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Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Pruning Update – March 2015

Like I mentioned in a previous post (here), I seem to be on schedule this year as far as the pruning is concerned.

Below are the vineyards that I attend to myself, but apart from the grapes from these vineyards, I also buy in grapes from local grapegrowers (if they agree to abide by certain conditions).

Carabaña Vineyard (Field blend of Airén and Tempranillo; 1 hectare total)

This vineyard is all pruned already:

Airén and Tempranillo vines all prunes in Carabaña

All I have to do now is pile up those canes into bigger piles so that the ‘tractorista’ can come and pulverize them while at the same time cutting back the high grass and flowers and plants and thistles. This will happen in April/May so that he only needs to come once, because by that time of year the growing season for grass and flowers is over, so they won’t grow back.

Most grapegrowers either burn the canes or ‘dispose’ of them by taking them to the municipal dump. But I believe that it is much better to return the vineyard material to the soil.

Another pending item in this vineyard is some manure. I’ve been trying to contact an organic sheep and goat farm up in the mountains near Madrid, to arrange for picking up about 10 t of manure, ... but so far to no avail. Here’s some pics of the last time I did it:

insert photo

And yet another pending item here in Carabaña, is to replant some new vines in the spaces where the original vines have died. There are about 200 such spaces. I’ve already bought 200 pre-grafted baby vines, and they are ready for planting, in April. They are Tempranillo grafted onto American rootstock “Paulsen 1103”. I really should have taken my own cuttings from the vines in the vineyard and grafted them myself (selection massale), but I don’t have the skill. I would need to do a course or work with an experienced grape-grower.

I actually already attempted to plant new vines back in May 2013 (see this post). All went fine but most of the new baby vines died over the summer due to lack of watering! Live and learn. I will have to make sure I water them a few times over the summer this time.

insert photo

Villarejo. Malvar (1 ha)

This vineyard is all pruned too. Here I also have to make big piles of canes for the tractorista.
In this vineyard I like to do a secondary pruning during the summer months, to ensure that no canes, leaves or clusters are in contact with the ground, and that there is a gap at ground level so that the wind and air can circulate freely. Otherwise there is a risk of creating a humid, jungle-like environment under each vine, with the possibility of mildew and oidium.

Malvar vines in Villarejo all pruned 

El Tiemblo I. (Sierra de Gredos). Garnacha – low altitude (0.25 ha)

I am about ¼ done. I hope to finish pruning before the end of March – one more day’s work should do it.
Here I am going to do a rather strange experiment: around this olive tree (see pic below) there are about 7 vines that could climb up it, and I am going to allow them to do so, instead of pruning them normally. I’ve been reading some ancient Roman texts on viticulture recently (Pliny, Columella and others) and I was fascinated to learn that the ancient Romans had 3 systems of grape-growing: 2 just like our modern methods today, ie low bush vines (fr: en gobelet, or sp: en vaso) and trellised along wooden structures or fences (similar to our modern wires); but they also had a third system – training vines up trees!

Garnacha vines in El Tiemblo, about 1/4 prunes

So hopefully I shall be able to harvest (somehow) about 50 kg of tree-borne grapes with which to make some ‘Roman’ wine!  I already have an amphora to make this wine in. But first I have to line it with beeswax. There is a good video on YouTube that I am going to follow, and then I will make my own video when I (attempt to) line my amphora.

El Tiemblo II. (Sierra de Gredos). Garnacha - high altitude (1 ha)

At the time of writing I haven’t started pruning this vineyard. I am leaving this one to the last because it is quite high in the mountains, and there is a slight risk of late frost. So the later I prune, the later it will sprout, which will reduce the risk a bit.

The other day when I was checking the vineyard, I came across two goats!  This is OK at this time of year, because there is nothing to eat; but it would be bad news if the goats could get in after the vines have sprouted, as they could eat those lovely tender and tasty vine shoots!  I will have to check and mend the fence!

Goats in the Garnacha vineyard,
El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos), as yet unpruned

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Natural Wine Tasting in Paris

I’m just back from an absolutely incredibly awesome 2-day tasting event in Paris. It was organized by Thierry Puzelat, who in addition to being a natural wine producer based in the Loire, also imports and distributes foreign wines in France.

Here’s a list of the winemakers who came (here). Anyone who knows their natural wines will recognize some impressive names there, and I felt overwhelmed and honoured to be invited along with them. For me, this invitation to participate in the fair (called “Deguestation”) and have my own table to pour my wines, was the final affirmation that I really do make good wines, which many, many people buy and enjoy. This is of course silly and irrational because I’ve been exporting thousands of bottles for years, and mostly repeat sales too, so ‘intellectually’ and ‘rationally’ I already knew that  my wines were ‘good’. But they say that we humans are fundamentally emotional animals and that we are not really as rational as we like to think we are. Whatever! The fact is that now I really know, deep down and ‘emotionally’ that I’m doing something right.

And France! We all know what the French are like when it comes to wines, don’t we? Yes, they’re a bit like the Italians and Spanish, actually, ie they think that ‘their’ wines are the best, and so it’s very difficult to sell foreign wines in those countries.

And that, is basically what I wanted to say in this post. But here’s a bit about the tasting itself:

It was held in Le Chateaubriand and in the Le Dauphin, two restaurants next door to each other on Avenue Parmentier in the 11ème.

Here I am (left) with two other producers

View from the inside, from my table

We producers were all lucky enough to be invited for lunch and dinner on both days, though at lunch we had to eat on the go, as it were, at our tables, as it was really busy, and couldn’t really close:

with Thierry at my table
I was sharing a table with two Georgian producers, John Wurdeman (from Pheasants Tears winery) and John Okro, an small independent producer:

John Wurdeman at his table
About half the producers were Italians (mostly Northern Italy, Piemonte, Veneto), and half was made up by Slovenians, Greeks, Catalans, and two Spaniards (one proper Spaniard, Goyo García from Ribera de Duero; and an Italo-Scottish Spaniard, from Sierra de Gredos, ha! ha!). Such is Thierry Puzelat’s multi-faceted stable of foreign winemakers.

Here I am at La Cave, next door to Le Chateaubriand, tasting an orange wine from Rome
I met many interesting people over the 2 days. The ‘official’ hours were 11:00 to 18:00, but of course the tasting/drinking/networking continued outside in the street till dinnertime, then over dinner, then after dinner until the wee small hours.

Polenta with lamb, washed down with a full-bodied Georgian!
On the first day I met, incredibly, ___ ___, who used to play scrum-half for the Spanish rugby team back in the 1980’s. What was he doing there? I don’t know, I forgot to ask! We had a great chat about rugby and about the positive values it instils, so unlike football. I also forgot to take a photo of us together.

after hours
Then I met a cook-actor who cooks dishes for clients right in front of them, as if on a stage, with music and dancing included – and he wants my wines! We chatted for a long time about this and that (and life, etc) because he believed that he had to know his producers personally (of food and wine) in order to give his clients 100%.

Then I met many, many chefs, maîtres, sommeliers and waiters and waitresses, who were all more ‘technical’ if you can call it that. They would smell and taste my wines and then sort of stare into space for a while – obviously trying to imagine what they could pair the wine with.

I wish I’d taken more photos and more notes, because I’m sure I’ve already forgotten at least half the people who came to taste. However, I don’t have a single business card left in my pockets, so I must have given them all out!

It only remains to wait and see if any results are forthcoming, in terms of sales. I’m pretty sure they will be. They say that “all things come to they who wait”, but I believe that you also have to throw out little signals (eg attend tastings) otherwise no-one will know of your existence. Also, I’ve come to believe that it doesn’t pay to rush things in the (natural) wine world, not in the vineyard, nor in the bodega, nor when looking for an importer in Japan! (hint hint) :)

I also met, on the first morning before the tasting started, a fellow natural wine-maker, Jordi Llorens, from Montfort in Catalonia. It turned out that we had a lot in common and had lived sort of similar parallel lives which took us both to where we are today, ie practicing organic agriculture, and making natural wine.

Winemaker Jordi Llorens myself

The lock filling up with water 

And lastly, here’s an anecdote that couldn’t be more appropriate to this post. I was sitting behind my table during a quiet period, and I was doing a bit of anti-social media on my mobile (as one does) and did I not see a tweet by @AliceFeiring with a link to an article on natural wines in the Wine Spectator; so I thought ‘how appropriate’, I went to read it, and after reading I tweeted back “There seems to be a disconnect between theory and reality here”. I had to make an effort to be polite and correct here, because otherwise I’d have come across as a raving fanatic – which I’m not!

The article is a complete fantasy by the author who cannot possibly have much experience of natural wines. To me it read like something out of a creative writing workshop, ie good use of the English language, nice turns of phrase, good sound-bites, condescending platitudes in the introduction, inappropriate but alluring analogies later on, in general an excellently written ‘piece’. But unfortunately it has nothing to do with the reality of natural wines. The author, Harvey Steiman, is of course immensely knowledgeable about wine and food in general (he’s been writing for the WS for decades), but as far as natural wines are concerned, I’d respectfully say that he lacks the knowledge and experience to give a balanced and informed opinion.

And of course, as usual, no names were given regarding the faulty wines (of the winery, the wine or the vintage), just the usual generality along the lines of “the natural wine movement has a great tolerance for faults” Is this out of politeness, or is it lack of hard evidence? Even after all those times "sitting round a table wanting to moo at the barnyard aromas wafting ..." ?

Over just two days I must have tasted +100 natural wines at Le Chateaubriand, and:

- not one had Brett
- not one had excessive VA
- not one was like cider
- not one had funk (whatever that is!)

They were all in fact completely fault-free. Is that so amazing?

But c’est la vie! I’ve reached the stage now (in the development and evolution of my attitude) where ‘frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’ what the mainstream writers write. But at the same time I think it’s a terrible shame that with such a wide readership, many people will be put off or will become skeptical of natural wines and will not bother to taste any. Again, c’est la vie, I’m not out to evangelize or ‘convert’ anyone to natural wines. Each to their own, and a wine for each occasion.

After all this time (12 years making natural wines; 5 years participating in the wine world) I still don’t understand the attitude of the mainstream wine world (writers and trade) towards natural wines. This article in the WS was just ignorance, but many other articles are aggressive/denigrating/mocking. Why? Is it fear? Fear of losing market share or sales? Ridiculous, IMO, because the best guestimates puts natural wines’ share of the world market at less than 0.01%.  Fear of the public realizing that about 90% of all wines produces are full of additives and subject to industrial manipulations? Again unlikely, IMO, as natural winemakers do not have a marketing lobby or the resources of the budget to do any advertising. Is it just mockery? Just pooh-poohing a passing fad? I don’t think so, because the modern manifestation of natural wines has been going on since the 1970’s.  I really don’t know (or care) but I would be curious to hear of any theories that anyone may have on this question.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

How on earth did I manage to achieve all that?

It's been a long time since my last post, and such a lot has lot has happened; so much in fact that I haven't had any time to write any posts on this blog!

That's probably a good thing though, all things considered, as after all, my 'core activities' (as it were) are growing grapes, making wine, and marketing and selling said wine; not writing a blog.  On the other hand though, one could consider writing this blog as part of my marketing!  I suppose it is, really, even though I like doing it just for its own sake.

There's a lot of information in this blog (especially in the "Pages" above), and I get a lot of good feedback about it from many different sources; so I guess I must be doing something right.

So like I said, I've been busy, busy, busy. But in a good sense, not all stressed out and running around madly constantly doing stuff. Like last year!

So here's a quick summary of what I've managed to achieve recently:

1. The pruning. Incredibly I'm on schedule! Usually, if I remember rightly, I'm always running late, some years really, really late, and other years just late! But this year is perfect, so far (touching wood here!). Carabaña (field blend of Airén and Tempranillo) is done; Villarejo (Malvar) is done; my low altitude Garnacha plot in El Tiemblo (Sierra de Gredos) is just under half done, and my high altitude Garnacha plot (also El Tiemblo) is the last one to be started on, in a few weeks.

My half-pruned low-altitude Garnacha vineyard (El Tiemblo, Sierra de Gredos)
2. Bottling. Again, much better than last year, when I had to bottle up madly during the summer to free up tanks before the harvest. This year, I'm about half done already. I just have to bottle up the Airén 14, Doré 14,  Albillo 14 (from an amphora which will be very time-consuming), the Sauv blanc 14 (ditto), and just 1 more barrica of Garnacha.

Bottling up
3. I started beautifying the patio, and preparing a plot of ground to plant some vegetables in.

My rather messy looking patio at the bodega
4. I bought 200 vines to plant in the empty spaces in my Carabaña vineyard (Tempranillo variety, grafted onto Paulsen 1103 rootstock) which I hope to do in April, depending on the temperature and weather

5. I managed to source and buy 2 kg of organic beeswax, so I can line that new baby amphora that I bought on the spur of the moment a few months ago!

6. I prepared and delivered several nice orders (Thierry Puzelat (France), Restaurante Montía (El Escorial), Restaurante Los Asturianos (Madrid), Le Petit Bistrot (Madrid), CienPorCien Natural (Cádiz), Restaurante Bodeguita de Pilar (El Tiemblo), a CSA type group in the mountain village of Bustarviejo)

Boxes, having been prepared, ready to receive bottles of wine, having been corked and labeled
7. Sent off samples to people who were interested in tasting my wines: Barcelona, Vienna, London, Avila, Grenada, Madrid (being discrete here, no names!)

8. Organized some tastings in my bodega with possible importers/buyers (Australia, Norway, Barcelona) and with other people (not possible buyers) who just came to taste because they wanted to (Japan, Boston, Portugal/Belgium, Madrid) (being discrete again here, no names!)

Doing a bit of tasting in the bodega
9. Did a presentation/tasting of my wines in the Petit Bistrot (Madrid) (see this previous post)

10. Went to a Slow Food / Slow Wine event in Zaragoza, to pour my wines, and managed to find a distributor for Aragón, one Carlos Scholderle, #winelover ambassador to Spain. (This two-day event deserves a whole post to itself!)

My table at the Slow Wine tasting, Zaragoza (Aragón)
11. And am in the process of calmly updating the paperwork/redtape/bureaucracy that has to be done if you want to have a legal wine business. Instead of madly doing it the day before the deadlines!

12. And all the while working at my day-job!

 Not bad, eh?  Another new year's resolution was to write down all the things I manage to achieve, which I've been doing. This makes you feel good about your life! Before, I just had the to-do list, which is of course never-ending, but it seemed that I wasn't achieving anything. In fact I was, but I just didn't realize it!!!

Anyway, I hope that wasn't too boring to read through. But it just goes to show that winemaking is not just about being mystical in the vineyard and getting to taste some really interesting wines at tastings! Though of course I love those occasions too, when they occur! There's lots and lots of rather mundane stuff that has to be done, but which is not really photogenic or interesting to write about!

So I think I'll just post this now, without any further ado, and maybe get round to writing some more specific posts next week (or at least before the end of March!)

PS. Just to say that I'll be off to Paris, France this weekend: see here. It's a tasting organized by Thierry Puzelat of all his 'natural wine' producers that he imports into France.

PPS. And also just to say that on Friday 13th, I'll be presenting my wines at Enoteca Barolo (Madrid). 

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Some Thoughts and Comments and Feedback on my Recent Natural Wine Tasting

I got a lot of good feedback from the people who came to the tasting of my new wines the other night at the Petit Bistrot. There were not many of us there which was a good thing as I could circulate and chat to the different groups, who didn't really know each other.

It was quite an informal affair as far as tastings go. The normal procedure seems to be to set up a sort of 'high table' or stage with the speaker speaking at an audience who are all sitting facing him or her. But in this case we were all just standing around in groups in a restaurant which, being a weekday, was empty apart from ourselves.

I came away with a very positive feeling of satisfaction and of the certainty that I must be doing something right! A feeling that I really needed, given my recent string of acetic disasters (see my previous post).

Here are the wines I presented:

Airén 2014
Doré 2014
Albillo 2014
Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Tempranillo 2013
Garnacha 2013

The first three were very young whites, which are not even bottled up yet. I bottled six bottles of each specially for this tasting straight from the stainless steel fermentation tanks (Airén and Doré) and from the amphora (Albillo). I am very happy with all three, and I think they should be drunk between now and this summer, ie young, while they are nice and fresh, especially the Airén. I know my Airens can last for years and still be drinkable, but they evolve into a different wine, which becomes less and less fruity and more and more Sherry-like as time goes by. Again, there's no accounting for taste, and many people like them that way. It's just that I personally like the Airén while it's young and fruity and full of complexities.

Regarding the Doré, there's not much I can say as it's the first time I've used that variety. So, I will keep back several cases and taste them over the years. At the moment, it's interesting to drink.

The Albillo 2014 is enormous! It's super complex and interesting and intense. It has the body of a big red wine but the aromas of a white! I'm pretty sure it will evolve well over time too, but it's perfectly fine right now too.

The Sauvignon blanc 2013 is an orange wine, ie made with white grapes but macerated on the skins like a red wine - and then racked into an old clay amphora, then bottled and aged.

I have to say that I myself was really surprised and impressed by the reception the wines got; which sounds like a silly thing to say, as I'd obviously tasted them all before. But I'd always tasted them on my own, straight from the tanks, in a silent and empty winery. Whereas at the tasting, it was like being an actor on stage, with all the related nerves and stage-fright!  Especially during the first wine, when everyone is paying close attention to what I'm saying (as opposed to chatting with their mates like they were doing by the sixth wine!)

So, I think I've managed to tick all those natural wine boxes that I'm interested in ticking:

- Express the terroir
- Express the grape variety
- Pleasant and enjoyable to drink
- Comment-worthy
- Complex and interesting aromas and tastes

I won't go into details about the actual aromas and tastes perceived or comments made by all the different people who kindly shared their opinions with me, as they were all different and even conflicting! Never would it be more appropriate to say "There's no accounting for taste"!

In any case, I'd rather let the wines speak for themselves, and I'd also rather let tasters and critics and winelovers in general speak their opinions, instead of me. Just because I can grow grapes and make wine, doesn't mean that I can write critically and usefully about my own wines! Strange as it may seem!

During the course of the evening I had an interesting discussion with a group of people about the visual aspects of my wines, which were all rather cloudy, all had sediments, and one even had some precipitated tartrates. In a nutshell, my opinion about the visual aspect is, as Clark Gable said to Vivien Leigh: "Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!".  Now that's not meant to be rude or disparaging or anything like that, it's simply the reduction or summary of a topic that I've though about for a long time. A more detailed explanation for this attitude is as follows:

1. I believe that the current modern standard of beauty in wine is just a mere casual collateral consequence of industrial large-volume producing wineries' need to stabilize their wines for transport and storage purposes. I don't think that all these wineries independently and simultaneously started thinking about how to make their wines look better; no, they looked for a way to be able to transport and store their wines cheaply and over long distances and for a long time.

2. I don't believe that transparent, shiny, liquids are for some reason intrinsically more pleasing to look at than cloudy, semi-opaque liquids. This is just the prevailing opinion in the spirit of the times in which we happen to be living. The analogy that sprang to mind in the heat of the moment was of nude paintings of the past, where the subjects were fat! The opposite, in fact, of what is held to be beautiful today, ie not an intrinsic, universal quality, but based on other criteria that are held to be valid at the time in question

3. I also believe that wines are primarily best enjoyed for their taste, and secondarily for their aromas (which are of course closely related), while the visual part is in a different league altogether. I mean how much enjoyment can you get from just looking at your glass of wine?  Most winedrinkers don't pay that much attention to it anyway - just a cursory glance I would say. Most winedrinkers don't even smell their wine before drinking it - I'd say that smelling your wine is a rather geeky thing to do.  So actually looking at your wine and analyzing all those points that you read about in "How to drink wine" manuals seems to me to be only for people studying to become professionals, and a completely useless (and maybe even pretentious) exercise for 'normal' winelovers.

I have an info sheet for each one of the wines we tasted, so if anyone is interested, just write me an email or whatever and I'll send it along.  Ideally I should just put them online somewhere and make a link, but I don't know where to upload them to!

For a post in Spanish, written by Vicente Vida, a Spanish wine blogger, who came to the tasting, click here.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tasting Presentation of Six (6) Natural Wines

PROXIMAMENTE - Cata de Nuevos Vinos de Vinos Ambiz:

COMING SOON - A Tasting of New Wines by Vinos Ambiz

Cuando - El jueves 22 de enero
When - this Thursday 22 of January

A qué hora - a partir de las 20:30
At what time - starting at 20:30

Donde - en el Petit Bistrot, c/Principe de Vergara, 210
Where - at the Petit Bistrot, c/Principe de Vergara, 210, Madrid

Qué vinos:
What wines:

3 blancos/whites 2014 (Airén, Albillo, Doré)
1 naranja/orange 2104 (Sauvignon blanc)
2 tintos/reds 2013 (Garnacha, Tempranillo)

Hay que reservar: 91-426-7405
Booking required: 91-426-7405

Qué más - charla informativa y ronda de preguntas y muchas cosas ricas para cenar
What else - a presentation and question answer session, and lovely food for dinner

Cuanto cuesta - €25
How much - €25

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Natural Wine Catastrophe

In contrast to my second-last post (Visits, Tastings, Wine Fairs and Other Jollys), which was all about the good times, this one is about the bad things which have happened to me recently. 

Specifically, it’s about how my wines have turned into vinegar this year! Just a few weeks ago I had yet another lot go bad on me (this time about 2000 liters of Garnacha from Sierra de Gredos), which I poured down the drain.

Needless to say I've been thinking a lot about the possible causes of this series of acetic events. Why so many instances this year (4 different lots) when I've been making wine in the same way for 12 years, and only one lot ever turned into vinegar in all that time (back in 2008 I think)?

Well, I won't bore you with all my thoughts and theories and ramblings over the past few weeks ... I'll just come straight out with what I think has happened:

- (1) The major difference between what I'm doing now, and what I was doing back in the 'old days' is that nowadays I'm making a lot more wine, and a lot more different types of wines. I used to just make about two or three thousand bottles of Airén plus 2 barricas of Tempranillo crianza. But now I'm making about 12,000 bottles of at least 10 different wines plus assorted mini-experiments. This must be a significant factor somehow. I obviously can't just carry on doing the same things as I was doing before

- (2) I don't have so much time to look after each wine and do what has to be done at the right time as I did before, due to a number of different circumstances

- (3) I still don't have airtight pneumatic lids for all my tanks. Maybe if there is a source of contamination somewhere in the bodega, it's easier for the vinegar bacteria ("acetobacter") to get into the tanks if they're not sealed properly?

The fact is that all my containers and assorted equipment and machinery is not the result of careful planning based on expected needs. It is in fact the complete opposite! Everything I own was bought incrementally year after year whenever I happened to have some spare cash available. Thus some years I bought a stainless steel tank, including hermetic seal, and some years I could only afford the tank but not the lid.

- (4) I don’t have enough stainless steel tanks (with or without hermetic lids); I have to use open top plastic containers, open top oak barrels (which I opened up myself), and ceramic amphorae, which are difficult to close off in an airtight manner. So I will have to think about that little problem too.

One thousand liters going down the drain

So, conclusions:

1. I'm going to invest in airtight lids for all my tanks, even though it will be hideously expensive. Though perhaps not as expensive as pouring thousands of litres of vinegary wine down the drain!

2. I'm going to become even cleaner and more hygienic than usual. Not sure how, but I'll think of what can be done in that area, over the course of the year.

C'est la vie. And the bright side?

Well, I can't think of anything positive about this at the moment. I'm really angry and upset and depressed :(   But I'm sure I'll get over it!  Any helpful suggestions would be most welcome.

Actually, there is one thing that is helping to cheer me up, even though it’s got nothing to do with the lessons to be learned from the above. It’s that I’ve just received an order for a mixed pallet of wines (mostly Garnacha) from ... wait for it ... from France! Amazing! I still can’t quite believe it! Coals to Newcastle and Grenache to France, what? :)

The importer is Thierry Puzelat, a well-known winemaker based in the Loire, who has also started to distribute other wines. I can’t wait to find out where my wines end up, hopefully some interesting wine bars in Paris :)

I strongly suspect this will be my last post this year, so on that happy note ... Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you all drink some interesting wines over the holidays :)

Monday, 6 October 2014

Back-Label Feedback

I got some ‘interesting’ feedback recently from some #winelovers on FaceBook. See this comment thread.

My first reaction to these comments was great surprise and incomprehension, because it wasn't at all what I was expecting. And now that a few days have passed and I’ve had plenty of time to think it over and prepare replies in my mind, etc, … my second reaction is still great surprise and incomprehension!

But first things first. Here’s the offending back-label itself:

Before replying to all the comments in the thread, here are my reasons and motives for designing and using such a label:

1. First and foremost in my mind and overridingly most important to me is the “labelling issue” for wine. As I’m sure you all know, wine (for whatever reason) is exempt from the labelling requirements that all other food and drink products have to comply with. I consider this to be against consumers’ best interests.

I believe that this class of legislation is passed with the consumers interests in mind. In fact, surely it’s the only reason that such legislation exists in the first place? Otherwise we would be back in the nineteenth century where producers could do exactly as they liked with no regard whatsoever to consumers’ health and safety!
Things have moved on a bit since but the same basic principle applies, and consumers now have a right to know what’s in their product, so that they can make an informed choice on whether to purchase it or not.

So I decided to voluntarily publish the list of ingredients in my wines and processing that I subjected them to, and not to wait for the lawmakers to make it obligatory. (I reckon it will be a long time before that happens, given the strength of the industrial lobbies and the weakness of consumer interest lobbies!).

2. Secondly, I was hoping that such a gesture would generate some publicity in a legitimate and productive manner. Productive because it would stimulate some debate and inspire people to think about the labelling issue; and legitimate because I haven’t deceived readers or distorted the truth in any way, I’ve just given bare facts.

So, onto the comments themselves:

Here’s the first one from Magnus Reuterdahl:
“It’s not a label that sells a wine though it could be used for samples!”

Magnus, yes, you are probably right, but my objective in using this label wasn’t to sell wine. I am a very small producer (about 15,000 bottles of about 8 different wines) and so I can easily sell all my production every year, without need of any crazy marketing gimmicks!

Next up was a mini-sub-thread from Suzanne Werth-Rosarius, Sam Jorgensen and Ryan Opaz:

Suzanne: “my translation of the label is: whatever it tastes like, you should drink it because it’s ecologically and morally correct.”

Sam: “Is natural wine intrinsically more “moral” than other wine? Highly doubtful, if you ask me.”

Suzanne: “I guess that’s what he wants to make us believe.”

Sam: “Moreover, drinking only natural wine is as bloody-minded a philosophy as the concept that all natural wine is bad.”

Ryan: “... I would have to say I think it’s pretty silly too, but there is a demand for it.”

Sam: “It’s certainly what he wants us to believe. It’s still a ridiculous assertion."

Suzanne: “Sam, or the other way around, that all ‘non-natural’ wine is bad.  Btw, is there any wine that is not natural? Grapes are natural products. Full stop.”

Sam: “Exactly. The militancy some people have means they miss out on some incredible wine, which is a massive price to pay.”

What? I beg your pardon? Where on earth does it say that I want you all to believe that natural wine is more moral? I have never said any such thing, anywhere, anytime, let alone on this back-label, which after all is just a list of bullet points!

As the sensible and rational #winelover that I like to think I am, I obviously agree that it is silly and bloody-minded to hold such radical philosophies, but my question remains: “Why this leap of logic from an information-loaded back-label, which can only be of benefit to consumers, to questions of morality, radical philosophies and militancy? (which are of course extremely interesting topics - but I didn't mention them on the label!)

Susan Hadbled:
"It certainly is a statement. A niche would like to see detailed labelling. Think it’s gone too far.”

Yup, it’s a statement alright! But you think “it’s gone too far”?  It hasn’t even started going anywhere yet! At the moment winemakers are totally except from listing the ingredients they put into their wines, unlike producers of any other food or drink product. Consumers just do not have the information they need in order to choose if they want to buy or not.

Perhaps I have gone too far with this particular back-label, in that I’ve also listed what I didn’t put in. But that was just to make my point! If winemakers were required to list their ingredients, then they would have to expressly list all those substances (that I haven’t used). And then, with that information, consumers could decide whether to buy or not.

Sarah May Grunwald:
"If you have to spend the money on a label like this maybe the wine ain’t so good. I only drink natural wine but this is kind of douche”

Sarah, I hardly spent any money at all on this label! I wrote it myself on a Word file and the printer is a friend who gave me a very good rate. In any case I don’t see any connection between the cost of a label (pretty or awful) with the wine inside. What’s one thing got to do with the other?

“I totally believe in ingredient labeling on wine, consumers should know what is IN the wine but not what is NOT”

Couldn’t agree more. This is the whole point of the label! :)  Perhaps you’re right, in that it may be excessive to list what’s NOT in my wine, but no harm done I think. If and when the legislation forces winemakers to list the ingredients in their wines, then it will certainly no longer be necessary.

Mafalda Bahía Machado:
“The most important question is: Is the wine good? “Natural” wines are a good concept, and also good marketing, but if it is not good, then for me it does not matter if it is “natural”!

Yup, I agree 100%.  By my book, ‘natural’, ‘organic’ ‘sustainable’ or any concept, philosophy or process you care to mention is no excuse for bad wine.

Alfonso Fernandes Marques:
“ridiculous stuff ... typical wine wacko...”

I’m sorry Alfonso, but I’m anything but a wine wacko. Just read my blog posts, or any third-party interview with me, and you’ll see what a normal, reasonable, unradical, person I am!

Jonathan Hesford:
 “It’s what I would call over-egging the cake”

Yes, you’re right, but until the legislation changes and makes ingredient listing obligatory, then there’s no harm in exaggerating, is there.  It’s a bit like the “Critical Bike” people who demand more facilities for cycling in cities, by riding through town naked!  There’s no actual need to go naked, but it helps draw attention to the problem they’re trying to solve! :)

Jai Arya:
“...Borders on militant differentiated marketing..!”  

I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I’ll take it as a compliment :)

Daniele Endrici:
” Who knows if it is drinkable...”

Who knows indeed? You personally may or may not like it, obviously. But even if my wines may not be to everybody’s taste, they are certainly acceptable to many people to the tune of about 15,000 bottles/year, which I regularly sell year after year. I’ve even had good reviews from conventional wine critics (for example, Luis Gutiérrez, from El Mundo newspaper, and Andrew Jefford, from Decanter magazine, who are hardly natural wine fanatics). And if you look at pictures of the inside of my bodega you’ll see lots of empty spaces, ie not piled up with unsold pallets of wine!

Marco Montez:
 “In processing, was electricity used for crushing, racking or pressing? That would certainly disqualify it from being 100% natural, right?”

Marco, I use electricity to power a hydraulic press and a motorized crusher, when I am processing big lots of the same grapes, ie over 2,000 kg. For racking all wines, even large lots, and for crushing and pressing small lots (less than 2,000 kg) I use manual non-electric machines. And I use electric lightbulbs so I can work when the sun is below the horizon! This post here, which I wrote back in March 2013 covers precisely this question.

Yes, depending on your definition of natural wine (because as we all know, there is no ‘official’ definition) no wines are 100% natural.  I have this fascinating theory/opinion about the “scale of naturalness” which you can read all about in this other post  :)

Dan Pastore:
“Geez...stop. Reminded me of something Einstein wrote “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.” – Albert Einstein

You mean it’s meaningless to try to define natural wine ‘scientifically’? I think probably you are right. If ‘natural wine’ were ever to be legally defined, it would not be to everybody’s liking, taste or advantage, and you can be sure that within 2 days of that law being passed, a group of disgruntled winemakers, distributors and drinkers would some invent a new category for themselves using some other word.

Suzanne Werth-Rosarius (again):
“I drank a lot of non-sulphured wines which turned out to be completely undrinkable after only a couple of months. Do get me right: I think detailed labelling is absolutely important. What i find kind of absurd here is the wording.”

Sarah May Grunwald (again):
“Sarah, that is another topic. I have had many non-sulfured wines that last weeks after opening. Like conventional wine, there are great wines and awful wines”.

You said it, Sarah, and I agree “Like conventional wine, there are great wines and awful wines”, and it’s kinda really pointless to generalize individual wines that one has tasted to a whole category.

Suzanne Werth-Rosarius: 
“ ... talking wine is not for sissies!”

Right! I am so glad that I’m thousands of miles from you all, well protected by distance and behind a computer! I’m having to deal with a really awesome quantity of flak – just for printing lots of information on a label! Only joking! :)

Sjoerd de Jong:
 “Don’t take this too seriously. It’s a joke...”

Not a joke, I’m afraid!

Denis Andolfo:
“No mention on how they farm their vineyards...”

Alfonso, I follow organic practices in my vineyards, ie no chemicals.

 “no pesticides, no insecticides, etc. What I would also like to know is whether they treat their workers fairly.”

Suzanne, I don’t have any workers, except for myself, and I exploit myself brutally and mercilessly. I often force myself to work 12 or 14 hours/day and don’t pay myself any overtime. I regularly make myself work on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and over vacations, again with no overtime. In fact I don’t even pay myself regular wages, though I do faithfully pay my social security contributions to the Spanish government. But, seriously, I do manage about 3 ha of vineyards all by myself, and in addition I buy in grapes from local organic growers.

Dominic Lombard:
“Looks like a label sample or something that has a shitload of ingredients if you don’t read it.”

Yes, I suppose it does look crap. But I’m not a designer, or artist or marketing guru, and I also have really bad taste in clothes and art, so that’s that!

Philippe Joulkes:
“Love it!”

Hooray, at last, somebody likes my label! :)

Elisabetta Tosi:
“Well, at least you have something to read when you’re drinking it!”

Absolutely! Another positive aspect! :)

Markus Hammer:
“I’ve had so many non-sulfured wines that just tasted like oxydized crap that I really feel sorry for the grapes that ended up just becoming hipster vinegar. It’s not like adding 30 ppm SO2 suddenly kills any expression of terroir and I am really really getting tired of this merry jerry ride along the non-sulfur train.”

Yes, heard that one before, but as I answered to Sarah Grunwald above, some wines are good, and some are bad, no matter what category they are in. It’s should be patently obvious to anyone who stops to think about it that not ALL non-sulfered wines are neither awful nor awesome, and that we will find examples of awful and awesome wines across all categories. I absolutely agree that a touch of sulphites does no harm whatsoever.

As I said on the original comment-thread on FaceBook, I never release wines that show any signs of turning into vinegar. I would just die of embarrassment! I usually just pour such failed lots down the drain, but this year I decided to keep two small lots and really make some real vinegar! Watch this space! :)

Dominc Lombard (again):
"I might try and Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. I understand what you want to do but you have to present it in a simpler friendlier way. Fabio, are you going to the Peñín tasting on the 16th?” “Like a natural wine, less is more, at times”

Dominic, thanks for the advice, but I don’t need to or want to keep it simple. The reason for this horrible, ugly, oversized and outrageous label is to draw attention to the labeling problem, not to promote sales.
Yes, I hope to go to the Peñín tasting, if I can find a ticket for free! You going? You wouldn’t have a ticket for me, would you? :)

Mark Perlaki:
Regrdless of info, or contents of bottle, it looks like a wrinkly plaster. I applaud low-budget solutions and home labelling and it must survive refrigeration intact, but...

Yes OK, it’s horrible. In fact, it’s even worse that it should have been due to a last minute decision (after the labels had been printed) to use a Burgundy bottle for my Airén instead of a Bordeaux bottle. So, of course there is less flat space on a burgundy bottle on which to stick said massive label, and it didn’t quite fit! Not even after I’d manually chopped a few millimetres of top and bottom off of each and every labels using a paper guillotine. Live and learn. No more Burgundy bottles!

I have no idea if it can survive refrigeration in an ice bucket. I haven’t received any feedback on that point. (I dread to think!)

Rob Hansult:
“This “natural” irrational abhorance to technology (especially the rejection of 2000+ year-old use of sulphur) makes me sad.
BTW, in what desert are vinifer grapes grown with no fungacides? Characterising yeasts and bacteria as “industrial” is also a misnomer."

Rob, just for the record, I have no abhorrence of technology. In fact I quite like it! You may have noticed that I’m regular user of FaceBook, Twitter, email, I own a mobile phone, and watch TV sometimes. I have a car with an internal combustion engine, and I regularly ride on buses and trains.

Sulfur. I have been known to use sulphur in my vineyards, and even in my wines: see these posts if you don’t believe me: here and here. But the reason I don’t use sulphur by default, is not because I irrationally abhor it, but simply because my vineyards are blessed by such a benign climate that I don’t need to use any. And I generally don’t need to use any in my wines because I’ve found by experience over the past 10 years, that it’s enough to use top quality grapes and to keep all my equipment scrupulously clean.

I realize that a bit of SO2 also stabilizes wines so they don’t evolve over time, but I don’t mind that – in fact I like it! And I’ve had no complaints from my happy customers! And in addition, it’s like having two wines for the price of one: because it’s a totally different wine in June than it is in January! :)

Technology. I believe that we humans should use the technology that is most appropriate to the intended use. I think it’s irrational to use the latest technology just because it’s the latest. Is it inherently ‘better’ just because it’s the latest? For example, I’ve recently started using a hand-operated pump to rack my wines, instead of an electric motor. Why? Because it’s more appropriate and much more convenient for me. See this entire post which is all about my reasons for using this pump and my criteria for selecting the appropriate level of technology. Technology is mankind’s slave, not the other way around! See this post for some thoughts on technology and a nice pic of that pump!

Deserts. Vitis vinifera has grown in the wild in the north and south temperate zones of the planet for over 200 million years; that’s about 198 million years longer than homo sapiens has existed. Then it grew for another 2 million years without assistance from homo sapiens till about 8,000 years ago. Then it grew for about another 7,800 years without the use of fungicides produced in factories. Are you telling me that Vitis vinifera suddenly now needs homo sapiens’ chemicals?

I suppose one way to produce millions of litres of table wine is via intensive chemical viticulture, but it doesn’t seem like a very clean, efficient or sustainable way of going about things to me.

Industrial. It’s not really a misnomer, as the types of yeast and bacteria I’m referring to were created and packaged in a factory, ie an industry. True, these packages originally came from some particular strain from some particular location in nature, at some time or other in the past. But which strain? Which location? How long ago? I bet it doesn’t say on the label! I can be almost 100% certain that the strains in an industrial package of yeast were not local ones from Sierra de Gredos in Spain. So why should I use a strain from a distant unknown location? What’s wrong with the local strains anyway?

Sorry for such a long answer – nothing personal. It’s just that you managed to bring up four highly interesting topics in two short sentences! :)

Jan Kiegeland:
” Fabio, the label in the end does not tell anything about the wine. It does tell me a lot about you, which is fine. But: where does the wine come from? How do you work in the vineyard? What is your type of trellis? Type of soil? Don’t you have anything to say about the terroir, which makes the wine so special? Instead you blame other producers making industrial crap. I find it sad that some natural wine producers create their image by talking bad about others instead of pointing out their own strengths and USP.

Jeez! You mean you want me to put even more information on the label? I will have to sell my wines exclusively in magnums or bigger! The type of information you ask for is well covered in the Pages sections of my blog, at the top just under the header: here.

Actually, I don’t blame industrial producers of commodity table wines. I think that the wine world is big enough to accommodate all types of wines, including the niche natural wine sub-sub-category! I understand what you’re getting at, but it’s very difficult to walk that walk. Sometimes it’s easier to explain yourself in contrast to the mainstream, as opposed to just describing yourself in a vacuum as it were. This point is closely related to the labeling problem, as I think that most consumers believe that wine really is a natural product with no added ingredients - precisely because there is no information on the label!

Leah De Felice Renton:
"Why have the QR code if you’re going to squish it all on the bottle anyway? This looks terrible. And the wine looks like cider."

Yes, There was absolutely no point in including a QR code. It’s just that I still think that they look kind of cool! Like I said above I have really bad taste in clothes and art and stuff (so people tell me) so I just stuck it in!  Also, even worse, I believe that now you can just scan a label directly with your mobile and there’s an app that recognizes labels and takes you straight to the appropriate page! RIP QR Codes I suppose :)

And yes, I know it looks terrible - see my other responses above.

The wine looks like cider? And so...? Are you saying that I should filter it and/or clarify and attempt to imitate 99.9% of all other wines in the market? Surely there's nothing wrong with a bit of diversity? Many people are intrigued by the cloudiness and sediment and end up not bothering so much about the appearance. If you filter and/or clarify you remove interesting and 'good' aromas and tastes.


In conclusion, thank you all for your responses. I think I learnt more about other issues than about the labelling issue itself, which is what I was most concerned about. Still, all such knowledge is both interesting and welcome.

I wish I could send you all a bottle of wine, but I think it’s a bit impractical, especially for those of you living in the USA and other restrictive market countries. The bottles would just get confiscated by the Customs authorities. But if you ever come to Spain, you are all hereby invited to a comprehensive wine-tasting at my bodega :)

And please feel free to comment here below. I know it’s difficult to have in-depth complex debates online, but at least here on a blog, it’s better than a comment thread on FaceBook!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Visits, Tastings, Wine Fairs and Other Jollys

Life as a small-time artisan winemaker is not all hard work and suffering. I hope I haven’t been giving that impression in all my posts here in this blog, and in all the stuff I post on FB and Twitter. It is of course hard going sometimes, and I do ask myself why I bother sometimes, but I suppose it’s compensated for by the good times, which I’m going to write about in this post!

Firstly I have to say that I enjoy meeting interesting and knowledgeable people in the wine world, and I believe that there are a lot of them about, and that I would meet even more if I got out and about more! But then maybe that’s why I enjoy the few occasions per year that I do get out and about. Maybe if I did it more I would get bored and blasé about it all! Who knows?

On the other hand I’ve never met any of those fabled wine-bores or wine-snobs. Do they really exist? Or are they just a sort of stereotyped urban-legend Jungian persona?

Anyway, getting to the point of this post, here’s Jolly #1:

H2O Vegetal, a natural wine fair held in the village of Pinell de Brai (Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain) back in July 2014.

This was a natural wine fair, which means that all the wines poured there were made with as little intervention as possible both in the vineyard and in the winery. In the vineyard, this means growing grapes with respect for the soil, water, environment, flora and fauna around the vineyard, via organic or biodynamic viticulture, or permaculture or any other system, or just simply not using pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals which poison and kill life and soil and which endangers the health of workers and consumers, and degrades the fertility of the land due to the use of unsustainable practices and products.

In the winery it means not adding substances and chemicals to the must or wine in order to be able to produce industrial quantities of an alcoholic liquid known as ‘wine’ but which bears little resemblance to real, authentic, genuine, natural, terroir-expressing wine.

The above sounds pretty radical and I get a lot of aggro from many people in the wine world who think that I’m some sort of Taliban nutcase. But really, if you take a few minutes to think about it, all it boils down to, is making wine the way it’s been made for the last 8,000 years or so. Except for the last 150 years, since the industrial revolution, which is when wine started to get commoditized and produced industrially, just like many other food products. Like bread, for example.

Ever since a critical mass of people started living in cities and lost contact with direct production of their own food, the quality of the food produced for them by ‘industry’ has been much worse than the food they used to produce themselves locally. This process (the ‘industrial revolution’) started in England at the end of the 18th century and spread rapidly to the rest of Europe and the Americas (and Japan) during the 19th century.
One of the first cases of adulteration of food was in England in the 1790's when industrial bakers and distributors started adding alum and other ‘ingredients’ to the bread which they supplied to the mass market in London, to make it look whiter and to last longer in the supply chain. Its nutritional value was also greatly reduced as they promoted white bread (after removing the healthy nutritional germ and bran) because in that way they could store it for longer and transport it over greater distances.

The same sort of thing is happening with wine these days. One thing is ‘commodity’, ‘supermarket’ ‘industrial’ wine (about 90% of all the wine produced in the world) which is just an industrial product, churned out in factories run by process engineers and chemists and flavourologists and marketing managers. They make perfectly legal products most of the time except for when a minority of them get too greedy for profits and break the rules. In fact most of the time the product is perfectly drinkable and even delicious, because those flavourologists have been to university and they know exactly what chemicals to use to stimulate the taste buds on human tongues.

But as I was saying (before I got carried away there!), I was on my way to this natural wine jolly, where I was fully expecting to have a great time, to meet other like-minded producers, to drink lots of interesting terror-expressing wine from all over (not the world in this case) but just France, Italy and Catalonia!

So, on the morning of the 4th July I set off for El Pinell de Brai, a distance of 487 km from Madrid, according to Google Maps. My first stop was for a hearty breakfast at the local bar in my barrio, about 350 m from my house:

My favourite breakfast, and map

Mmmmm, this is my favourite breakfast:  coffee (café con leche) with toast + olive oil + tomato.

Note the printout, efficiently printed out the day before :)

Then it was a long boring drive for 300 km along the A-2 Barcelona highway. I reckon one highway is pretty much the same as any other highway anywhere in the world, so I’ll just skip over that bit!

Then at Zaragoza, turn right for another 200 km of secondary roads which were much more interesting.

This is the Monegros in Aragon:

This surely must have been an old Roman road, as they were notorious for building long straight roads. I swear this stretch was at least 30 km long without once crossing a village or anything else!

So I arrived in the evening at about 6 o’clock and of course the first thing one does when one arrives at a wine fair, is to ... have a beer!

It’s very important to do this as you have to calibrate your palate before all that wine tasting that you’re going to be doing over the next few days. In fact, it’s important to do it often, because if you are not a professional taster then you palate becomes uncalibrated very easily!

Below is a snapshot taken sometime during the next day, with Dutch importer Jan Borms and Spanish underwater wine producer Tom ???(surname?). I have to confess that I inveigled my way in to their tasting as Tom’s wines sell for over €50/bottle and so it was going to be the only way I’d ever get to taste it! :) That’s his ceramic bottle on the table – next to my own humble glass bottle :).

The spirit of the fair was just my cup of tea, as it were. Not a single corporate suit ‘n’ tie nor miniskirt ‘n’ high heels in sight. The ‘wine business’ was not here! Just small producers whose only ambition is to make honest, clean, unadulterated terroir-expressing wine, and importers and distributors who like to work with that kind of wine, and most important of all, normal people who love to drink that kind of wine.

I poured loads of wines and met lots of interesting people and tasted loads of interesting wines. What more can one ask for? Well, actually, despite having such a great time I even managed to sell some wine!!!! Firstly to the UK, via importer Tom Craven, who is just starting out, and who is a great guy and I believe he’ll promote my wines really well even though he can only order small quantities at the moment. And also to France, no less, via natural wine producer and distributor Thierry Puzelat, who came to taste through my wines and ordered a few hundred bottles of my Garnacha 2013 (from Sotillo, Sierra de Gredos). Coals to Newcastle, and Grenache to France, what? :) Also, more locally, I hope to be selling to Bar Brutal in Barcelona, and to distributors Cuvée 3000. We shall see!

So that was that. On Sunday 6th July I had to drive back to Madrid, and it was awful. I was extremely tired as I had only slept a few hours the previous two nights, and I had to keep stopping for caffeine and naps :(

Anyway, it was well worth the effort :)

Jolly #2 – Visit by Japanese Photographer

I was honoured to be called a few weeks ago by Keiko Kato and Maika Masuko asking if they could come and visit and take photos of me with my amphoras.

Maika’s webpage is here.

Here are some photos that I took of them!


And here's one Maika took of me:

It was a flying visit as they had a tight schedule. They were travelling all over Spain, interviewing and photographing winemakers who use amphorae (or ‘tinajas’ in Spanish), with a view to writing a book. So we met in the afternoon (they had another appointment in the morning) and went to see one of my vineyards near El Tiemblo. Then we went to the bodega to do a tasting.

Communication was difficult at first as we had no lingua franca that we were all comfortable in. I could do English, Italian and Spanish, and they could do Japanese and French. I could also do a bit of schoolboy French and they could do a bit of schoolgirl Italian and Spanish, so in the end we used a mish-mash of those three languages!

We tasted through quite a lot of my wines, and they could fair knock them back! They were just back from Georgia, so we moved on to Georgian too: ‘Gaumarjos’ which is ‘Cheers’ in Georgian . Yes, communication gradually became more fluid.

So we did a photo shoot with my amphorae and I answered questions about wine.

After dinner, in a lovely restaurant in El Tiemblo which I discovered by chance that very day, as the usual place I take visitors to was closed (La Bodeguita de Pilar), we went our separate ways.

We exchanged presents, I gave them a few bottles of my natural tinaja wines and they gave me a lovely book “Georgian Wine” which they had done the photography for. Here’s a picture of it that I took myself, because I can’t find any reference to it in the internet:

Jolly #3 - The Peñín Tasting

On Thursday 16th October last, I skived off my day job at the office (translating) and went to the annual Peñín tasting, which this year was held at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid. This is actually one of the most important tastings in all of Spain, and anyone who is anyone has a table there. I like it because it's the only way I ever get to taste Vega Sicilia and the like for free! But the main reason I like is that I can meet up with people that I never get to see as much as I would like, and we can talk and gossip and plan etc :)

On the other hand, it was a pretty poor show compared with other tasting that I've been to, in terms of size and numbers (not that I go to many) For example, wine fairs like RAW and REAL in London are easily bigger, more crowded, and have more wines available for tasting! and they're both 'minority' 'niche' market type fairs for natural wines. I can only assume that this reflects Spaniards' general inability to add value to and market and sell their own products.

So I did that, and in the evening did I not have another tasting to go to!  It never rains but pours. This time it was a tasting of the wines of Juan Carlos Sancha. He is based in Rioja and is working on recovering grape varieties that are in danger of extinction and/or being consigned to viticultural institutes, as opposed to being used to make wine! So we tasted wine made from 'Maturana', 'Monastel' and 'Tempranillo Blanco'. It tasting was delivered by Alejandro Gomez, who at the moment is responsible for the commercial distribution of Juan Carlos' wines, but whose passion clearly lies in the vineyards and in the winery, as opposed to in his car and in buyers' offices. I give him another year or so before we welcome a new winemaker to the world of wine :)

And that was that. Enough. Publish and be damned!
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