…a very responsible blog…catavino.net…[it's] refreshing to see such professionalism.
Robert M. Parker Jr.

The Quest for Iberian Wine Knowledge!

Gabriella's Reading Club

There is a time when someone throws in the towel and admits defeat. I am not a Spanish wine expert. I can’t pretend to play one on TV, nor can I say convincingly lie about it to strangers or acquaintances on the street. I began this adventure as a result of my husband, Ryan, choosing to use a wine blog as a medium to rant on how little information there was on Spanish wine into a full blown journalistic career. It is not say that I came into this completely cold turkey, but selling bottles at chic restaurants while trying to pay my way through graduate school doesn’t count. If anyone loves food and wine, your passion sells the product more than the information does. Unfortunately, I am not in the restaurant business anymore, nor am I selling a cuisine that I love and am passionate about. Instead, I have been called upon to impart a story that I, myself, am clueless about. I have felt for over a year like the kid who skims the chapter minutes before the test and aces it, but when asked a day later what he learned, his hands dig deep into his pockets as his shoulders make a quick gesture towards his ears and quietly says, “stuff”.

Sure, I can give myself some leniency by saying that I have been busy supporting our Spanish adventure in several other ways, but this crutch can only take my broken ego so far. For me to walk into a Spanish wine store alone, turn to the store owner and say, “So, ah, what’s good?” makes me feel like sham, and in all honesty, I’m pretty tired of the feeling.

So, what’s the problem? Why haven’t I been able to retain any of this information? I’ve lived here for a little over two years, and although I can give you some basics on the subject, details have completely eluded me. In part, I would have to say that I am unclear as to how I can relate to the topic. I am a teacher by profession. I love learning about the big picture, asking questions like: Why are we on the planet? What makes the world go round? What is knowledge? etc., but rarely the smaller concrete pieces of information. That is when it hit me: it’s an issue with language. Part of the reason why I can’t relate to Iberian wine, or wine in general, is that I can’t grasp the language. Although I wrote, what I consider to be, a very useful article on the renown Spanish grape, Tempranillo, but if you ask me today what I took away from it, I would regress back into the kid with his hands in his pockets all over again. The thrust of the issue is that I haven’t found a way to emotionally connect with it. I have been so focused on making sure every article is filled with facts and figures that I am lost as to the story, the heart strings, the details as to why Iberian wine means anything to ME. My head is active, but my heart is empty.

This is why I have come up with a plan! A means to become proactive about my learning. Our house is FILLED with books about Iberian wine, but I have never put aside time to actually read any of them from front to back, because the idea bores the living hell out of me. I have felt like if I actually pick up a book and crack the cover, I am somehow taking Statistics 101 all over again, forcing myself to retain stupid information like why one particular stainless steel fermentation tank is ideal over another or the differences between an American versus a French oak. The problem being that I love wine. I love Iberian wine! I love the color, the taste and the nuance. What I don’t know is how to communicate information about Iberian wine to you in a way that is meaningful to me.

This is where the idea of a community comes to play. Being a teacher, I am well aware that when little Gloria turns to Maria and says, “I hate you”, I call upon the entire classroom to discuss why this is unacceptable language and what we can do about this type of behavior in the future so that it doesn’t happen again. What this provides is structure, support and reinforcement for not only Maria and Gloria, but for the class as a whole. Suddenly, everyone is responsible for each other and is accountable if the behavior happens again. Therefore, what I ask of you, the reader, is support. I need you to both challenge and support me as I try to complete the mission I have set before me.

Mission: The Passionate Iberian Story

  1. Cover 3 authors, 4 books, 1419 pages and 70 wine regions!
  2. From the moment of cracking open the first book, start blogging about the experience and continue the dialogue until all four books are read to completion
  3. Each weekly post, at the minimum, must be a conversation piece and not a statistics lesson.
  4. Throughout the process, I will not only do a wine tasting from each region, but I will go out of my way to create a meaning way to discuss the wines without technical jargon, such as scoring. Instead, I will search for a personal way of relating my experience with the wine, even if that means doing a finger painting.


The Fantastic 4 Iberian Wine Books
are:

  • The Wines of Spain, by Julian Jeffs, describes each and every region of Spain along with a full description of their climate, soil, landscape, grapes, plantings, authorized yields, wines, and vintages.
  • The Wines of Rioja, by John Radford, covers Spain’s most famous wine region, while detailing the key changes to the wine laws of this region, which were revised in 2003, with all aspects of the wines fully coveredâ€â€from the traditional estates to the most innovative bodegas to the newest types being produced.
  • Port and The Duero, by Richard Mayson, recounts the history of the Port region and explores the vineyards, grape varieties, and the many styles of port available.
  • Sherry, by Julian Jeffs, explores the turbulent history of the sherry region and details its wine productionâ€â€from the planting of vines in the south of Andalusia and the complex stages of fermentation, ageing, and blending, to the moment it leaves the bottle.
  • We will have forum dedicated to the project, so anyone who is willing to follow along either by reading with me or commenting is not only welcome, but absolutely encouraged. The only way I am going to get through the differences between the Marco Real planting system versus the Tresbolillo planting system is with your encouragement! If you choose to buy through the Amazon link below, a portion of your purchase will go towards supporting me and my potential caffeine habit during this project.

    What have I committed to???!!

    Cheers,

    Gabriella

  • Bill B.

    It sounds like a good start. Just remember that the quest is a journey, not a destination. I think your approach, vis-a-vis the "conversation piece" is a great idea because it fits your personality and writing style. Personally, I connect more with the finished product and the encompassing aura (good food and friends) than I do with the process, although it's good to have some knowledge of how wine is made. I will be looking forward to your articles.

  • Bill B.

    It sounds like a good start. Just remember that the quest is a journey, not a destination.

    I think your approach, vis-a-vis the “conversation piece” is a great idea because it fits your personality and writing style. Personally, I connect more with the finished product and the encompassing aura (good food and friends) than I do with the process, although it’s good to have some knowledge of how wine is made.

    I will be looking forward to your articles.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    Hey Bill, Thanks for the support and I hope to keep up to the task. If you feel up to joining me, I am starting with The Wines of Spain this week. It would be great if you feel like chatting about it along the way.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    Hey Bill,

    Thanks for the support and I hope to keep up to the task. If you feel up to joining me, I am starting with The Wines of Spain this week. It would be great if you feel like chatting about it along the way.

  • Pingback: Anonymous

  • Emilio

    Hi Gabriella, as soon as you get to the sherry book, I will start reading with you. And let's hope more sherry lovers will. I know the book from some 10 years ago (former edition). I want to read the book again. Let me know when you start. And of course I will follow you wrestling your way through the other three books as well. Good luck and have fun tasting the wines… Emilio

  • http://www.winemeetingpoint.com Emilio

    Hi Gabriella, as soon as you get to the sherry book, I will start reading with you. And let’s hope more sherry lovers will. I know the book from some 10 years ago (former edition). I want to read the book again. Let me know when you start. And of course I will follow you wrestling your way through the other three books as well. Good luck and have fun tasting the wines…
    Emilio

  • Pingback: On the Spain blogs this week… - Notes from Spain: Travel, Living in Spain, Podcasts, Forum and Photos

  • Jose Leandro

    Wow! You sound like a woman on a mission! Are you proceeding in the order you've displayed the books above?

  • Jose Leandro

    Wow! You sound like a woman on a mission! Are you proceeding in the order you’ve displayed the books above?

  • Gabriella Opaz

    Emilio, Thanks so much for your willingness to join me on my adventure, and you can expect that I'll happily take you up on your offer! Out of curiosity, have you read any of Julian Jeff's other books, and if so, did you enjoy them? Jose, I am a woman on a mission! Hopefully, this ever so dedicated woman can actually apply what she'll learn. As for the order of the books, I have begun with "The Wines of Spain" and you can expect the first entry bright and early tomorrow morning. If you are interested in joining me Jose, please know that my arms are open to any and all whom are willing to join in my crusade!

  • Emilio

    Hi Gabriella, to be honest I only know the books "Sherry" and "Wines of Spain". I think the last time I read the books was around 1995. I used to have more time back then. I don't know how many bottles it took me to finish the book, but after reading it, drinking sherry is even more enjoyable. There's only one thing better you can do after reading the book. That's going to Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    Emilio,

    Thanks so much for your willingness to join me on my adventure, and you can expect that I’ll happily take you up on your offer! Out of curiosity, have you read any of Julian Jeff’s other books, and if so, did you enjoy them?

    Jose,

    I am a woman on a mission! Hopefully, this ever so dedicated woman can actually apply what she’ll learn. As for the order of the books, I have begun with “The Wines of Spain” and you can expect the first entry bright and early tomorrow morning. If you are interested in joining me Jose, please know that my arms are open to any and all whom are willing to join in my crusade!

  • http://www.winemeetingpoint.com Emilio

    Hi Gabriella, to be honest I only know the books “Sherry” and “Wines of Spain”. I think the last time I read the books was around 1995. I used to have more time back then. I don’t know how many bottles it took me to finish the book, but after reading it, drinking sherry is even more enjoyable. There’s only one thing better you can do after reading the book. That’s going to Jerez, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda.

  • Gabriella Opaz

    I couldn't agree more. I believe that part of learning about any subject is to make sure one gets their hands dirty. Therefore if time permits this year, I would absolutely love to get down south and actually see sherry being made, experiencing the sights and smells of the vineyards while hearing about both the history and cultural elements first hand. Coming from such a young country as the USA, I sometimes feel as if we have a huge disconnect between the history of the wine and the wine itself, unable to conceptualize how something could possibly be made for hundreds of years lasting through war, famine and birth. By experiencing the process I honestly believe we have an opportunity to bridge that gap between factual and experiential knowledge.

  • http://www.catavino.net Gabriella Opaz

    I couldn’t agree more. I believe that part of learning about any subject is to make sure one gets their hands dirty. Therefore if time permits this year, I would absolutely love to get down south and actually see sherry being made, experiencing the sights and smells of the vineyards while hearing about both the history and cultural elements first hand. Coming from such a young country as the USA, I sometimes feel as if we have a huge disconnect between the history of the wine and the wine itself, unable to conceptualize how something could possibly be made for hundreds of years lasting through war, famine and birth. By experiencing the process I honestly believe we have an opportunity to bridge that gap between factual and experiential knowledge.

  • Pingback: The Literary Side of Port Wine