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Tuesday 26 November 2013

A Wee Anecdote En Primeur

I was at the Le Petit Bistrot the other week for the Beaujolais Nouveau night:

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé
By the way, as I've mentioned several times in the past already, Le Petit Bistrot is the ONLY bar in all of Madrid that sells exclusively natural wines (ie, wines that do not contain added ingredients, like colourants, thickening agents, sulfites, additives, preservatives, etc), a fact that never ceases to amaze and embarrass me as Madrid is the capital city of one of the biggest wine-producing countries in the world. But my primary reason for going, apart from quaffing some nice Beaujolais, was to meet a distributor who was interested in carrying my wines. So what better place to meet than Madrid's only natural winebar!

By the other way, apart from the 2013, there were also some wines by the same producer from previous years. Not carbonic maceration, but 'normal' fermentation:

More Beaujolais, but not nouveau
 And here's a pic of Carlos, the owner of the bistrot, who is French, despite the Spanish name:

Le Owneur de le Petit Bistrot
I thought that the name producer of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine in question was "Justine Titegoutte", (because that's what it says on the front label!) but it turns out that this is just French humour. Check out the Wikipedia article (here) or other sites of your choice. The idea is to fit a name before the surname 'Titegoutte' and make a play on words, or double-entendre. For example, the case in point: Justine Titegoutte doubles as "Juste un 'tite goute" (ie  'Just a wee drop") geddit?  I thought we British were the only ones to do that kind of terrible punning :)  

So, I didn't take a photo of the back-label cos I thought at the time that Justine Titegoutte really was the name of the producer! You'll have to contact Carlos at the 'titebistrot if you want to know!

Anyway, here's the lineup of my whites of 2013 that I brought along for this distributor to taste:

Airén 2013       Chelva 2013       Malvar 2013       Albillo 2013       Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Each one a slightly different shade of yellow-orange. The only one that really is an 'orange' wine, ie white-grape extended skin contact, is the Malvar; the others are normal whites with no skin contact, believe it or not!

They are all of course extremely young, the grapes having been harvested and processed in August (for the Albillo) and at different dates during September for the rest. So they haven't really settled and clarified themselves yet.

As you can see, I don't have proper labels yet, but I should have some soon. An artist, Jane Frere, from Inverness (Scotland) is working on them, and the artwork should be finished by new year.

Those are not all the white wines that I made this year, but I thought it would be excessive if I brought too many!  I really went over the top this year I think, because I actually have all these:  (11 different white wines from 2013)

Two (2) Airén (one from Carabaña, one from Morata de Tajuña)
Three (3) Chelva (all from El Tiemblo, but two different vineyards)
Three (3) Malvar (all from the same vineyard in Villarejo, but in three different amphorae, and so they all taste different! Go figure!)
Only one (1) Albillo (from El Tiemblo)
Two (2) Sauvignon Blanc (from the same vineyard in Cebreros, but one lot in clay amphora and one in stainless steel)

Assorted containers full of 17 different wines!

Well, I won't bore you all with the tasting notes, and I'll just say that the distributor liked them a lot and actually placed an order for some of them! So, I was very pleased indeed!  This is the time of year when we small artisan producers have to start promoting and selling our wines, as the harvesting and fermenting is finished, and there are no urgent tasks to do till after new year, when one can start thinking about pruning! So, good news! 

The interesting  (weird, even) thing about this meeting/tasting was that "this distributor" insisted on total discretion and confidentiality!!! ie, I'm not allowed to tell anyone his name or what wines he bought or how many of them. I'm still kind of puzzled at this. Also, he offered to buy "en primeur", ie he's going to pay me now and take the wines whenever I decide to release them, the only condition being that the price he pays now has to be less than the price I set when I release them. I don't know what to think any more!  The only occasions  when I've heard of this 'en primeur' business has been in relation to scandals and marketing media-circuses in Bordeaux and in Burgundy etc. And now it turns out that I'm doing it too! On a much much smaller scale obviously :)  But, dammit, now I'm going to have to start thinking seriously about all this!!!

PS. The reds that I made this year are another story, which I'll save for another post!

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!).

Friday 15 November 2013

With my Favourite Importer Again

A few weeks ago my favourite importer came to visit and to taste my wines. I'm of course talking about José Pastor, of JosePastorSelections, who is in fact my only importer! And he imports my wines to the USA. It was him who 'discovered' me back in 2010, see this post! Until then I'd been making wine for about 7 years in splendid isolation, as it were. I had no contact with anyone and didn't even know that there was such a thing as 'the wine world', let alone such a thing as 'natural wine' and I cared even less. I'd started writing this blog about a year before in 2009, but I don't think many people read it. Not many people read it now either, about 50 pageviews/day. Well, at least José read it, as that was how he found me. From that moment on I was doomed! Because I then started thinking about wine and getting aspirations! For 7 years I'd been making wine as a sort of hobby, mostly for my own consumption and also selling some to friends and contacts in the organic vegetable co-op that I was a member of (and still am). About 2000 bottles max. I suppose I was happy and innocent - I had my day job (I still do!), I grew grapes and made wine at weekends, and I didn't worry about a thing. :)

But then I got hooked. Via the internet, via blogs, via Twitter and FaceBook and all the other social media stuff. Then I started going to wine fairs, and to winebars, and to wine shops, and hanging out with wine people, both physically and virtually. No looking back! Now I'm poised to start a viable wine business. Poised. Not actually starting a viable wine biz yet, but at least poised and with some chance of success if I take the plunge!

Life is short, we all know that. Apart from being too short to drink bad wine, it's also too short to spend all of it in an office doing useless, meaningless tasks all day every day, which is a great incentive to give up the day job and go for it. But then again, on the other hand, I like to think that I'm not a complete idiot, and I have to remind myself that I have two small children that I have to educate and feed, and that I'm not a carefree student anymore, but instead have great responsibilities to avoid deal with. Yes. So basically, that's why it's taken my 10 years to get where I am today in the wine world, ie not a very meteoric or impressive trajectory. But, I'm happy with it, and happy with the direction I'm going in, and happy with the speed I'm going at. Wine, like food, should be slow, I say.

What's all this got to do with my importer? Well, nothing really. It's just that spending a whole day with him set me thinking about the past and about the future. The thing that gives me the greatest satisfaction I think, is the fact that I'm making/producing a quality product that is really appreciated by a lot of people, some of them very knowledgeable. And making a product that is not only delicious and tasty and enjoyable, etc, but made in a natural, organic, ecological way that doesn't impact on the environment and on people's health. All the rest is icing on the cake. So if I could make more wine, and more types of wines, not only could I give up the day job, but I could be contributing more to making the world healthier and less polluted. And so go my thoughts, .. round and round and round!

In the morning we visited some high altitude vineyards in the Sierra de Gredos mountains. We saw 7 tiny plots planted to Garnacha, tended by fellow winemaker Alfredo Maestro, from which he makes a beautiful wine called El Marciano. I was so happy to be there with Alfredo and Richard and José, I don't know why. I was so happy that it made me sad and want to cry! I was just existing in the present and enjoying the moment. I had no worries or pressures or expectations or anything that morning.

Then we went for a beer in a bar in Navarredondilla, which is a tiny village high up in the Gredos mountains. All the houses were made of stone, and were integrated with the boulders and outcrops of rock that stuck out all over. I think it's the only village in Spain that I've seen that didn't have a housing development next to it, created during the construction boom bubble. We were sitting outside at a table in the street, and must have been lunchtime because the owner of the bar came out with a second tray of beers, said they were on the house, locked the door of the bar, and left us to it!

Then we went for lunch to El Rondón restaurant, in Cebreros, a village a bit lower down in the Gredos mountains, and there we met Daniel Ramos and Rubén Diaz, also winemakers. So four winemakers, times about 3 or 4 wines each, equals 15 wines which we tasted before and during lunch. Too many wines for me! I obviously haven't been practicing enough, because after about 8 or 10 wines, they all start to taste the same to me :(

Then it was time to head back to Madrid, and another reality!

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