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I’m back!

According to the poorly translated but nonetheless “uninformative” press dossier, the wine trade show I just returned from in Barcelona welcomed some 1200 wine companies/bodegas, and well over 150,000 visitors. In the informational brochure I received at Alimentaria, it described the trade show as:

The Intervin show (this is what the called the wine part within the whole of Alimentaria), macro-wine cellar of Alimentaria, in its 9th edition goes formal to celebrate its position of leadership among the premier wine shows of the world. Years of successful experiences in its display practices and its activity-training characteristics grant it the lead among the most prestigious, being the reference of the sector and being consolidated as one of the strongest shows of Alimentaria. The nearly 70,000 gross m2 and an absolutely full pavilion and a half that it occupies in the Gran Via facilities of Fira Barcelona, which signifies 28,000 net m2, sets its best record and includes 1,200 exhibiting companies.

In truth, I’m unclear what this exactly means; although I get the feeling that they are trying to state the simple fact that: “We’ve grown and are now better than ever!”. Strange translations aside, I couldn’t agree with them more. I was thoroughly impressed and my expectations were well surpassed. The convention area was gigantic and well displayed with more wine than a human being could ever possibly taste in just four days of wandering. After tasting wine from morning to night, I barely felt as if I scratched the surface as I sampled wine across the country. Alimentaria, as a whole, went well beyond a simple marketing opportunity for bodegas to feature and tout their wines; it was also a chance to find new wines to export out of Spain to your doorstep. And from what I have experienced over the past week, I have absolutely no doubt that the amount of diversity and quality of wine being produced here; Spain right now is ripe to enter the international wine market on a large scale.

However, far be it for me to be the only one able to sample and savor these delicious wines, they should also be available to you, if they are not already. Therefore, two questions were asked of every bodega as I strode from stand to stand:

1) Are you currently exporting wine?
2) Do you welcome tourists to your winery?

While these were not the only questions I had, they were most definitely the most frequent. I was interested to know if my readers would be able to find these wines I had the pleasure tasting, whereby benefiting from any tasting notes I took; as well as knowing if my readers could actually visit the winery and tour their favorite Bodegas. Mulling it over in my heat a bit, I would say approximately 60-70% said that they were exporting wine to more than just Germany and Holland. In fact, almost everyone exports to Germany and Holland, whereby forcing me to change my tactics a bit and ask: “Do you export to countries other than Holland and Germany?” Intriguingly, a large majority of Spanish wines make it abroad, and after talking to a few exporters at Alimentaria, I would assume that the percentage might rise a point or two after this trade show.

In regards to the second question, unfortunately, the percentage of firm “yes we welcome visitors” was probably closer to 20% – none of which came without the request that you call ahead in order to schedule a visit due to their limited time and busy schedules. However, the caveat being that I tried my best to stay away from big names such as: Torres, Domecq, Juve y Camps, Freixnet and the like who are typically tourist friendly, and for the most part, are open to visits year round. In general, I focused my interviewing to family run Bodegas and wineries that are well off the beaten path. I am well aware that it can be a chore to create a sound tourism program when you’re struggling just to keep your head above water; but without a solid tourism program, I don’t feel as if their wines could make nearly the impact they could, whereby increasing their sales. I was however encouraged by all of the bodegas which did mention that they were interested in tourism; and if you take the “We’re looking into it” answers, and “Yes we are planning to in the future”, then I would raise my previous figure to around 50-60% who is interested in tourism. “Tourism” is the hot topic at trade fairs as of late, and I can only hope that this will actually make a sweeping impact at the currently lacking area in marketing Spanish wine.

So you ask, Ryan, what did you taste? The answer is “an incredible amount!”. I was mainly checking out the lesser known regions, and as always, seeking out that long lost grape variety that I have yet to taste! I’m proud to report that I sampled at least four new grape varieties that I had never heard of. For example, did you know that there is a white-skinned and white-juiced version of Tempranillo? I had no idea! How about a table grape that goes by the name of Eva found in the region of Extremadura, currently producing wine in only a handful of bodegas in that region? Bodegas Dolores Morenas used this grape to produce a 10% sweet wine that is crisp, refreshing, light and full of flowers and minerals. Have you ever heard of Altres? I had it in a super tasty blend from the Island of Mallorca. What about the grape Gargollassa, grape currently being revived by a small bodega in Mallorca and currently the only bodega known to produce it? It made me think of Pinot Noir with melon notes and cinnamon flavors – a little strange but fun. In fact, as I dig through my piles of tasting notes that I have yet to enter, I am discovering even more interesting wine tidbits to pass onto you. Hence, stay tuned and I will do my best to offer some history on these grapes in the near future.

The main idea to convey is that I met several wonderful people, came across some really interesting new ideas and approaches in Spanish wine, and above all, reconfirmed my belief that Spain is on the brink of greatness. In a country the size of Texas, more or less, you can find wines that stretch from stellar fortified wines of Jerez to the robust reds of Rioja to the crisp and refreshing wines found in Galicia. With over sixty-three regions – including a new one more I believe I found this weekend, but more on this later- with everything from desert plains to snowcapped mountains, this trip was a fun reminder of why Spanish wine can be so much fun to explore.

Stay tuned,

Ryan Opaz