Barcelona by the Glass: Gran Bodega Maestrazgo

Established: 1952

Style of establishment: Wine Shop

Price by the glass – 3 euros to 5 euros

Price by the bottle – Shelf price + 5 euros corkage fee

Address – 90 Carrer San Pere mes Baix, 08003

Phone number933 10 26 73

Opening Hours – Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2:30pm and 2:30pm to 10pm

Closed on Sundays

Gran Bodega Maestrazgo is one of Barcelona’s oldest existing wine shops, having been founded by Agustin Moliner back in 1952. An olive farmer by trade, the two severe winters of 1951 and 1952 quite convinced Agustin that there had to be more to life than scraping a living in the countryside, and so he headed to Barcelona to set up a Bodega. Now, Bodega’s traditionally sold wine but also olive oil, vinegar and other related products so it wasn’t such a giant leap to move into the sales aspect of the business, rather than growing and producing it. The neighbourhood in question, was, and still is, a quiet residential close to the Santa Caterina market. Business flourished, to the extent that the Bodega is still thriving under the capable hands of Jose Moliner, the third generation owner of Bodega Maestrazgo.

As a disclaimer, it’s worth noting that this is a shop very close to my heart. I lived on the street for three years and it was largely down to visiting Bodega Maestrazgo on a nightly basis that I started to become fascinated by wine. Jose was the first person to explain wine to me on any level and he’s now a close personal friend of mine, also allowing us to organise our very special Maestrazgo Wine Club tastings in the private tasting room adjacent to the shop itself. I’m thrilled to be able to recommend Bodega Maestrazgo to anyone visiting or living in the city, as it’s truly one of the last historical wine shops still in business and thanks to Jose’s forward thinking nature, manages to stay up to date with many of the latest trends and wines, as well as catering to the old classics and even bulk wine for as little as 2 euros a litre!

The Selection

Bodega Maestrazgo is first and foremost a Spanish wine shop. To that end, it comes as no surprise that a good 95% of the products here are from across Spain, with a small selection of Champagne, German Riesling and the occasional splurge on something interesting (most recently a selection of wines from Penfolds, South Australia!). However, the wines on sale are a wonderfully eclectic mix of what Spain has to offer, with a big selection of the classics such as Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Priorat, but also a lot of the new-wave Spanish wines from Galicia, Andalucia and Madrid. The price points are all very reasonable and it’s rare to find wine on sale here for more than €50 a bottle; there simply isn’t the market for it within the area. If I had any criticism of the bottle selection, it’s that there could be more thought put into the white wines but frankly, that’s as much to do with consumer demand as it is with any purchasing decisions.

The other option you have of course, is to buy the bulk wine stored in barrels at the front of the shop. In terms of volume, these sales far outstrip bottle sales and with good reason; the prices are outrageously low. €2.30 a litre for a reasonable, if anonymous, of Spanish red grapes? €2.60 a litre for a young, supple Tempranillo blend from Ribera del Duero? Yes please! Do like the locals and bring your own plastic container, it only has to be an empty bottle of some sort, as that saves you the cost of purchasing a new one which costs almost as much as the wine itself. The ‘Vi Negre’, literally ‘Black wine’, also happens to make an excellent base for Spanish Sangria.

The real beauty of Bodega Maestrazgo, however, is their dispensation to serve alcohol by the glass until 9:30pm every evening, something that not every wine shop can boast of. There are typically 2-3 whites and 2-3 reds available by the glass, but if you’re with friends simply ask after the corkage fee to drink within the shop. €5 is the going amount and makes for a stupendously affordable alternative to ordering wine in restaurants and bars; take a €20 euro wine, drink at €25 due to corkage and compare that to the same wine selling for €40 in a restaurant. It’s a no-brainer. They also have a large selection of cold wines, Cavas and Champagnes in the fridge to the front of the shop so feel free to peruse there as well; nothing beats a cold bottle of Cava and a plate of Jamon Iberico on a warm summers evening!

The Space

When I bring people to the store, I refer to the area as being ‘Old-old town’ rather than the ‘New-old town’ of central Born. It’s not that one is older than the other, it’s simply that this part of Barcelona has seen very little in the way of investment and only recently has there been any changes in business ownership at all. As a result, the shop itself looks like it hasn’t changed much since 1952 and in reality, it hasn’t much!

As you enter you go through the doorway with the till on your left and the large selection of bulk wine in barrels to your right. All the bottles and the space to sit down and grab a drink are at the back, so this is where I strongly recommend you make yourselves comfortable for the evening. Grab a barrel or a small table, sit back and relax! If you find yourself falling in love with any particular wine and need to take it home via air-travel, make sure to ask Jose who can either ship it or wrap small quantities in bubble-wrap to be safely stowed in your hold luggage.

The Food

As there is no bar licence here, the food is a relatively simple but delicious affair; cheeses, cold meats, olives, anchovies, bread and some truly delicious olive oil. The Jamon Iberico they slice off the bone is as good as any I’ve had in the city and very competitively priced; it’s become my go-to plate for €15 whenever I eat there! There’s a selection of cheeses and I highly recommend the Idiazabal, a smoky sheeps cheese from the Basque Country in the north of Spain and whatever new delights they have in stock. The beauty of the food here is that it changes often, with Jose constantly experimenting with new cheeses, cured meats and even different breads from across the country. If the Galician sour-dough is available, order half a loaf, dribble liberally with olive oil and prepare yourself for one of the best rustic food experiences going.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, this is a shop close to my heart, so I admit it’s hard to be objective about it. However, I’ve not once taken a guest or family member there who hasn’t fallen in love with it and it’s not hard to see why. In a world where authenticity is at a premium, Bodega Maestrazgo manages it effortlessly and with no strings attached; what you see is what you get. There are fewer more genuine experiences of Barcelona’s wine scene to be found and every wine lover passing through should try their best to visit. As I still spend a lot of my time there, should you see me come and say hello and of course, make sure to meet Jose if he’s in the shop himself as his intense, warm and generous nature is as much a part of Bodega Maestrazgo as the bricks and mortar.

Tips

Bodega Maestrazgo is an enormously popular spot with the local community, so make sure to get there slightly ahead of the crowd as it can be hard to find a spot past 8pm, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.

Whilst the wine-by-the-glass list is interesting and balanced, it really does pay to bring a friend or two and take advantage of the corkage directly from the shelf. There are some stunning wines to be had, constantly updated and very reasonably priced.

Only one or two members of staff speak English so be patient if you don’t speak any Spanish and you’ll figure it out!

Make sure to ask what cheeses and meats are currently available as they change often. Regardless, definitely order the Jamon Iberico de Bellota in the largest format possible!

Either go early during the evening or better still, during the middle of the day. Setting up shop at 12:30 and enjoying a bottle of excellent wine over the next 2 hours is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Bring a friend (or a book!) and expect to wander out with a big smile on your face.

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