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Friday, 18 June 2010

The World of Wine Comes to Visit

The other day, Wednesday 16th June, the world of wine came to visit me, in the form of José Pastor, a US wine importer (JosePastorSelections) specializing in natural artesanal wines from Spain, accompanied by Keven Clancy (Farm Wine Imports), an import and distribution company based in California, and Chris Barnes (Chambers St. Wines), a natural wine shop in Lower Manhattan, NY.

But the visit really started the night before with an invitation to dinner at Los Asturianos restaurant (c/Vallehermoso, 94; Madrid). In fact, rather than dinner, it was more like a wine tasting accompanied by food. What an experience, to see wine world professionals in action! It took about half-an-hour to sort out the wines we were going to taste, and their order. Some had to be chilled, some had to be decanted, and the rest were lined up at the end of the table. Ordering the food, on the other hand, took about 30 seconds!

We were joined at the last minute by another mysterious (for me!) wine world personality, who came in carrying several bottles and a magnum in his hands and under his arms and who was introduced to me as ‘Victor’.

We tasted a good few wines (sorry, I didn’t take any notes!) for about 1 hr with tapas, including a wine from Méntrida made by the owner of the restaurant, and one from La manchuela made by Victor. Then, when our plate of steamed ‘berberechos’ (cockles) was served it was time to taste my wine, which had chilled nicely by then (Vinos Ambiz, Young White 2009, 100% Airén). JP, my importer, serves it up and says to Victor (who’s been talking 20-to-dozen ever since he sat down):

 “Here, taste this.” So he stops talking and takes a sip,

 “What’s this?” he asks.

 “100% Airén, from Madrid”. Pause. Then “Hmmm, muy buena expression del Airén!

That means “A very good expression of Airén”. I was pleased of course, but I was even more pleased the next day when I found out who he was! Then, after my 15 seconds of glory, it was back to the previous conversation!
Some of the wines we tasted

So we stayed there for another few hours, tasting and eating, till about 1 o’clock in the morning. I couldn’t keep up with the professionals though: they went on to another place, but I just took a taxi home.

Next morning at 10 o’clock I met JP, KC and CB at their hotel and we drive out to the vineyard. How do they do it? They’ve been ‘on tour’ in Spain for 6 days, eating, drinking and sleeping 4 hours/night!!! What a life, eh?

The vineyard: they liked it because it smells beautifully (thyme, flowers, wild grasses) and because it’s flat! They’ve just come from Galicia and El Bierzo, where they have a lot of slopes!

Jose Pastor in my vineyard

Chris Barnes in my vineyard

Keven Clancy in my vineyard

Another beast in my vineyard!

The bodega (winery): they like the bodega too because it’s so ‘garagiste’ (see pics from previous posts)! Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of wine there for them to taste, as it’s all sold out. But this is what happens:

JP: “And what’s in that tank there?”
Me: “Garnacha 2009 that we’re going to oak

JP: ”Can we have a taste?
Me: “Sure, just let me find a clean glass!

I hadn’t tasted or checked on that Garnacha since before Christmas. I’ve been so busy that I’d actually forgotten it was there and that we were supposed to have oaked it months ago!

So we all taste it, and JP goes crazy! “No way can you oak this!” he says “It would just kill it! The fruit and the freshness would be overwhelmed by the wood!” “How much of that have you got?” So I look inside the stainless steel 700 litre tank and its about ¾ full. “Er, about 500 bottles, I think

OK, I’ll buy the lot! Don’t touch it! No sulphur, no racking, no nothing! Just bottle it and send it over!

What could I say? These guys are expert tasters, whereas even though I can grow grapes and make wine, I’m a hopeless inexperienced taster. In fact, I remember tasting that Garancha before Christmas and thinking “hmm, I hope this improves in the barrel!”. I think the cold temperatures over the Winter have made that wine evolve and improve a lot. It’s now a completely different wine from what it was 6 months ago.

Next we drive back to Madrid for another tasting-with-food at La Cave du Petit (c/Ponzano, 93), a wine shop that specializes in natural and ‘interesting’ wines from Spain and France. Carlos opened the shop specially for us – lucky we called, because he wasn’t going to open that day as Spain were playing football in the World Cup and the streets were empty! Again it took about 30 mins to sort out the wines and 30 secs to sort out the food!! And again, no notes and no photos either! The food was beautiful – all home-made (paté de fois gras, canard no-sé-qué, smelly and non-smelly cheese, etc) and of course a selection of natural wines (including Alfredo Maestro, Josep Garriga, Samuel Cano, Laureano Serres, and many more).

Then we parted ways: I went home for some rest and recovery (!) while they drove up to La Rioja, before going on to Catalonia to Alice Feiring's book presentation. What a life! Just one long party of touring around and eating and drinking, no? They denied that it was like that of course and went on about how hard they work during the rest of the year, but I don’t believe a word of it!!!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Natural Wine Fair, Madrid

Yesterday, Monday 7th June there was a little Natural Wine Fair here in Madrid.

My table and my wares

Only 6 producers were there, which on the one hand is quite sad considering how much wine is produced in Spain (and also considering how much organic and/or natural wine is produced in Spain!). But on the other hand, as it was such a small and intimate gathering, we had the chance to actually talk at length to the people who came to taste our wines, as opposed to just non-stop pouring and parrot-like repeating of the data!

Petit Salón de Cata

I don’t think I’ve ever drunk and talked so much wine for such an extended length of time: from 10:00 in the morning to 22:00 at night. My feet are still sore! (from standing up and maybe sitting for a total of 15 mins throughout the day!).

The 6 producers:
- Samuel Cano (Patio)
- Alfredo Maestro
- Jordi San Feliu
- Josep Garriga
- Bruno Ruiz
- and me! 

The Organizer:
- Malena (Observatorio del Vino)

2 wine shops who were involved in the event:
- Carlos (La Cave du Petit)
- Delia (La Fisna

Wine bloggers:
- Nacho Bueno 
- Fermín

And here’s the link to a video I took with my mobile: Video Petit Comite Madrid 

Here’s a thing:

While chatting to Alfredo Maestro (he was at the table next to mine) we decided to get together next year and make an experimental batch of champagne (or cava or spumante or sparking wine!). This is something that’s been at the back of my mind for years, but have never been able to do because 1) I don’t have the equipment and 2) I don’t have the knowledge! But I do have the grapes – and Alfredo, being an experienced taster (unlike myself), says that my young white (100% Airén) has the qualities required to make a good champagne!!! Well, we’ll just have to wait and see 

And here’s another thing:

We’ve been wanting to plant/graft new vines for years, but never had the time to plan it properly, but finally all the pieces are beginning to come together. Firstly, we had to decide on a variety, but we didn’t know which one to plant. We knew that we wanted to plant an autochthonous, native, local variety (as opposed to an ‘international’ commercial variety, but we’ve had no time to research into it. Then a few weeks ago, talking to an old (and retired) grape-grower, he mentioned a variety called Torronés, which he said used to be grown around Madrid, but which has now all but disappeared. One piece falls into place. Then another piece fell into place, as yesterday I met a man who works at IMIDRA (a body run by the Madrid Regional Government that has over 2,500 grape varieties under cultivation!!!!) and who seemed keen to work together on a planting project! Again, we’ll just have to wait and see!

And lastly, the anecdote of the day:

After packing up and leaving the building (at about 23:00) we all decided to go for a drink! There were about 10 of us (some producers and others who had been there all day). So we sat down at a ‘terraza’ (pavement café/bar), the waiter came, and … every single person ordered beer!!!
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