A few days ago, I hopped on the train here in Terrassa and headed down to Barcelona to have a peek at the wine shops available to me. I visited several, but I want to share my experience about one store in particular, a wine store that stood out from all the rest. Located near the large harbor in Barcelona, Vila Viniteca is tucked into a narrow alley that feels as if it has been forgotten over time. As paint peals off the doorways and lichen blanket the stone walls, the area embodies that “authentic” feel of Barcelona’s historic past.
As I sat at a the crossroads of a pair narrow winding streets, Vila Viniteca’s ample wine cellar was on one corner, while immediately across from it sat a small cafe and gourmet food shop lined with preserves and cured meats of Spain’s culinary heritage. Although the gourmet shop and cafe caught my interest, I was on a mission to explore wine shops throughout Barcelona.
Vila Viniteca is essentially one large room with two story high shelving. The interior is stocked from floor to ceiling with wines that any wine aficionado would love to taste. Spain obviously represented well, the selection goes far beyond this country offering up rare treats from not only the neighbor to the North, France, but also wines from Portugal, Germany, America, along with several others. Displayed on neat shelving with boxes stacked between aisles, I eventually noticed a form of organization as to the placement of wines and styles. The real strength of this wine store wasn’t the clear delineation of styles or regions but the natural flow that a true wine lover would appreciate as they run there hands over bottles.
Richebourgs melded into Grandcru Alasace wines, as you slowly found yourself walking through the Penedes and slowly back through Champagne. Each bottle was so subtly displayed that you felt as though you were the first customer to discover it. The only thing that would have made the browsing experience better was a small loan officer at the door to secure the means to stock my cellar from this precious collection.
Eventually, I caught the eye of an employee and presented her with a challenge for which I typically use to determine both service and knowledge. “Please recommend a wine (in this particular case, a wine from Catalunya= under 10 euros that you feel is unique, overlooked, and something worth trying.” Without much hesitation, and a good indication of a fabulous wine shop, she suggested several bottles. Of the array of choices she presented me, I chose the Pardas Sumoll, a non-DO wine that was made from a previously unknown grape called, Sumoll. Asking for more information, she stated that while a grape native to the region of the Penedes, very few people are using it. She believed that this rosé was not only a good wine, but was really set apart from similar wines as a result of its complexity and style.
From my perspective, customer service is the exception in Spain, not the rule. And while Vila Viniteca is nowhere near the level of service you may find in the US, it did offer a very pleasant experience and one I would happily recommend.
So the next time your in Barcelona, take a minute to wind through the narrow back alley streets and stop in. And of course, we always appreciate the gesture of you sharing with them where you heard about their wine store, at Catavino.net!