I have just returned from Alimentaria, Barcelona's wine and food fair. Although this is only about as big as the London wine fair, ie a quarter of the size of Vinitaly, it is focused solely on Spain, naturally, and therefore there are a considerable amount of wines to sift through. Normally I avoid fairs like the plague as I prefer to find my quarry in the field, not in the zoo, so to speak, but this was an exception and I needed to find inexpensive house wines and see some of our producers, the backdrop of Barcelona and the fact a few friends were there too, made for a convincing argument to attend.
Day one was spent not at this fair, but at Vini Vinoteca, a tasting of the top wine producers in Spain, well, some of them anyway. This is organised by an on trade company and is based in the centre of town. The place is incredibly busy so tasting anything is a bit if a nightmare. However with a few tips from our friends at Dominio do Bibei, I managed to select the producers worth looking at. Highlights were Erasmus Priorat, Pardas from Penedes, an agency that I hope to ship and Domaine Lupier in Navarra who make the best Garnachas I have tasted in a long time. Others of note, but who are with UK importers already were Emilio Rojo, Rafael Palacios Jimenez Landi and Pingus. Incidentally the new Bibei wines are stellar, 2010 Lapola having a touch of Albariño in it now which has really lifted the fruit. These guys will be at the Real Wine Fair.
So, on to the main event in a massive fiera centre south of the city. I spent an hour or so getting my bearings and working out a plan of attack. You can never expect to taste everything and it is better to focus in on specific targets. Mine were:
- House wines to hit a £7 price point
- Juicy reds and vibrant whites for sub £10
- Great estates from eclectic regions
I avoided Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Cava, as well as the big commercial stands, so this removed 35% of the fair in one swipe. My first targets were Jumilla and Jecar, both south east of Madrid, but with altitude. I struck gold after about 3 hours, with two fabulous reds and a pair of house wines that hit the spot perfectly, and one is organic to boot. Great packaging and a really lovely philosophy. I also tasted some horrendous extracted wines that are already in the UK and frankly shouldn't be. So Xenysel will be joining us soon, as will Bodegas Ego, with one of the weirdest labels I have ever seen (and that is saying something!)
I also met a friend who makes wines at Evohe in Aragona. We would take the Marzuala Garnacha Blanca and maybe the Garnacha too, and the pricing would be comfortably under £10 for us. They are great wines and very good value, and capture the mood of new wave Spain perfectly. These will be in the shops by May.
Next up, Ribeira de Jucar east of Madrid. I tasted some lovely wines here and again cracking value. I need to delve a bit deeper as the wine maker of the wine I really enjoyed was not at the stand but Casa Gauda make pretty juicy wines and well packaged too. The prices have yet to be revealed but they are sure to be good value.
Then on to Terra de Leon and a wonderful estate producing Prieto Picudo, a variety with rich luscious fruit but fresh acidity and strong tannins. Pardevalles makes a great introductory wines from this variety as well as a more serious wine that we would sell for around £12. As well as this they have 4 ha of Albarin, a variety that bears no relation to Albarino, and that only has 30 ha in the world. It is fresh, vital and luscious on the finish, a really great wine that sits in the Loire/alto adige school of freshness. I am keen to work with these guys and the wines will be with us in May.
Castell d’Encus have produced an Albarino for us that we could sell for £14.95. It is sensational and we have up to 2500 bottles. Raul (Bobet) has designed a new label for us and it is great that we have the world exclusivity for this wine. It was great to see his stand was constantly busy and there was a real buzz about his wines and Encus. We have an icon here to be sure!
I also tasted some lovely Galician wines, mostly Monterrei, Valdeorras and Ribeira. I found a beautiful Monterrei from Vina Arxentia, fresh and herbal with real zip, and a fine price too, circa £12. As well as this I need to track down Crego e Monsguillo who apparently make fabulous wines. I also tasted lots of Godello and I must say it’s not my favourite variety, a bit sloppy and ill defined in the main, but the wines from Coroa were excellent so I need to find out more about this lot, they will probably be super expensive but I will go and see them in June!
Mas Bertran Cava is amazing. They have produced a new label for Balma which is very cool and can be seen on the website. I also tasted a producer called Rudeles from Ribera del Duero (I know, this one slipped in somehow), based near Dominio do Atuata in the eastern end of the region. They are good wines, but I am less convinced that the market for these wines is really all it needs to be to justify shipping them. More research then...
Onwards and to Ribeira Sacra to taste around and about. No worries, we have the best producer here, but I was impressed by Algueira who make slightly more chunky wines. This is such a beautiful area and I dare say that the potential for making very fine wines will soon be realised by more and more producers. Even Dirk Nieportt has started making wines out here!
Navarra. Oh dear. I am afraid I blanked here nothing of any interest to speak of, and he region was very badly represented. This is normally rich hunting ground but...
A quick diversion with the ‘Chicos del Terruar’ a group of producers who are all cool and funky and make terroir focussed wines. Interesting wines but all in the premium range and I wonder if this sort of esoteric style has the legs to really gain traction in the UK market. I am keen on one or two of the wines, including a Priorat made by Laurent Combier from Crozes Hermitage.
I tasted a good many other wines and spent time checking out the competition too. It is incredibly tiring, three days being too long and after a while you feel you have kissed enough frogs. Spanish wine is definitely on the up, sort for where Italy was about 20 years ago, and you feel it still has a long way to go which is very exciting. I tasted too many traditional wines that still have to be made for the home markets and South America, and these wines really stick out. Cheap wine is easy to find, but mostly it is turgid and undrinkable, so it was gratifying to kind something we can work with as a house wine proposition.
I would say that wine fairs, are not for me, they are too noisy and blurred, even if this was a lot of fun. I tasted a huge range of wines, but I have to say that I would rather have been tasting them in the vineyard with only the producer and the wine to listen too!