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Charity Should go Well Beyond the Wallet: Summary of the World Wine Tour 2010 in Iberia

Many months ago, Wink Lorch of the Wine Travel Guides, contacted us with a request: could we help two passionate wine lovers collect Iberian wines to be auctioned in Hong Kong, in order for the proceeds to go to a charity working to help underprivileged children in Laos?

Normally, I would scream “yes” without blinking an eye; but admittedly, I was extraordinarily hesitant. Though Spain and Portugal are renowned for having several amazing characteristics, charity for those outside their physical borders is not one of them. Hence, the idea of organizing a 10+ day charity trip throughout Iberia with the full support of local wineries and governments was not only overwhelming, but completely out my realm of my experience. But despite my concerns, there’s no way I could refuse a call for help.

The concept of the World Wine Tour (WWT) is both irresistible and exciting. Originally launched in 2003 under the name Vignes Sans Frontiere in France, the organization later evolved into the World Wine Tour with the mission of helping a new charity every year through an important wine auction. The WWT is currently being undertaken by the 5th pair of wine travelers willing to take an entire year out of their lives to seek donations of wines for auction from wineries in every corner of the world, and I’m elated to say that Iberia truly shined.

From November 15th to November 27th, Anja Cheriakova and George Janssens (the chosen WWT travelers) traveled across the entire peninsula from Rioja to Jerez, and from the Douro to the Priorat, allowing them collected over 40+ donated bottles of wine. But none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for an incredibly supportive and innovative ground crew, not to mention a phenomenal group of wineries and government agencies. And for their help, I couldn’t be more appreciative!

What follows below is a recap of each leg of their trip, starting in the Douro in Portugal and ending in Rioja, Spain, proceeded by a brief interview with Anja regarding her impressions.

DOC Douro, PortugalNovember 15-17

Ground Crew: Filipe José Carvalho is the Executive Director of Douro Spirit (website under construction), a WSET student and a dedicated wine blogger warmly offered to be their guide throughout the Douro. Filipe was a rockstar during this tour and helped organize meetings and transportation to approximately 10 Douro wineries including: Quinta da Gaivosa, Quinta das Carvalhas, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta de Napoles, Quinta Vale D. Maria and Quinta Villar d’Allen, to name a few.

Accommodation Sponsors: The Yeatman generously threw open their doors to Anja and George for them to experience a rather luxurious stay and killer view of Oporto; while Quevedo Winery also welcomed them into their newly constructed guest house, providing more familiar and homey accommodations to our fearless duo.

Anja’s Insight Post-Trip: “Our first visit to an Iberian wine region was Douro, which left us breathless overlooking its ancient and beautiful terraced vineyards.”

Wines Donated for Auction:

DOC Alentejo, Portugal – November 17-18

Ground Crew & Accommodation: This was a tag team leg between Andre Ribeirhino of Adegga.com and Cortes de Cima Winery. While Cortes de Cima graciously hosted Anja and George in their charming little guesthouse overlooking the vineyards, both Andre and winery members helped shuttle the WWT team throughout the Alentejo to visit a handful of key wineries.

Soapbox Moment: I contacted the local promotional body for Alentejo wines called, Vinhos do Alentejo, a half dozen times, but never received a response. For this, I am incredibly disappointed. They had a prime opportunity to reach out and educate two young and passionate wine lovers to their region by simply becoming a fountain of local information, but instead, they chose to ignore my continual requests for support. For a government body whose sole job is to promote Alentejo wine, I fear their lack of correspondence left me with a very heavy heart.

Anja’s Insight Post-Trip: “Seeing the fresh and innovative side of Cortes de Cima was one of our most memorable experiences. We thought Hans and Kerry were fantastic people, and they were reflecting this into their wines. Also being with Adegga’s creator, André Ribeirinho, during this time was great, and he provided interesting insight into entrepreneurship in the wine world, and again showed how it is the innovative and intrepid who push industries forward. ”

Wines Donated for Auction:

DOC Dao and DOC Setubal – November 19

Ground Crew: Viniportugal deserves a massive hats off for this one. In the middle of the OPEC conference, creating a physical barrier around Lisbon, Maria Joao Mendes, Coordinator of the Viniportugal’s tasting room, Sala Ogival, managed to organize an evening wine tasting of regions across Portugal that Anja and George could not get to in their limited time frame. If you are ever in either Lisbon or Oporto, please make sure you swing by their tasting rooms and check out their current wine offerings. They speak various languages, are very well versed on the wines and are always eager to lend a hand.

Wines Donated for Auction:

DO Jerez, Spain – November 20

Accommodation: This had to be the most challenging part of the trip to organize, in part, because they had exactly 15 hours in Jerez of which 8 would be spent sleeping. To find anyone willing to show their wines on a Sunday evening, was bar one winery impossible, despite various sincere apologies. Thus, Gonzalez Byass was fortunate enough to have the full attention of the WWT duo to themselves, providing both accommodation and a lengthy tasting of some pretty spectacular sherries. And quite honestly, I’m still jealous.

Anja’s Insight Post-trip: “Gonzales Byass in Jerez should probably be a UNESCO World Heritage Winery, and if that category doesn’t exist, they’ll be the first to be there when it does.”

Wines Donated for Auction:

DO Cava – November 22

Ground Crew: We’ve mentioned Nico James various times on Catavino, in part, because he’s a jovial and upstanding guy, but also because of work as a wine guide and a retailer. Thus, it should be of no surprise that he welcomed the challenge to organize the Cava leg of the tour, while becoming a fabulous guide for 3 upstanding Cava houses: Freixenet, Juve y Camps and Raventos i Blanc.

Accommodation: As a result of a rather large miscommunication, Raventos i Blanc found 3 smiling faces at their doorstep a few days before they were actually penned in for a tour, dinner and accommodation. We’re still feeling a bit embarrassed for this one, and want to thank Raventos i Blanc for taking it in stride and doing their best to roll with the punches. Massive hats off to them, thank you!

Anja’s Insight Post-trip: “We will also always remember Freixenet’s cellar and cava production (or ‘elaboration’ as we noticed everyone in Spain like to call it) which was intimidating and beautiful in its size and engineering.”

Wines Donated for Auction: I have not received an update on the final wine chosen, but I will do so when word comes my way.

DOCA Priorat & DO Montsant, Spain – November 22-24

Ground Crew: Here, both Anja and George were rather spoiled while under the trusted wing of 2 fantastic guides. Rachel Ritchie is a professional guide for the Priorat and Montsant area, who, despite her recent delivery of a very healthy baby, bellied up to the bar and provided a fantastic tour. Her husband, Gerard Amorós, is the Director of DO Montsant, and equally stepped up to the plate providing a deluge of wines for the WWT to taste. And from the onslaught of pictures I’ve seen, they had a phenomenal time!

Accommodation: Per my soapbox statement earlier, this is a great example of a wine region doing it right. When I contacted DOQ Priorat, they were both willing and interested to cover lodging for Anja and George at Hotel Cal-llop. They offered a helping hand when requested and remained flexible as schedules were sorted. I hope both Montsant and Priorat remain a phenomenal example of wine regions seizing the opportunity when provided!

Anja’s Insight Post-trip: “We will always remember our visits in the Priorat where we toured several days, one of which was with with Rachel Ritchie (the ‘visitpriorat’ website) and her children Eduard, and Gabriel. We know that she and her husband Gerard sent emails to many top wineries in the area, and it was interesting to see that it was mainly the organic and biodynamic wineries who were most interested in our project. From these the passion of Salvador, owner of Cellar Burgos Porta, has been marked in our minds!”

Wines Donated for Auction:

DOCA Rioja, Spain – November 25-26

Ground Crew: Virginia Borges was our tour de force in Rioja. Specializing in wine tourism , wine communication and spanish language acquisition, she was a great addition to our charitable team. For two days, she was Anja and George’s translator and guide, not to mention chauffeur, introducing them to the vast and ample quality wines available in Rioja. And as you can tell from the list below, they rounded up a healthy little selection.

Anja’s Insight Post-Trip: “Our last visit in the Rioja with Dinastia Vivanco was spectacular, especially for the museum of wine history/making which is a destination in itself. And as it’s always the people who make a visit what it is, we owe a lot to Robert McArdle (Director of Marketing), who put his passion into explaining the winery and family history, which made one of our most enjoyable lunches!”

Accommodation: Dinastia Vivanco was kind enough to put them up at the HUSA Hotel Granvia for an evening, making their journey all the most cost effective. Thanks Rob!

Wines Donated for Auction:

Summary

Was it worth Catavino’s time and energy to help the World Wine Tour? Absolutely!! Despite a few stubborn souls, the majority of people were extraordinarily giving, and I couldn’t be more pleased to debunk my previous assumptions. Upon reflection, Anja was equally surprised, “As we’ve noticed throughout our trip, some wineries join for the marketing exposure, others join for the good cause the wine goes to, and a few join just to meet what kind of people do a project like this. In Iberia, we felt that it mainly rested on the last two reasons, which is very nice to see. Because Catavino helped so much, most wineries were contacted through a person known to them in the field, lending trust to our cause and their belief that their wines will be able to help those in need.”

I think the most important question is what people should take away from the tour. For me, I walked away reconfirming how fulfilling it is to lend a hand to others. As wine writers, and event organizers, in Western Europe, it’s easy to get lost in your day to day foodie events, while turning a blind eye to those that truly need it. The Lao Rehabilitation Foundation is making incredible strides helping the Laotian community by building everything from a Health Care Center in the village of Maknao to matching funds to construct a steel bridge over the river bordering Simmano, giving farmers an easy access to their rice fields.

For Anja and George, their desires go a step further. “We hope for many things. Perhaps first is to inspire others to do the same, not just in wine, but that hobbies and interest can be combined with charity and humanitarian goals, resulting in something larger and for the greater good. We also hope to open minds throughout the wine world. It wasn’t often (in the world) that a winery asked us about how other regions did things differently. Perhaps with our project wineries will see more that there are many ways to do things, from tourism to marketing to tastings, and the whole experience for the individual will be made better. For the Iberian wineries, we hope that we leave them with a feeling that with a small donation they have contributed to what will be a large impact for many people in need. We hope this feeling leaves them confident to keep doing this in the future!”

I hope we can act on these very powerful words not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year!

Cheers,

Gabriella Opaz

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