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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Two Days of Pouring Wine in the Italian Consulate (Madrid)

Well, that's not how I usually spend my weekends, but a change is as good as a rest they say, and I needed a rest! I haven't actually had time to stop and rest or think, since June: for three months - June, July and August - I was cleaning, scraping, painting and generally preparing my new winery in El Tiemblo (see several previous posts staring from this one) and then in September and October, it was non-stop harvesting and processing of grapes (see all these previous posts starting from this one)

So now that the harvesting and the intense part of the grape/must/wine/processing is done, we small artisan winemakers have to turn our minds to actually promoting and selling the wines that we've produced!

So, enter the 'Mercatino di Natale'. This is an annual market organized by the S.I.B. (Società Italiana di Beneficienza), a non-profit organization that does charity work here in Spain. Italian producers living and working in Madrid are invited to sell their products and to donate 30% of the takings to the SIB.

The event was held in the Italian Consulate, a beautiful 19th century palace in the centre of Madrid:

Italian Consulate in Madrid(photo from
It's right next to the Italian Primary and Secondary Public School, also quite an impressive building, which it used to be a pharmaceuticals factory (Instituto Farmacologico Latino, S.A.) that manufactured condoms, among other things, until it went bankrupt back in the 1970's.

Check out these 2 photos (then and now!):

Then. This must be from the 70's or 80's, judging from the cars and the sign over the gates
(Photo from

Now. Not much has changed
(Photo from

Anyway, I thought this would be a great opportunity to sell lots of wine, so I signed up.

Here I am at my table with my wines and leaflets:

Here's a view from my table towards the grand staircase:

This is the ground floor where all the producers of food products were located. Including Negrini, an importer (into Spain) of quality Italian products, Fior d'Italia, a producer of fresh pastas, sauces and ready-to-eat dishes, based here in Madrid, and Quadra Panis, a producer of fresh bread, among others.

And here's the view from the grand staircase - my table is hidden away at the very back on the left.

And here's my tri-lingual "I´ll be back" sign, specially had-crafted for this event :)

I'll Be Back
I'll Be Back

This is the first floor, where all the fashion producers were (clothes and jewellery and accessories, etc):

The 'fashion' floor
So, did I sell a lot of wine? Nope! Only 22 bottles over three days!!! (2 on Friday evening, 8 on Saturday, and 12 on Sunday)  Why? Well here's some theories:

1. My basic, minimalist, natural, homely style of presentation (of the table, leaflets, biz cards, labels, bottles, etc) doesn't make a good impression on Italians, who perhaps pay more attention and give greater importance to 'presentation' than other nationalities. Instead of conveying positive things (like 'artisan', 'homemade', 'quality', 'not mass-produced or industrial') it conveys negative qualities (like 'shoddy', 'unprofessional', 'lacking in resources', etc)  I dunno, just ruminating here.

2. Maybe wine was not a good product to sell at this event.

3. Location, location, location! Maybe being stuck in a corner didn't help!

But on the other hand, I did meet a lot of interesting people and made some interesting contacts. The highlight of the weekend for me was when the Italian Ambassador in Spain and his wife came to taste my wines! No kidding!  It was like this. I was wandering around upstairs (having placed my "I'll be back" sign on my table), when I spotted my friend Fernanda, who works for the SIB and who was one of the main organizers of the event. I know her quite well as we have coffee every morning in Non Solo Caffé, so I just walked up and butted into her conversation with a "Hi, how's it going?" at which point she introduced me to the Italian Ambassador. I managed to keep calm and not stutter or dribble in the presence of such an important personage and we had a brief chat during which I invited him to come down and taste some wine, if he had time, and then I made my excuses and left them to carry on with their conversation. Well, I wasn't expecting him to really come - you know what these diplomats are like - very diplomatic among other things! - but he did!!! Later that afternoon he appeared all of a sudden with his wife and they tasted through all three of the wines I had brought, all the while chatting about wine, and where we were from in Italy, and being foreigners in Spain, etc, and he said he'd come out to my bodega in El Tiemblo one day. Then he was spotted by one of his staff who came up, whispered in his ear and took him off somewhere else.

So that's the second ambassador I've met in my life. The other one was the Spanish ambassador to Lithuania. Don't ask!

And lastly, here's a pic of my daughter (8) and her pals at her table, hawking their wares (necklaces, bracelets, etc). They spent all day Saturday there (from 10:00 till 21:00), and not only did they have a great time, but they managed to raise over €50 all of which they donated to charity (about the same amount that I raised over three days!).

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