Awhile back, Catavino ran a feature we called the 2 + 1 Iberian Wine Survey. The idea behind the survey was not only to get wine bloggers feedback on Spanish and Portuguese wine, but also an opportunity for readers to gain a better perspective as to what’s available outside the big peninsula.
To be honest, we had originally intended to run these surveys while we were on vacation in France, but as it currently stands, it may be a little while before Catavino can actually unplug itself from all the action flowing through our headquarters. That said, we’re going to run some of these anyway and invite all of you who still want to participate to please send us your responses. We’re interested in your feedback!
First up is Joe “1WineDude” Roberts. The way our game works is that Joe answered two of our questions about Iberian wine, and in return, he asked one of us. Hopefully we did a decent job answering him
1) What were your preconceived ideas of Spanish wine when you first started blogging, and what do you think of Spanish wine now? If you haven’t had an opportunity to try many Spanish wines, are you interested in diving in and doing some more exploring?
I had a very high opinion of Spanish wines before I started blogging (which wasn’t all that long ago, after all). Nothing has changed! Basically, once I tasted Cava and Priorat, there was no going back. I have had some absolutely killer, smokin’, lights-out wines from Spain. IMO, Spain continues to be the rising star of the wine world, with even formerly bulk-wine-type areas like Jumilla offering some kickin’ wines now.
2) Very similar to the first question, but substituting Portugal for Spain. What were your perceptions of Portuguese wine when you first started blogging and what are they now?
As for Portugal – before blogging, it was Port, and that was pretty much it. After blogging, it’s Port and that’s pretty much it. Why? Because no one seems to be carrying Portuguese wines on the U.S. right coast! I’m sure the Douro is going to be the next Paso Robles but 1/2 of the U.S. wine market is going to miss it, because they’re doing a crap job so far of marketing their wines. Ever see the full-page Portugal ads in Wine & Spirits mag? You might as well run an ad using The Ambiguously Gay Duo cartoons…
Mi pregunta: Why are Iberian wines so damn hard to find in the States? Spain & Portugal are poised to take the wine world by storm in terms of value for money, but most people’s experience with them comes down to seeing a $45 Priorat in their local wine shop and passing it on by, or picking up a $10 Rioja that is plonk and never touching Spanish wine again. Ironically, most of their wines offer incredible quality for the price, except the ones we get here. What’s up with *that*?
Joe, we wish the answer was easier to give. Truth is, there are a lot of Iberian wines available, although we believe the rush to exploit them has been slowed down by the strength of the Euro. Up until this year, everyone wanted a new Iberian wine for their portfolio and were willing to spend a lot of money to obtain them. Today, however, that same money doesn’t go as far. Coupled with this, people are afraid to see Iberian wine as more than “good value”. Many of our best value wines are spreading across the States and selling well, but in the end, it’s time to spend a bit more in order to diversify the availability.
Then, there is the country specific problem, i.e. nationalism. Spain will never have the ability to market itself as a brand, no matter how much Wines of Spain tries and fails. There are too many distinct cultures and political divisions throughout Spain for this to work. Thus, Spain will always end up having fragmented marketing campaigns that will never fully co-operate to achieve good, unified branding.
Portugal, on the other hand, is set to overtake Spain, because at least they can have a “brand Portugal”, but sadly, a lot of their brand equity is tied up in the Port houses, and it’s not easy to convince them that they should help the smaller appellations. Additionally, Portugal has a confusing system of Appellations, where you have the highest “quality wine” category (DOC) falling below the wines of the “lower” regional wine category (VR). We don’t think it hurts the retail sector, per se, but it does hurt the in country’s organization and how it presents itself. The final factor that that weakens “brand Portugal”, is the overwhelming presence of the Vinho Verde, Douro and Alentejo regions. Until the smaller regions gain a little spotlight, these main three big guys will always overshadow the smaller ones.
Think of it this way. French wine is considered good, with wines of quality coming from Bordeaux, CDP, Burgundy, etc. Here, Rioja wine is great, which happens to be from Spain. Port wine is historic, but that is from the English (seriously people have told me this). Vinho Verde is fresh and vibrant. Cava is the “other sparkling wine”. Clearly, we’re fragmented. Portugal and Spain both need to be known for great wine. As you say, people see the $45 Priorat, and only associate it with the region, but never the country.
Hope that helps!
Ryan and Gabriella