t be more excited!

Wine Cuentista: This year I’ve had the pleasure of organising several exclusive, private tastings for both people living within Barcelona and also those visiting. The private tastings are flexible allowing people to choose their topics very specifically and I’ve had a great time organising tastings from a general coverage of Spain, to deep-diving into individual appellations and wine styles. I’ve also enjoyed starting my blog and generally rambling away over the course of the year and whilst Spain might be the worst place to be self-employed in Europe at the moment, the reward of being able to define your own professional philosophy and goals is well worth the effort. I intend to devote a lot more time to my blog in 2017 and Wine Cuentista will also be coming to Youtube to explore wine more visually. Exciting stuff.

Devour Spain: 2016 has seen me working alongside Devour Spain a great deal, an excellent company focusing on food, culture, wine and history tours around the major cities of Spain. I work with them specifically as part of their Wine and Tapas tour in Barcelona, a great experience that allows me to meet people from all over the world and introduce them to the wonders of Spanish wine. There’s something enormously gratifying about knowing that hundreds of people are going back to their home countries, going into wine shops and having conversations like “We had the most amazing wine in Barcelona, do you have it?”

New Years Resolution: The first time I’ve ever completed one! My resolution this year was to share 50 different bottles of wine with 50 different people and I managed to honour it and have a great deal of fun in the process. Unfortunately in 2017 I won’t be able to afford a resolution quite like it (The bill crept a little over 4000 euros in the end!) but I fully intend to take the time to sit down and share a bottle as often as I can, get to know someone or catch up with an old friend. My New Years Resolution will be dreadfully boring by comparison and will be focused on wine education but now that I’ve managed to finish one, it would be a shame not to make a habit of it.

New friends: It seems that this year I’ve met more incredible people than ever before, from all across the world and in a few different fields. From getting to know the French wine industry through Le Petit Ballon, to being visited by winelovers from around the world to share a bottle or two, to getting to know the local community of Barcelona and of course, meeting incredible professionals through my Diploma course, it’s been a very social year indeed! Wine famously brings people closer together and my 2016 has certainly been proof of that.

Old friends: None of it would of course be worth it without the support, friendship and love from my friends and family. I’m surrounded by a lot of people that I care about and who care about me, and that makes all the difference in the end. In 2017 I’m going to become a father for the first time, which will bring a whole new dimension to proceedings and life in general, and I couldn’t be happier. Regardless of what 2017 brings, I know I’ll be able to spend some time with the people that mean the most to me and that’s a very comforting thought.

I hope you’ve all had a similarly interesting and exciting 2016, and I wish you all a wonderful start to 2017! It’s going to be a great year and I’m looking forward to seeing you all for a glass of wine or two over the coming months.

Happy New Year!

Fintan