If you’ve been following our massive influx of videos, tweets, flickr photos or articles, you’re savvy to our past weeks adventure where we brought a handful of bloggers to Barcelona from around the the world to experience Spain’s largest food and wine conferences called, Alimentaria. With the support of INCAVI, DO Emporda and DO Catalunya, bloggers from all walks of life including: journalism, winemaking, videoblogging, marketing and gastronomy, spent 4 days immersed in Catalan food and culture.
We began our adventure on Monday, when Ryan O’Connell, Oliver Styles, Michael Oudyn, Mark Tafoya (aka Chef Mark) and Andre Ribeirinho joined us on a full tour of the winery, Freixenet (Click here to read our bodega profile). What does the “full tour” consist of? The visit includes a video recap of the Freixenet’s rise to fame (though in desperate need of modernization); an educational walking tour covering 4 subterranean levels; and a funky train ride weaving your way through the entire structure that produces 200 million bottles a year! For thrill factor alone, it’s a must see!
Freixenet’s international fame extends well beyond their black label Cordon Negro Cava to include a highly innovative marketing strategy. Whether we’re speaking of their mischievous (and slightly creepy) looking logo with the little boy in the red hat holding a bottle of cava, approximately the same size and weight as the child, or their legendary Christmas commercials featuring names such as Martin Scorsese, Gwenyth Paltrow and Demi Moore, their marketing savvy has allowed them dominate exports accounting for over 50% of all Spanish sparkling wine production and 80% of exports.
But what you may not know of Freixenet is that they also feature a wide range of high end wines, as well as side projects that are rarely heard of outside of their specific market. Groupo Freixenet owns a handful of Cava wineries throughout the Penedes, including Castellblanch, Segura Viudas, Conde de Caralt and Canals & Nubiola, not to mention wineries in Galicia, Castilla y La Mancha, Argentina and California, to name a few. A couple of their high end cavas worthy of your attention include the Reserva Real and the Cuvee D.S., both of which are extraordinary.
Have you heard of a dessert sparkling wine made exclusively of Malvasia? Trust me, not typical. The Malvasia Dessert Cava is one of those rare sparkling wines that make you cock your head in curiosity while your stomach flutters in excitement. Aromas of citrus and mature apple leap from the glass, followed by rich undertones of butter pastry, smoke and honey. In the mouth, the wine is bright and zesty with a lush, round mouthfeel, and a long honey and citrus finish with lingering flavors of mature white fruit and bread. In terms of dessert wines, I sincerely recommend this one!
As for their numerous side projects, keep your eye out for Oroya, made by Japanese winemaker Yoko Sato. This was specifically elaborated to pair with sushi and made from Airen, Macabeo and Moscatel grapes. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste this wine with sushi, but I can see how Airen’s fruit forward nature, combined with Macabeo’s acidity and Muscat’s florality would be a killer pairing with my favorite nigiri, tobiko with quail egg (tobiko = flying fish roe).
Come evening, this ragtag gang of bloggers meandered through the winding streets of the Raval to a hidden little wine bar called Bodega 1800. Located just behind the famous La Boqueria, the bar boasts of delicious little montaditos (various fixings over a slice of baguette) at 3.50 euros a piece including: pork loin over a mustard and mayonnaise salsa and topped with caramelized onions, Asturian Cabrales cheese with Cava, piquillo pepper over fresh tuna and drizzled with a basalmic vinegar reduction, chopped eggplant and onion topped with butifarra and parsley and steak tartar. No larger than our living room, which is hobbit sized, Bodega 1800 adorns its exposed brick walls with a unique mix of wines from across Spain, displaying its loyalty to taste and quality over fame and showmanship. Wines are worthy of purchase, as they’re sold at competitive prices, the drawback being that if you choose to buy a bottle, they tack on an additional 10 euros corkage fee. Seems a little impractical if you buy the wine at the location where you’re drinking it, fortunately, we were given a very gracious exception.
Casting all corkage fees aside, we were allowed to bring in our crew of bloggers with their own various bottles at zero cost on the condition that we shared with the staff. This is what I call a fabulous business move that all restaurants should abide by! With wines ranging from the New York Finger Lakes Region to the Languedoc, and from Rioja to the Douro, the staff was immersed in a dozen half empty bottles by the end of the night.
Check out the entire Live Stream from Alimentaria, which include our tasting notes, photos, etc.
Not surprisingly, we were all a little worse for wear by the end of the evening, but spirits were incredibly high. Day 1 proved to be successful on several levels. Despite the rather precarious situation of bringing together a group of bloggers from around the world, personalities played together beautifully, provoking large bouts of bellyaching laughter and cheek expanding smiles. Add the common passion for food, wine, storytelling and travel, and you have a party in a basket.
If only WIFI played well in Spain
Stay tuned for several more photos, videos and articles in the near future!