We are rarely at an advantage over other workers, but this time freelancers like us who usually work from home at least have prior training to make the coronavirus confinement more bearable.
Since March 14, like we did some years ago, many wine professionals and wine lovers in general have established work and rest routines or simple but important things like showering and dressing in outdoor clothes on a daily basis during this stay-at-home time. These activities are added to others such as doing sports in the living room (thanks, YouTube!), enjoying family meals, avoiding watching or listening to the news continuously and controlling the use of whatspp and social media.
We cannot travel, nor meet friends for dinner but at least we still have wine, which undoubtedly helps to cope better with life under lockdown. For as long as the virus keeps us at home, we will publish on our website how the wine community is dealing with this isolation -distributors, hospitality workers, shopkeepers, journalists, educators and wine lovers in general, beyond the producers, who are usually the focus of our articles- and which wines are being opened during this time. Pieces initialed A.C. have been written by Amaya; those written by Yolanda are initialed Y.O.A.
Stay healthy, keep strong and keep your spirits up, wine lovers!
Passionate wine professionals and partners in life, they are behind two of the most interesting addresses for wine lovers in Madrid. David runs Angelita, a restaurant, wine and cocktail bar, together with his brother Mario, whereas Delia manages La Fisna, a wine bar and shop in the heart of the bustling Lavapiés district. Regular faces in Madrid’s busy tastings agenda, it was common before the pandemic to see them sharing glasses —one for whites, the other for reds.
During the lockdown, Delia and David have made good use of their time be it cooking ("suckling pig on a Sunday, beef cheeks, stew, a healthy dose of vegetables..."), reading, watching movies or just loitering about. They have even rediscovered themselves as a couple, they say. David shaved his beard ("I hadn't seen my face in five years," he jokes). “At first it seemed that everyday was a Sunday: we cooked, drank generously and read, but as we became aware that the lockdown was going to continue for a number of weeks, we decided to get more serious about our routines and started studying, preparing new campaigns, updating our wine list and stocks...", they say. There was also some spare time to exercise: "One day we found ourselves looking for cardio sessions on Youtube; we had time to exercise, suffer injuries, get better..."
On a professional level, they have taken part in virtual tastings and talks and have kept in touch with their respective teams: “We have hosted learning sessions on Zoom and discussed things just as if we were running a wine teaching program.”
They didn’t run out of wine as both had brought generous supplies from their cellars. The results were a mixed bag. “There were lovely surprises but also disappointments, including well-known, expensive wines which ended in our beef cheek stew”. Highlights included whites from California, orange wines from the Loire and Savoie, a fantastic still rosé from Champagne and Spanish wines by Envínate, Casa Castillo, Artadi, small producers from Ribera del Duero, Fedellos de Couto or Comando G. “We have enjoyed a great diversity of wines including Sherry with our preferences going invariably for Amontillado plus an old Callejuela Oloroso,” they say.
Camus-Bruchon Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Lavieres 2013 was one of the star bottles (“the wines of this small Burgundy producer age so well! This one continued to improve in our glasses and left us wanting more”). Other good memories included Olivier Horiot Rosé des Riceys in Barmont. “It was our first lockdown wine and we still expected to go back to work in 15 days. This is one of those delicious rosés from Champagne. Jean-Yves Péron cheered up our afternoon studies and we felt like we were living someone else’s life; just reading in our sitting room with plenty of time ahead for us”.
Delia and David agree that 2018 is the best Cortezada vintage (Algueira’s Godello from Ribeira Sacra) they have ever tasted. Other wines include Château Chalon Jean Bourdy 2010 (“extremely young but our bottle improved day after day”), Cavallotto Barbera d’Alba Superiore Vigna del Cuculo 2016 (“a superb, delicious wine we had with pasta”), UBE Carrascal 2015 (“What a surprise! We weren’t sure how it would be and…OMG! It was so salty and deep, really top class”), Champagne José Dhondt Mes Vieilles Vignes 2010 (“classic and balanced, wonderfully standing the test of time, a real joy”). Other highlights include Fleury Chapelle de Bois 2018 by Jean Louis Dutraive (Beaujolais), Ceritas Trout Gulch Chardonnay 2017 (Santa Cruz Mountains, California), the white Gavela da Vila Granito Palomino 2017 produced by Laura Lorenzo in the Bibei valley in Galicia and Pepe Luis 2018, one of the Albariños produced by Xurxo Alba in Rías Baixas. A.C.
Together with sommelier Marina Cruces, Antonio Portela organises A Emoción dos Viños in Galicia, one the most successful and interesting non-trade wine festivals held in Spain. This year they were planning to celebrate their tenth anniversary in front of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Oia Monastery in June, but the virus has forced them to postpone the event, which will finally take place on August 1st and 2nd.
He spent the lockdown in Cangas do Morrazo, a town on the other side of the estuary opposite Vigo, amidst the endless games and activities of his four-year-old son and the ten micro-vineyards he looks after near Cangas do Morrazo, an area with a long winemaking tradition but which was left outside the boundaries of the Rías Baixas DO when it was created in 1988. Thirty years later, in 2018, the Ribeiras do Morrazo PGI was born, covering, in addition to Cangas, seven other villages in the province of Pontevedra. For now, Antonio's wine - Namorado Tinta Femia, which refers to the name given to the clone of Caíño Redondo in the area - is outside the PGI because it is made at Rodrigo Méndez's bodega in Rías Baixas.
The little time he has left beyond looking after his family and his four-year-old project is invested in "doing nothing", although he also likes to re-read some entries from Viticologo dos Bagos, the wine blog he started a few years ago. "I'm thinking of writing a feature about the revolutionary transition of wine in Galicia", says Antonio.
Over these two months of confinement, Antonio has been enjoying a few wines as well. "I drink bottles from past editions of Emoción dos Viños which I hadn't been able to taste, wines made by local colleiteiros (growers), my wines from the 2018 vintage to check their evolution, and some bottles which I had forgotten". Amongst this favourites so far are: "the Betanzos Blanco Lexitimo 2016 by Conexión Mandeo, the sandy character of Llanos Negros La Tablada 2014 by Teneguía from the island of La Palma, Artillero 2017 by Oxer Bastegieta in Rioja, or the Albariño O Con 2013 by Xosé Luis Sebio. Y.O.A.
He was the first to set up an online store specialized in old wines in Spain. More recently, Rodrigo joined forces with Andrés Conde Laya, owner of restaurant La Cigaleña in Santander, to launch Unicorn Wines, a distribution company featuring Andrés’s long-standing portfolio (Ganevat, Maurer, Clos Rougeard…) plus exciting newcomers like Mythopia in Switzerland or Nestarec in the Czech Republic.
Rodrigo works for a chemical multinational where he is responsible for purchasing raw materials. During the lockdown, he has been working from home. "It was difficult to adapt with an eight-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy at home. At first I didn't have the resources to work at full capacity," he says. Once he adapted to the new situation, he has been able to devote significant time to wine, his great passion. "Spending time in my cellar sorting the stock, arranging bottles and taking photos doesn’t feel like work to me", he points out.
During the lockdown, he has been drinking some of the wines he works with. “I have been to my cellar on a daily basis. On each visit, I took a bottle to drink at home, mostly wines in the Unicorn Wines portfolio but I’ve also enjoyed a few Tondonias,” he reveals.
His birthday, on May 16th, was a double celebration. He enjoyed an outdoor meal with his family and Andres’s at a restaurant —the first since the lockdown—as Santander is one of the cities where restrictions are gradually being lifted. “We uncorked a bottle of Fleurie Ultime 2018 de Yvonne Metras from Beaujolais. Grapes for this wine, which is not available every vintage, are sourced from a 110-year-old vineyard. With its red strip, the label is easy to recognise. It was wonderful to experience again the freedom of going out to enjoy food and wine.”
With a growing focus on Vega Sicilia, Vino Vintage Santander was born as an online store in contrast with Unicorn Wines, which sells mostly to the on-trade and is therefore affected by the closure of bars and restaurants. That is why the partners launched an online store in record time with the help of a computer engineer friend: “We usually work with allocations. Although restaurants are our main clients, we have always sold to private consumers too, but we are now reaching more wine enthusiasts with some special cases we have created including a Ganevat selection,” Rodrigo explains. “The digital side of the business is here to stay,” he adds.
During the lockdown, they have continued to receive wines from the producers they work with. "After bottling, it is peak time for shipments and we are committed to pay on time and not leave anyone behind. After all, Andrés has been working with many of them for over 20 years." A.C.
Head of wine at PR agency Mahala, Montse Alonso is living the lockdown at her place in Barcelona with her husband and three kids, and all that this implies in terms of logistics, working remotely and keeping an eye on the children's studies. The agency has been pretty active over this period: samples of new vintages have been sent out normally and their clients’ news have been pitched to the media.
Readers might have come across Montse in our recent piece about Covid-9 and the loss of smell. She also had to deal with losing her sense of taste. Apart from being unable to enjoy wine for a few days, she also experienced fairly severe headaches, but managed to avoid fever. "I actually never get fever,” she explains.
Luckily, Montse has been able to return to her routines. "I always have plenty of wine in the office and bring bottles home to taste, but the lockdown caught me short of these samples, so I had to resort to my wine cabinet, where I keep the most special wines," she says.
She has enjoyed many traditional wines from Andalusia. From Jerez, Valdespino Fino Inocente, Amontillado Tío Diego and two Palo Cortado: Antique by Fernando de Castilla and Lustau’s Tonel Single Cask 03-19. From Montilla-Moriles, the Fino Capataz and the Amontillado Carlos VII made by Alvear. “I have also tasted some outstanding white wines made in Montilla-Moriles by talented winemakers like Dulas (Lagar de la Salud), Tres Miradas (Alvear) or Fresquito (Pérez Barquero); these wines have been a true discovery for me,” Montse points out.
In terms of whites, the list might make you green with envy. It features Pazo de Señorans Selección de Añada 2004, 2009 and 2010 (Señorans is a long-standing client of Mahala), As Sortes 2016 and 2017, Taleia 2013 by Castell d’Encus in Costers del Segre and Viña Tondonia 2001, among others. In reds, she highlights a couple of Mencías, Moncerbal (Bierzo) and Fuentes del Silencio Las Jaras 2016 from the Jamuz valley in León, plus Las Rocas Viñas Viejas Garnacha 2017 from Calatayud, La Font Voltada, a top Trepat made in DO Conca de Barberà, and Tempranillos such as Corimbo I 2010 produced by Roda in Ribera del Duero. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve spent my holidays in Gredos so I’m emotionally attached to this area. That’s why I treated myself to La Bruja de Rozas 2018 by Comando G and Pegaso Zeta 2016 by Cía de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez. I’ve also tasted Relatos 2018, a fruit-driven red made by a new producer called Huellas del Tiétar that I liked a lot.” A.C.
He accepts with positivity the current situation and above all the disadvantages of the lockdown, but he longs for his routines in the restaurant El Ermitaño in Benavente (Zamora), where Marcelino, or Marce, as everyone calls him, has been working as a sommelier since 2008. "The adrenaline of the floor, the endless tastings with my colleague Flavio Daniel or the daily pace of dealing with several matters at once, makes me feel sad from time to time”.
With El Ermitaño closed for a couple of months now, Marce —fourth generation of a family "devoted body and soul to hospitality and dedicated to the noble art of serving”— does not hide his concern, but has taken this exceptional routine as an opportunity to broaden and deepen his knowledge.
"I would like to draw attention to the generosity of many professionals who share their knowledge on IG Live, transforming these days into a permanent conference, where learning has never been so easy," says Marce. He cites several examples: "My Chupipandawine colleagues with their tremendously educational sessions; the human value of the great Juanma Terceño; no less important Julián Hermoso (@sorbitoasorbito) who is responsible for us going to bed late, although with a smile and extra knowledge; Pepe Ferrer from El Puerto de Santa María with his special tact and empathy; or the impeccable Cavaliere del vino, whom I admire and appreciate unreservedly, Juancho Asenjo, who always shows an elegant mastery and ability to make his guests feel great, letting them be the stars while extracting the best from each one for the benefit of all”.
To this special "conference", Marce adds "very appealing" readings on food and wine sites. "I continue to take advantage ( for now) of the Elmundovino archive, I read José Peñín and I keep up to date thanks to you, Spanish Wine Lover, who work with remarkable energy, providing rigorous contents and news, while also keeping us abreast of the frantic events agenda".
As expected, Marce combines his daily learning with a generous dose of wine, both in quality and quantity. "As Juancho would say, 'Marce does not take prisoners'. I probably drink beyond what's reasonable," he jokes. "These days I have enjoyed La Escribana by Willy Pérez, a magnificent white where the Palomino variety shines; the 2010 and 2011 Vintage Finos by González Byass that are real missiles; the palos cortados Tradición, Dos Cortados and Marqués de Rodil are helping in moments of contemplation and every sip of these amazing wines is like a father's embrace; Montilla-Moriles has also been a guest at my house, with wines such as Amontillado Pérez Barquero, among others", explains Marce, who serves 200 wines by the glass at El Ermitaño, 90 of them fortified.
"I enjoy wines that are made nearby and/or by friends like V.O. Prieto Picudo by Julio Otero, which for me is the best rosé in the universe; I am impressed with all that Soto Manrique is doing in Cebreros; rare but good fizz like Tres Lustros by Gramona, which makes me want to return to Font de Jui; I rediscover the Albarín variety with Pardevalles; several vintages of Belondrade y Lurton; I have confirmed how well the wines of Bodegas Fariña stand the test of time, with vintages of Campus; the restlessness of Javier with his Rodríguez&Sanzo whisky barrel aged red that has blown me away; I appreciate the work of José Luis Prada, a man from Bierzo who deserves recognition and I have enjoyed his Picantal; or Fuentes del Silencio, and its wine Las Quintas, that I really appreciate. ” Marce's list continues: "A few more are ready to open such as Manuel Herrera's Finca Herrera Garnacha and Baron of Chirel 2001 -the wines of the great historic houses are always appealing”. Y.O.A.
Director of a long-established PR agency pioneering food, wine and lifestyle communication in Spain, Javier will not forget these past weeks. "We are always running to and fro, with barely any time to stop and think, and that's how both the lockdown and the Covid-19 caught up with me. The virus kept me in bed for a day with fever, dry cough and anosmia”.
Far from seeing the loss of smell as a nightmare, as most wine professionals would, Javier made the most of it: "It helped me to discover tasting elements that aromas and flavours hide: acidity, tannins, body, alcohol, sweetness... It was like disposing of the sense of smell to focus entirely on the palate: tongue, flavours, wine temperature and textures. Another dimension of wine, a sort of game.”
Javier has taken up more healthy living habits these days than in the whole of the past year ("I've even dared to practice yoga”). He has drunk less wine than usual, but he enhanced the experience by pairing it with food. He has established a discipline in his virtual routine at the agency ("to avoid sitting at the computer in my pyjamas, I've forced myself to wear a tie every day") and has made the most of his leisure time. "My bedside table is piled up with books and I'm grateful that hardware stores have been closed because I avoided having to spend the entire day getting things done. I've taken the Rioja Wine Academy course and some digital marketing training which I've both enjoyed and endured," he admits.
As for wine, Javier did not hesitate to open special bottles that he had kept "in case we were ever confined by a virus originating in China,” he points out with fine irony. "My daughters, who are growing up quickly, have taught me that great wine is best drunk before you have to share it with your sons in law. I enjoyed a Bordeaux Grand Puy Lacoste from my birth year; it was like having a chat with an adventurous grandfather. I had a great time with Alvear Fino Capataz from Montilla Moriles and with the vermouth Casa Mariol. From the southeast I have rediscovered Origin, a complex Chardonnay made by Bodegas Carrascas and Finca Calvestra Merseguera by Mustiguillo. In terms of reds, I had Finca Antigua organic Syrah and Garnacha, a cuvée from La Mancha, and Campo Elíseo from Toro. Finally, one of my favourites is Urezti, a late harvest Txakoli made by Itsasmendi in the Basque Country. Now I rely on Rioja (not particularly classic in style, but suitable for cellaring) and, privately, I drink a lot of Garnacha from anywhere in the world."
Despite the many good moments, Javier is looking forward to getting back to normal. "I have enjoyed this lockdown time and I have learnt the importance of devoting more time to our family, our hobbies and ourselves, who were left behind," he adds. A.C.
She is more into staying at home rather than out and about, so the life of Vanesa Gamaza, creator of a newborn textile line focused on wine ( pictured here with one of her T-shirts), has not really changed much during the lockdown.
Since mid-March she has not been conducting tastings and guided tours of wineries such as Barbadillo, Juan Piñero or Delgado Zuleta in Sanlúcar, where she lives, but she does continue to teach yoga classes - now online - and to design her clothing which she describes as "born among the vines". Her lifeline to enjoy daily walks during the lockdown is Moscatel, a dog that she adores. "The time I have left is reserved for sports, cooking and reading those books I never had time for", says Vanesa, who was born in Arcos de la Frontera, in a farming family but with no ties to the vineyard.
She has always liked design and wine from her homeland and she produced her first creations for herself, without commercial purposes. "About 10 months ago I started to take it more seriously because I saw that there was nothing like it and that my designs generated interest beyond my friends. Van Sherry is a way of wearing our region's wines", adds Vanesa, who has so far released five T-shirt designs which are already being worn by wine lovers not only in Spain but also in China, Germany, Belgium, France, Greece and the US.
While she finds the inspiration for new designs, fabrics and ways to strengthen the structure of her incipient business, Vanesa enjoys wines such as "the Hidalgo La Gitana range, from the manzanillas Pastrana en Rama and Pasada to the Amontillado Napoleón or the sweet flavour of Cream Alameda. I also like Dulce de Frío Riesling by Gramona and the voyage from Champagne to Sanlúcar de Barrameda which is Elixir by Muchada-Léclapart”. Y.O.A.
The manager of the DO Uclés Regulatory Board, Lola lives halfway between Madrid and Tarancón in Cuenca (Castilla-La Mancha). On 10 March she decided to stay in Tarancón, where she has her office and usual place of work, and took her computer screen and printer home with her. She had just finished judging in the Bacchus International Wine competition where she joined people from 16 different countries. "They were four intense days of tastings, lunches and dinners. Some members of the international jury cancelled their attendance, but fortunately the event could be held".
Her biggest concern now are her parents, aged 95 and 91, who live in a village in Burgos and whom she cannot visit. Nevertheless, she knows that they are well looked after and her brother, who lives close to them, is very supportive. "My father is fairly well, but he hears badly. He wears a hearing aid, but he doesn't understand anything on the phone so it's my mother who translates. Thanks to video calls, I can see them. In fact, I celebrated my birthday with them: I blew out the candles while they were singing to me".
The apartment she shares in Tarancón with a Physics and Chemistry teacher who is also working from home has a little outdoor space (“I do not have this in Madrid”) that allows them to eat out when the sun shines. Having some company, she is more willing to open bottles because she doesn’t like drinking alone. But they are moderating their intake: "We just have a drink with our lunchtime meal, so a bottle can last a few days." The first wines they tried were bottles of local Uclés producers that she had at home: Bodegas Fontana, Bodega Soledad and La Estacada; and Irrepetible made by Altolandón in the neighbouring wine region of Manchuela.
As a Sherry Woman (a group of female Spanish wine professionals that are passionate sherry lovers) who worked several years for González Byass, Lola has introduced her flatmate to these wines from southern Spain. “They have been a revelation for her. She really enjoyed them. We have been pairing Tío Pepe en Rama, Oloroso Alfonso, Néctar and Noé with an array of cheeses that we ordered from my good friend and cheese connoisseur Guillermina Sánchez.” A.C.
Based in London, where he works for a leading importer of Spanish terroir-driven wines, Álvaro Ribalta has every chance to become the next Spanish Master of Wine. His first thought when the lockdown was announced was to seize the occasion to write his research paper, the final step to obtain the coveted title, which focuses on the complex scenario of sparkling wines in the Penedès region in Catalonia.
"What I hadn't thought of was that I would have at home my very active two-and-a-half-year-old who needs constant attention. Some days I rode to the office on my bike so I could have a few hours of tranquility. I had lots of interview recordings and data gathering work and needed two- to three-hour work sessions. I finally managed, but I can't say it was easy, let alone to find the time to get some sleep. During this time, Álvaro also experienced a viral process which included the loss of smell, but was unable to confirm whether he had the coronavirus. "The good thing is that the smell came back," he says with relief.
At work, normal activity has slowed down, but they are trying to earn some money with a new online store. "It doesn’t compensate for the loss of the on-trade channel -most of our customers are restaurants except for a few stores that remain open and are doing a roaring trade-, but profit margins are higher giving us instant cashflow, which is not bad. What’s interesting is that consumers are being able to buy wines like Envínate, which used to be sold on allocation to restaurants and some very specific stores. The world is very different from what it was three months ago and the industry has changed so drastically that we’ll have to rethink almost everything from scratch".
Alvaro feels fortunate that containment measures are less severe in the UK. "We can go out and exercise and I haven't found any policemen stopping people or asking what they are doing in the street. Nor there is an express ban preventing children from going out," he says.
"We are drinking more than usual because we spend more time at home. We have the kid with us all day and when he goes to sleep, it's our moment to enjoy a wine”. Álvaro has bought some favourite bottles from wine importer Vine Trail including Champagne Jacques Lassaigne. He has also enjoyed wines from other French regions like Pattes-Loup from Chablis, Sylvain Pataille's Bourgogne Blanc 2016 which is “great value”, or Domaine Macle Côtes du Jura. The list also includes Witchcraft Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County (California) and some Spanish wines by Envínate and Suertes del Marqués. A.C.
Locked down in her apartment in Barcelona with her husband and two cats, safe and healthy and with access to a sunny terrace, US-born Erin Nixon considers herself lucky but the shutdown came as quite a shock to her wine bar and restaurant, La Catalista. “We’re in our first year of operations, and so had been looking forward to our first successful spring and a busy summer after having spent months investing and growing our business. Now everything is up in the air and I spend a lot of time wondering what the future holds,” Erin confesses.
During the first two weeks of lockdown she tried to get organized, made sure her team would be looked after, renegotiated rent on the bar and prepared all the right paperwork. In the rollercoaster of emotions that we’ve all been through, her mood changed over the following weeks. “The next two, I went a little crazy: hosting dance parties with my nieces and nephews over video, reorganizing our house, creating an elaborate tile mosaic tabletop for our kitchen, wearing colorful scarves around the house,” Erin says. “These last few weeks have been more oriented to the future: with some amazing women (Chelsea Anthon, Lior Shechori, and Mila Nikolova) I have launched an initiative called Amigo Del Día aimed at uniting and supporting small restaurant owners during these difficult times. I am also starting to work through what business looks like with the coming de-escalation measures soon on their way. Feels great to be working again!.”
Wine has been a big part of her lockdown survival strategy. “I’ve restarted my personal wine tasting account, @erinsips, where I’ve shared notes on nearly 20 “QuarantWines.” It’s mostly been a mix of favorite Catalan wines (e.g. Xarello from Foresta, Serral del Vell from Recaredo, Vega Aixala Cariñena) and wines we’ve collected on our travels over the years like a Hugel Pinot Gris, a Chianti Rufina from Selvapiana, a Sonoma County Pinot Noir from Kutch or a Château Carbonnieux in Pessac-Leognan.”
On the advice of Fintan Kerr (read his comments further below), she ordered a mixed case of French wines from local distributor Caskadia. “A gorgeous Macon-Villages from Robert-Denogent, Les Sardines, is a standout so far. I love how through wine we are still able to explore the world, even while stuck at home”, Erin explains. Y.O.A.
Sommelier and great sherry lover, David Laínez prefers to draw some positives from the "mess" created by this crisis, which has forced him to temporarily lay off the 19 workers of his restaurant La Bien Pagá and another small cafeteria he manages at the Murcia Tourism Institute. "For the hospitality business, this break should be a time of reflection and should serve us to enjoy the time spent with our family, something we cannot do as much in our day-to-day," says David, who has an 18-month-old son.
On the day he goes out to do his shopping, he usually stops by La Bien Pagá to check the refrigerators and make sure everything is in order. On a normal day at his restaurant, David likes to pair the dishes that are cooked on the moment with some of the 500+ wine selections he lists, including "a hundred or so old vintages, some unicorns and other rare things".
During the lockdown, he has to make do with drinking and cooking at home, for himself and his wife, while listening to rock and blues from the 70s, his other great passion apart from classic motorbikes. "I'm 44 years old and I've been buying vinyl since I was 14. A friend of mine was asking me if I'll have to repeat an album or wine during the confinement, but I've calculated that it won't be necessary at least until September".
His ritual consists of opening the wine, smelling and tasting it and then thinking of a song to go with it. "Jerez is my signature wine and I'm passionate about GF25 by Gaspar Florido. I'm lucky enough to own several bottles and I like to drink a glass every day. Another wine I've enjoyed a great deal is A'vía Treixadura, made by Matías Michelini without sulphites and in amphora, and with incredible fruit, as well as Volandia 2017, an old vine Mencía made by Mar de Envero in Ribeira Sacra", adds David, who cites the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Paco de Lucía and Triana among the music he's been listening to these days. He has also been surprised by some old vintages such as Santa Cruz de Artazu 2001, one of the garnachas that Artadi produces in Navarra. "Pure velvet", David says. Y.O.A.
They do not make or sell wine as such, but Fernando and Angelines bring the flavours of the lees of a barrel-fermented white wine to their customers in the DellaSera ice-cream parlour in Logroño and to the diners of some of the country's fine dining restaurants, to whom they supply gourmet ice cream made in their workshop in Viana.
They were going to start the season a few days after the state of alarm was declared, but decided to remain closed as a precaution. "Luckily we can afford it because we had already considered a possible closure in the event that one of us might go," explains Fernando. "Now we know that the reopening will be slow and that we will have to be able to react, but our idea is to continue as before, adapting to the situation".
Confined to their apartment above the workshop, they are grateful to be able to enjoy and work in their beautiful garden with aromatic plants and graciano vines, which are some of the ingredients for their frozen creations. "This year they are better looked after than ever before," says Fernando, who has taken advantage of some of this unexpected free time to sow seeds of peppers, onions and tomatoes that he had selected and saved from previous years. Another part of their forced leisure time is dedicated to sharing their culinary knowledge on Instagram and on their blog, where they post videos of recipes as appealing as a cucumber and vermouth slush or cocoa ice cream.
When they reorganized their cellar, they realized how much wine they had stored, but they are gradually getting through their liquid assets. "We used to drink water during the week but now we are drinking a bottle per day", Fernando confesses. "They are mainly white wines and made by acquaintances or friends like Rioja producers Abel Mendoza, Miguel Martínez or Roberto Oliván, with whom I exchange ice cream for wine, by people who give us presents when they visit us and made by other producers that we discover thanks to our friends and who are food representatives of their territory like Laura Da Terra, the malvasías made by Sicus, Can Rafols del Caus, of which we love La Calma and El Rocallís, Suertes del Marqués or Curii by Alberto Redrado”. Y.O.A.
With a long career in the wine business at Lavinia wine store in Spain and France and as a taster for La Revue du Vin de France, Marie-Louise lives between Perpignan and Badalona. The lockdown caught her in Spain with her partner ("we never get bored and we respect each other’s freedom").
Her biggest concern is her 97-year-old mother who still lives by herself and she also misses her grandchildren. Marie-Louise is used to working from home since she retired, so she has not had to readjust much. "I am writing a book on European dry oxidative wines which should be published by the end of the year and preparing the next European Fair for this style of wines in Perpignan which will take place on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2021".
Social media are not her thing even though she enjoys browsing Facebook to keep up with what's going on in the industry. “I prefer to read or do crossword puzzles —I’m an addict!”, confesses Marie-Louise, who is also cooking a lot ("I love it") and opening "wonderful bottles" from her well-stocked Eurocave cooler. "In these difficult times, wine provides us with moments of pleasure and relief. These days I leave aside the professional side of tasting. Right now, wine is not so much about how good it can be, but about sharing and providing comfort. Another good reason to uncork many bottles is to make room in the cellar to restock it when the lockdown is over. The industry will need it very much," she points out.
The long list of wines she has enjoyed these days starts with one of her favourite champagnes, the blanc de blancs Pierre Peters Cuvée de Reserve Grand Cru ("it strongly expresses the richness, the delicacy and the elegance of the terroir") and continues with Rully Blanc Les Saint Jacques 2017, a lively Chardonnay by Domaine A. et P. de Villaine. Marie-Louse likes Galician whites (Alma de Mar and Finca O Pereiro by Xurxo Alba) and her latest “coup de coeur" is Tentenublo Blanco 2018 by Rioja producer Roberto Oliván "which I fell in love with instantly". The rosé chapter includes Organic Rosé 2018 by Esteve i Gibert, a blend of white and black Sumoll recommended by her daughter and son-in-law, "the energetic, sensual red Garnatxa Rosat by Mas dels Fils, a good introduction to natural wines," and Rosete by Cume Do Avia, ("neither rosé nor clarete, but a great wine for summer!")
In terms of reds, she likes the unusual freshness of Joven de Viñas Viejas 2017 by Goyo Garcia Viadero in Ribera del Duero, (“elegant expression with some robustness") as well as Domaine des Tours 2014 by Emmanuel Reynaud ("it looks light, but is rich in texture and elegant") or Finca La Personal Garnacha Peluda 2016 by Edetaria ("a unique, honest wine that moves me"). Priorat is a must, but she goes for the "uncomplicated, friendly, fun and yet timeless" Classic Priorat 2018, by Fredi Torres. "I cannot live without a dry rancio in the fridge", admits Marie-Louise. She has just opened Domaine de la Tourasse Blanc de Méditerranée Solera 2012 ("it is young but perfect for natural wines lovers") and alternates it with Palo Cortado Tradicion VOS, "a wine that fascinates me; it is surrounded by an aura of mysticism, uncertainty, incredulity, mystery… Marvellous! A.C.
The sommelier of a singular establishment that combines great food and sherry with a superb flamenco show in Madrid, El Corral de la Morería closed its doors on March 13th, one day before the general lockdown in Spain. They tidied up as if they were closing for the holidays and all the staff enjoyed a “special, warm” farewell lunch.
Temporary laid off as many other professionals in the hospitality industry, Santi Carrillo found it irresponsible to travel to Córdoba, his home town in Andalucia (southern Spain) and has remained in Madrid in good company. He makes the most of his small, barred balconies and is devoting the spare time to his hobbies. Apart from wine, he is very fond of crime novels, music, model building and cooking. Cooking is something that Santi cannot possibly do in normal working days and he is lucky enough to live close to La Cebada, a well-known, traditional food market in Madrid. He is also reading old books to research his favourite vinous subject: sherry and other fortified wines.
“We are drinking well and with moderation. Half a bottle each per day, plus an occasional cold beer or a glass of brandy or Amontillado,” he says. He doesn’t avoid reds (he really liked the new single-vineyard La Paul by Bodegas Pujanza in Rioja), but he prefers dry whites and sherry-like styles that connect him emotionally to his origins, even more so in these difficult times. “I’m a huge fan of La Inglesa, a producer in Sierra de Montilla. I usually have some of their Fino en Rama as I’m lucky enough to have my own selection, directly form the casks; their Amontillado is gorgeous, too. From Moriles, the other quality area in Montilla, the Fino Solera María del Valle made by Gracia Hermanos is really special for me —it was one of the first Finos I drunk with my father. I have also enjoyed the new vintage of Alvear Tres Miradas La Viña de Antoñín Skin Contact”. He also enjoys the odd vermouth, like the one produced by Alvear in Montilla or Manuel Aragón’s in Chiclana (Cádiz).
Santi is also watching some of the countless Instagram chats available during the lockdown. He never misses those of Sherry and Montilla-Moriles Regulatory Boards and also follows Fernando Mora MW and Chupipanda Wine, a group of sommeliers. “We will have to seek synergies and champion our own produce —alternatively we will have a bad or a very bad time. I am going to work hard to spread the word about everything local, a kilometre zero approach for wine and for everything else. Now more than ever we have to be generous,” he adds. A.C.
The coronavirus has severely disrupted Federico Ferrer's small distribution company, which overnight saw how his clients disappeared following the closure of bars and restaurants.
"You can't imagine how much I think of them because they must be having a really hard time. I have found some relief in a small legion of wine enthusiasts, some of them old and some new, in a sort of chain of favours with a common link: wine. One day I'll throw a party to thank them for being there when I needed them most. There will be music, cracklings, mackerel with piriñaca and a few dozen litres of wine", promises Federico, who ever winter hosts his memorable Cuatrogatos Wine Fest.
The worst thing about this situation is the impossibility of meeting up with family and friends to have a good time, something we previously took for granted. "It makes me want to see even the dreary uncles," he jokes. "Then you think of those people, be they close or not, who are suffering this lockdown in much worse circumstances and you are ashamed of your first-world grumbles".
He drinks almost daily because wine brings him satisfaction, joy and peace. "Apart from a delicious drink, wine has helped me meet great people, and it's a way to bond with those people, be they winemakers or bartenders. It's the closest I'll get to them these days," he acknowledges. Federico drinks all sorts of wines, but sometimes he chooses one to pair with the food they've made at home that day. "Most of them are wines from friends - my suppliers and other producers - although I'm digging into my reserve of great vintages and rare and scarce bottles. I'd rather share them, but what the hell! One has to survive!"
The last thing he enjoyed was a bottle of Pur Xarel.lo 2013 from his friends at Celler Pardas ("apart from being a good wine, it felt young"), an Agostado 2016 from his admired Ramiro Ibáñez ("HE is the sherry revolution") and a simple "riojita" from another friend, Germán R. Blanco, La Bicicleta Voladora 2018, which accompanied a barbecue and turned a recent afternoon into a memorable occasion.
He sends us a photo taken at his home during these days of self-isolation. His idea was to convey what he thinks about wine: "always better in porrón”. Y.O.A.
They are housebound in Tenerife, where they are busy working on a number of research projects involving natural wine as well as on a formal certification for Spanish wine similar to Vin Méthode Nature, which was approved in France last month. Their efforts are now focused on gaining support for their scheme.
Authors of Albariño Rías Baixas: from tradition to the world and El Despertar del vino en Galicia: la vuelta al terroir, the first two parts of a documentary trilogy that portrays the current wine revolution in Galicia, Eva and Pablo are not only great advocates of natural wine, but also make their own for home consumption. "It is an orange wine without additives made with Albillo Criollo, Marmajuelo, Listán Blanco and Verdello from La Orotava (Tenerife) in seasoned chestnut barrels. The grapes are given to us by Finca Marzagana, a local producer with whom we also make a natural wine that is released on the market", they explain.
They drink their homemade wine every day, but every two or three days they also open a bottle of natural wine from elsewhere in the world to taste and be up to date with what's going on. "We also like to taste PIWI wines —made with pest resistant varieties— because we would like to get involved in a project about resistant varieties and climate change". They cite as an example Domaine La Colombette, a winery in Béziers, in the Languedoc, which produces three wines with these varieties.
These days, they are also drinking some natural wines sent to them by their friend Jorge, producer at Puerta del Viento in Bierzo, where Pablo hails from. One is a Mencía made from vines over 130 years old and the other is made with Dona Branca. "Both are bottled without added sulphites and are fresh and with zesty acidity. We usually have a drink with our meal and continue working in the afternoon”. Y.O.A.
An all-round professional with an extensive career in magazines like Restauradores and Sibaritas and on the PR side of Grupo Peñín, Victoria set up her own agency eight years ago. Confined in her apartment in Madrid, she is finding it hard to relax. “There is a lot of work to do in social media and with virtual sessions. We are basically communicating in a different way and trying to see the positive side of the situation.”
Used to an active social life, Victoria accepts the lockdown with resignation, but she can't wait to get out again. “I never thought this would go that far. My mother always says that we should have lived a war to really appreciate what we have... The confinement is a tough test —we will get through it but I doubt everything will ever be the same again,” she says. Victoria is looking forward to hugging and kissing her family soon and to enjoying outdoor life and wine with friends. “I can't wait to get back to my favourite bars —they are like second homes to me—, places like El Enfriador and Alquitara. A few days ago I dreamt that my neighbours had opened a bar on the rooftop. That wouldn't be a bad thing, would it?"
Meanwhile, she enjoys long virtual aperitifs with friends (“it’s as if we were sitting at the bar or outdoors”) that provide a much needed mental break. “I have very little room to store wine at home, so I’m opening what I have, mostly wines from clients, but I’m enjoying them in a different way. I’m a big fan of rosés, so I always have some bottles of the “really elegant” Larrosa de Izadi, Dehesa de Luna Rosé (“Cabernet makes the difference here”), and Tombú, the “amazing” Prieto Picudo made by Dominio de Tares.
Other wines she has been enjoying include Initio by Las Moradas de San Martín (Vinos de Madrid, Gredos), Pruno, a great value Ribera made by Finca Villacreces, Homenaje Garnacha rosé from Navarra, Barcolobo (Castilla y León) or Fagus by Coto de Hayas (Campo de Borja). “I have a bottle of Kinzmarauli, a semisweet Saperavi red that a friend brought me from Georgia. I’m wondering whether to open it or not, but I may wait and share it with friends when the lockdown is over.”
Apart from virtual aperitifs, practising some sport and reading travel magazines provide some escape from confinement. “I love revisiting travel pictures and visiting travel websites to find exciting destinations to go when the lockdown is over," she says. A.C.
Before the lockdown, Alberto, an energetic wine lover and taster for elmundovino.com, had been fighting his own battle for several months. “Last year I found out I had cancer and had to undergo drastic surgery. Just imagine being an enthusiastic wine and food lover and not being able to drink or eat like one.”
Alberto, who has gathered a bunch of exciting small producers in the portfolio of Montenegro Vinos, Cvne’s distribution company, soothed his frustration thinking of (and buying) the wines he was longing to drink. “But lo and behold, it turns out that my cellar is full of wine when we had to self-isolate,” he says. “I still cannot drink as I would like to; in fact, I hardly drink but I keep on uncorking bottles and using Coravin. I try to be ready for the day I can get back to work, even though I know that I won’t be in full shape. But this passion for wine is very difficult to shake off, neither cancer and nor Covid-19 now can kill it; this passion has no barriers.”
His lockdown vinous routine consists of going down to his cellar and choosing a couple of wines, usually a white and a red, in addition to the three or four fortified open bottles he regularly has at his place. “I drink mainly Spanish wines, many of them from the distribution company I work for," he acknowledges, “but there are also bottles from other producers. I am always eager to learn more. I prefer to buy different wines rather than many bottles of the same wine; it has its risks, but who cares!. That's why one of the best things that has ever happened to me was when Víctor de la Serna invited me to become a member of El Mundovino's tasting team. Now, obviously, I'm a player on the bench waiting for the confinement to end and the tastings to begin again.”
Among his favourite wines during these weeks Alberto highlights “Kinki by Verónica Ortega in Bierzo, Ninja de las Uvas, made by Julia Casado in Bullas, the white Sortevera which is part of a new project launched by Jonatan García (Suertes del Marqués) in Tenerife, Rosete de Roseta by Cume do Avia (Ribeiro), 100 Montañas Albarín Negro from Bodegas Vidas in Cangas (Asturias), the new Península Txakoli, the 2018s of Mujer Caballo, the experimental range by Fil·loxera i Cía. in Valencia, etc. I try to uncork or drink a glass of a couple of bottles a day.”
He’s is passionate to the point that he is unable to get bored —Alberto enjoys both reading and listening about wine. “I really liked the new book on Montilla and Jerez by Jesús Barquín and Peter Liem and Rajat Parr’s Atlas of Taste. I’m also watching many Instagram live talks like those conducted by Fernando Mora MW, Ismael Álvarez, Eladio Osorio, Colectivo Decantado, Juancho Asenjo, etc.” A.C.
As a competition lawyer in a prestigious international firm, Andrew Ward is going through a very busy lockdown in terms of work so he has little time to write about wine on his blog undertheflor.com, well known among sherry aficionados, or to take in the many Instagram live shows.
He was far-sighted and "perhaps over-stocked", so he took the opportunity to reorganise his wine cabinet. "I found myself with duplicate bottles of Solear en Rama Summer and Winter 2016 sacas and, of course, the only possible solution was to open them. What a marvelous wine, and what a marvelous series! Armando Guerra says that they are going to release the spring saca in spite of the situation and I think it's the right thing to do".
He also stumbled upon four bottles of UBE Carrascal 2015 by Ramiro Ibáñez. "It was an inexcusable excess so I just had to liquidate two of them. A great, really pleasureful white wine that always prompts me to drink multiple bottle. In this case, I drank the second with a Meursault Charmes 2015, by François Mikulski, a good wine alright but not at the level of UBE".
During one of the many weekends at home, he opened the three Callejuela 2015 single-vineyard manzanillas. "The three are impressive and it's fascinating to compare them together. Callejuela is one of the greatest and undeservedly least known bodegas in the Sherry Triangle". In addition to Sanlúcar, Andrew has also uncorked sherries such as the “aromatic, fantastic on the palate and sapid” La Bota de Fino 91 and classics such as La Panesa by Emilio Hidalgo. "It's one of my favourite wines and one of the brightest stars in sherry firmament. There are few wineries with such class —the only one I can think of is Tradición— but as a result of my negligence I don't have any of their wines right now".
A member of Los Generosos, Andrew has also had time to taste the Montilla-Moriles fino and amontillado that this club of traditional Andalusian wine enthusiasts has selected this year. "It's a special saca from some old and elegant butts in Lagar de los Frailes that we call La Bota de Embarque (The Boarding Butt). "I drank them to the health of my fellow Generosos; some of whom have had a hard time with the virus".
To make room for the new bottles, Andrew was "forced" to drink his last Clos Mogador 2005 which he describes as "im-pre-ssive". Other younger wines that he has also enjoyed at home are Pepe Luis 2018 by Xurxo Alba, Socaire 2017, Audacia 2016, Trenzado 2018, Gavela da Vila 2015, Murmuri 2017, the "exquisite" El Molar 2015 and La Bota de Amontillado 73. "Perhaps a personal favourite is ¿Cómo te llamas? 2018, a fresh and lively orange wine by Isabel and Sabino at Orulisa that at the same time paired perfectly with a cocido madrileño and transported us to the mountains”.
And what else is in that bottomless fridge of Andrew's? "Interestingly, I have unearthed an unexpectedly large stock of La Barajuela wines. Of course there's already one less —a bottle of Segunda Saca Caberrubia NV". The rest are undoubtedly in the line of fire.. Y.O.A.
After over a decade traveling across the Iberian Peninsula to produce documentaries focused on wine culture, Albertina has shifted her attention in recent years to portraying rural Spain. In Caudete de las Fuentes, her village in the heart of DO Utiel Requena in Valencia, she is still known as "the bobalera" after the documentary Bobal and other stories about wines that she produced in 2008 -the film explored the land and the people behind Bobal, which at that moment, was a neglected, forgotten grape variety.
Despite self-isolating on her own in Caudete de las Fuentes (“This has proved to be a real test of self-discipline and mental strength”), Albertina feels lucky to live surrounded by vineyards. “The worst part when this started was not being able to stroll among the hundred-old vines I have just a few metres away from home. But I’m already enjoying some short walks to witness budding and the splendour of nature in this rainy spring.”
She is putting her photographs in order (her favourite subjects are hands, grapes and people’s faces) while trying to stay positive. “This situation has caught us by surprise and it is understandable to feel bad and helpless. The hardest part is witnessing our blessed normality fade away. But it's also a unique chance to reinvent ourselves and to regain our good mental and physical health.”
Albertina cannot imagine the future after Covid-19, but she thinks that the words of the late Pedro Vivanco ("We must give back to wine what wine has given us") could be a helpful guideline for the wine industry in these hard times. “I know many people who are having a really hard time with this crisis, mainly restaurant workers, small wine stores or wineries which neither export nor sell to large food chains… Some of them are now selling online, others are trying to strengthen themselves… The long-term vision of grape growers should teach us not to give up.”
Albertina has chosen to appear in her self-portrait with Vivanco wines from Rioja, a family whom she regards as a leading force in wine culture. “My glass is empty. In my opinion, wine is a drink to be enjoyed with food and in good company, with friends and your dear ones; and now I am alone. But I would love to uncork some bottles and travel across Spain’s wine regions with you all. I hope to do it soon. Cheers!” A.C.
His winery in Haro's Barrio de la Estación closed its doors to the public on March 12, so as head of wine tourism Mikel Ruiz de Viñaspre had to readjust and work from home in direct wine sales. "As we cannot receive visitors at Gómez Cruzado, we decided to contact clients who had been to the winery in recent years and the response has been very good".
With a two-and-a-half-year-old child at home, working from home is not easy: "My wife is one of those heroines without a cloak who works as a nurse in the ICU, so looking after the little one is now more my responsibility. I think we've seen all the children's videos in the world, we've painted, we've played games... The last ace up our sleeve is a trampoline that turns into a ball pool," says Mikel. "So far we've managed to keep him entertained for a while, just enough to get my work done and keep a minimum of concentration.
He has always liked cooking but misses practicing sports and hiking in the mountains, although he makes the most of his free time. "I try to read, be attentive to what is going on in the industry and think about how to face this new professional reality that awaits us and how to improve the services and structure of my department. Rather than reinventing ourselves, we will have to adapt, which is different, and for that we must be prepared".
Active in social media, he is following some live shows on Instagram. "I like Fernando Mora, who is doing a spectacular job, as well as Colectivo Decantado and the late-night broadcasts of Julián Hermoso @sorbitoasorbito, which are very entertaining," adds Mikel, who considers himself lucky to have a good and well-stocked cellar. "I have a dilemma when I pop the cork; the little devil on my left shoulder tells me to open my best wines, the ones I save for special occasions, but the little angel on the other side tells me to save them and share with all the people I love and miss when this is over". While he solves this mental debate, Mikel is tasting wines from various countries and wine regions, exploring varieties and discovering producers. "I also drink Gómez Cruzado wine, of course, because it reminds me of my work, my people, my natural habitat. And among what I'm about to uncork I have, for example, Goliardo 2016 by Forjas del Salnés (I'm a big fan), a bottle of Basserman Jordan Riesling given to me by a customer, a Chablis by Gérard Tremblay or Baron de Rothschild Cabernet Sauvignon from Colchagua Valley”. Y.O.A.
Although he earns his living managing accounts for large clients in an insurance company, Mariano Fisac's presence in this article is more than justified as the author of the blog Mileurismo Gourmet and two books on wine: the excellent Galicia Entre Copas and his latest release Vinos y Lugares para Momentos Inolvidables, which he was promoting when the state of alarm was declared.
He was used to working from home, so Mariano is coping well with that part of the confinement. His workload is light because the number of complaints has dropped substantially with the decline in industrial activity, so he makes the most of his time joining Pilates classes via Skype (courtesy of his employer), enjoying the company of his wife and four-year-old daughter, and cooking and drinking wine on weekends. "I'm more of a wine keeper but in situations like this you realize that life is short so now I'm acting more on impulse," says Mariano.
Of all the bottles that have been opened or are pending to be uncorked, he highlights half a dozen. "The first is Sacabeira 2017 made by my friend Iria Otero, a direct, focused Albariño from Salnés. She does something I have always defended, which is to give it time in the bottle". The second is Sade by Orly Lumbreras, with whom Mariano is making a skin-contact Godello in tinaja in Ribeira Sacra. "If Iria is a friend, Orly is my brother. His Sade is not a wine for everyone but it is extremely food friendly". The third wine Mariano recommends is Camino de la Frontera Rosado, made by the "brilliant and humble" Laura Lorenzo (Daterra Viticultores) with juan garcía, tinta madrid and rufete old vines in Fermoselle (Zamora). "I am a wine guzzler and this wine is delightful. It has both freshness and fruitiness”.
From Rioja he recommends El Jardín de la Emperatriz, by the Hernáiz Brothers, "a pleasant surprise in an appellation that I think is going in the right direction after the recent changes in regulations. Pradio Pacio, "a fresh and vibrant red from Ribeira Sacra" that was delivered to him in the midst of confinement courtesy of Xabi Seoane, one of the brothers behind this project in an abandoned village in deep Galicia, is his fifth recommendation, while from Priorat he praises the dry muscatel Terroir Al Límit Muscat, "a vilified but food-friendly style". Mariano finishes his recommendations with Palo Cortado Don Zoilo by Williams & Humbert. "Although I'm not a big Sherry drinker, I always have one bottle open. The complexity of these wines is not comparable to others”. Y.O.A.
She lives in a beautiful farmhouse with a vegetable garden surrounded by nature and mountains in the Basque Country, so, in that sense, Maider's confinement is being "a luxury", but after more than a month with no work, reality starts to weigh heavily. "We have some muscle to withstand the crisis but if this lasts long I don't know what’s going to happen," says Maider, who is locked down with her husband, the chef of the family restaurant, and their two children.
They had lots of group reservations and April was very promising so both the restaurant's cellar and pantry were full when they were forced to close. As they live above their restaurant and guest house, they are eating all the stored food but the sedentary lifestyle, in spite of the work in the garden and the walks close to the property, is taking its toll. "I'm chubby and tanned," jokes Maider, who confesses to missing "the usual sauce" of her restaurant with capacity for 140 diners.
Wine loving Maider is also enjoying some of the many bottles she stores in her cellar. "We are trying to curb down our intake, but we choose to drink wines from friends and people I know, such as Thousand Mils by David Sampedro, a Viura blend with a very good expression of the terroir; Fino Arroyuelo or Socaire Oxidativo by Primi Collantes, which is a very special wine; La Escribana by Willy Pérez, which lured me as I walked past it and I was unable to resist, or any of the MicroBio wines; I like everything Ismael Gozalo does." She is trying to get her 16-year-old son to appreciate wine by letting him taste (rather than drink) some Riesling. "It's a game and a way of making him see the cultural appeal of wine as opposed to binge drinking. He has a good nose too," adds Maider.
While she counts the days until the restaurant opens its doors again, Maider tries to keep herself busy and is taking advantage of her free time to do all those things that her daily routine doesn't allow: watching series on Netflix, reading novels and wine books, and studying the theory part of the WSET 3, which she kept putting on hold. "There are no more excuses now." Y.O.A.
An Englishman based in Catalonia since 1992, Andrew has specialised in helping Spanish wine professionals to communicate better in English with tailor-made courses and tastings. The scope has expanded recently to French and German.
Andrew is confined with his wife and his children —aged four, nine and 12— at their home in Font-Rubí, in Penedès wine country. He is busy with his English lessons (his first business and the start of Wine Aspects) while he works hard to adapt his "English for Wine Lovers" course and make it available online. He has also launched “Wine Lessons at Home”, a set of free exercises to practice wine vocabulary during the lockdown. Working from home with three children is not easy, so he tries to make the most of his time at night when the house is quiet.
“We are seeing a lot of educational instagrammers lately, but it is important that people do not mistake communication for education; although both of them can be combined simultaneously, they are not the same. A different matter are the professionals imparting online masterclasses,” he says about the countless videos and conversations that have sprung up on social media. “Working and studying at home is not easy, particularly for people with young children, but also because personal contact is so important. In addition, there are frequent technical issues; not everyone has a good WiFi connection.”
Ashurst’s lockdown wines range from a local everyday rosé bought in carafes (“I'm a big fan of the Font-Rubí cooperative,” he confesses) to the dozen or so bottles carefully chosen from his tasting room cellar in Vilafranca which he is managing to stretch with his Coravin. “If I have to be locked up, I’ll drink the good stuff,” he says. The list includes a South African Southern Right Pinotage 2018, Movia Rebula 2016, as the Ribolla Gialla grape variety is called in Slovenia, Savigny-Les-Beaune 2017 from Domaine Chandon de Briailles in Burgundy and Flor de Pingus 2016 and Valbuena 2013 from Ribera del Duero. There are also some Torres Family wines which featured in a series of video tastings and bottles bought last year during a trip to Colliure (Rousillon). A.C.
A familiar face in Barcelona's most celebrated wine bar since the early days, sommelier Isabelle Brunet is spending the lockdown at her brother Christophe’s home in Vilanova i la Geltrú, near Barcelona. She was there for the weekend when the state of alarm was declared and decided to stay, but she hopes to return to her attic in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter soon. In fact, despite being closed to the public, Monvínic is cooking 100 meals a day as part of "Comer Contigo" (Eating with you), a charity launched by the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia.
“Our parents are staying at their place in our hometown not far from Saumur and Rabelais”, she says. Her origins mark her wine tastes: Isabelle admits that the Loire is her first choice to buy and drink at home. “From Muscadet by the Atlantic Ocean to Sancerre, there are a wealth of vignerons who give us a humble yet wholeheartedly welcome when we visit them to buy directly from their cellars. A beautiful landscape across hundreds of kilometers among castles and vineyards.” Isabelle reminds us that in French wine regions, families drink wine with their meals and “parents offer red wine diluted with water to their teenage kids.”
She feels fortunate that her brother Christophe loves cooking; both share a passion por spices. “We start toasting with Sherry for the aperitif. A bottle of Fino paired with olives from Jaén and a virtual competition with friends, a Trivial Pursuit Wine Edition with questions about wine and food culture.”
The next step is to pick up forgotten bottles from the cellar: “Old vintages, hurrah!” says Isabelle. The list includes Torres Mas la Plana 2011, a “splendid” Grenache Gris Boulevard Napoleon 2011 Minervois made by Benjamin Darnault, Hervé Bizeul Les Sorcières 2015, an old bottling of Fino Macharnudo Romate, Le Lac aux Cochons 2014 Cahors by Julien Ilbert, La Leçon de Labourage 2016 by Fredi Torres, Gorvia Blanco 2007 by José Luis Mateo, Olivier Rivière Rayos Uva 2013, Crown Prince Pinot Noir 2009 Mr. Jones Bass Phillip Victoria Australia and Oloroso Selecto Manuel Guerrero.
“Wine is the best partner for a meal,” adds Isabelle. “It gives us joy, strength and comfort. We spend our spare time reading and thinking how we can be of help to society. We try to look ahead and focus on positive things.” A.C.
Don’t be misled by the name of the store (mercería means haberdashery). It is worth driving to Boadilla in the outskirts of Madrid to meet Daniel Cortés, a young, passionate wine lover who sells a fantastic array of exciting wines made by small Spanish growers. The doors of his store are closed during the lockdown, but he is delivering wine to his clients’ homes. “I call this Televino,” he says.
Daniel looks at the bright side of life. “I have time to study wine regions and grape varieties, I am about to complete a master in “chinchón” (a very popular card game in Spain) with my partner and son, and help my little one with his homework while I try to become an influencer -in a moment of insanity I have done a few videos on Instagram. We have been walking our dog so often that it has complained of muscle soreness. We celebrate whenever someone rings at our doorbell and I’m getting to know my downstairs neighbours -we chat at our balconies after the 8pm applause.”
He drinks wine daily. The aperitif (both before lunch and in the evening) is always sherry. “My recent favourites are two manzanillas, the great value De La Riva Miraflores, which feels older than it is, and the much fresher Barbadillo Nave Trinidad, and Fino Caberrubia by Luis Pérez with marked albariza [the chalky soils of the region] character.” In terms of whites, he highlights 3 Miradas La Viña de Antoñín Skin Contact 2016 (Montilla-Moriles), “which has developed beautifully”; the good tension of Gavela da Vila 2017 (Ourense, Galicia) and the entry-level white Burgundy Jobard 2017, “a wonderful wine with honeyed, chalk nuances and a fresh, citrus finish.” In reds, “I loved the fine, mineral and floral Magna Vides 2012 from Ribera del Duero; Gramenon’s Poignée de Raisins 2018 which combines sweet fruit and lively herbal notes on the palate; and the perfectly balanced Dominio del Bendito Las Sabias 2016 despite its 15% abv.; I think it is their best vintage so far.”
“On my birthday under lockdown I treated myself to a bottle of Comando G Las Umbrías 2016 (Gredos) that I had been storing for some time. It had amazing aromatic depth and an extremely elegant fruit and wet stone notes on the palate… What a vintage!” Daniel’s list also includes Palo Cortado Cruz Vieja (“it is so fresh… just a sip and I feel like drinking more and more”) and a limited edition Fleury made by this biodynamic Champagne producer to mark its 30th anniversary. “It was an unexpected present; a lovely combination of oxidative and honeyed nuances over a background of chalk and red fruit.” A.C.
The days before the announcement of the state of alarm caught Julen with his bags packed and on his way to Madrid to sort out his relocation. On March 16th he was due to start working as a cook at restaurant Lakasa but after a conversation with the owner, César Martín, he decided to return to Bilbao and wait to see how things developed.
Since then, Julen, who has worked in kitchens such as Can Jubany or Mina, is confined with his mother and spends his time cooking and making videos that he uploads to Instagram ("I've been encouraged by my girl, who shares a flat with her friends and cannot cook"), watching films and doing courses online. "I've never been much of a student, but I think learning something about management and marketing will be good for me. I'm also looking into doing a sommelier course," says Julen, who last summer managed Txinpum in Bilbao, a natural wine bar owned by his friend Alvaro Garrido from Mina.
He has run out of unemployment benefits and is out of work, but Julen prefers to be positive and think that he will still have a place in the hospitality business and make his dreams come true. "It's all been so sudden that I think people are going to put their plans on hold, rather than cancel them. Everyone is looking forward to hanging out, eating and drinking out and socializing. When this is over, I look forward to work at Lakasa, but if that's not possible I might set something up on my own; something small. Maybe it's time to do that, although I have to talk it through with my girlfriend and the bank first."
To brighten up his confinement meals, Julen, who goes by the name SkoOrp on social media, has opened up some boxes of wine he had in his mother's storage room. "Kalamity from Oxer Bastegieta and his txakoli Marko, which I have enjoyed immensely. We have also opened Itsasmendi 7, La Cueva del Contador and Predicador 2015 from Rioja, Sketch 2016 by Raúl Pérez, which my mother likes very much, Sicus Sumoi in amphora and Valentía, the white cariñena by Cosmic Vinyaters".
He believes that the crisis should help us to be more humble and to value the little things too. "I see people who are starting to appreciate again a supermarket wine like Cvne. Maybe we've been living a bit too fast, opening incredible bottles with friends but not appreciating them as much as they deserve," he muses. On the day we talked, he was enjoying a 2016 Ganevat De Toute Beauté. "It's a wine that makes me happy and brings me pleasure." What better argument to open a bottle? Y.O.A.
A great ambassador for Sherry wines, Jerez-born Paz was a pioneer among food and wine female writers in Spain. She started her career back in the 1980s in magazines like Dunia and Gourmets, but now she works as a freelance journalist and divides her life between Madrid and Jerez. “The lockdown caught me in my tiny apartment in Madrid. I can’t recall ever spending such a long time in these few square metres,” she says.
The worst part is that given the lack of space and storage conditions, Paz has run out of wine supplies. “The flat is so small that it was either the wine cooler or me,” she jokes. “My cellar is in Jerez, where wines are stored in proper conditions. Over these weeks, I have finished the few bottles I had here, including some Sherry which is an essential companion to get through this unintentional confinement. The supermarkets in my neighbourhood only sell the basic brands, La Ina, Solear, La Guita…, but all of them are welcome. And they are fine for me. Never before these brands have sold as many bottles of Fino and Manzanilla. The Sherry lady is back!’ they say at the store when they spot me.”
That’s why she is thrilled to have received a few bottles from Cádiz. “A bright, delicate Lumière 2017 by Muchada-Léclapart, old-vine Palomino from Pago de Miraflores which has undergone spontaneous fermentation in French oak barrels. And the smooth, fruit-driven, fresh Torre de Ceres 2017, a new 100% Tintilla made by Miguel Domecq which is aged in seasoned oak barrels for a year.”
She has also welcomed the Mediterranean into her apartment. “I received a joyful, expressive Castell de Santueri Rouge 2017 from Felanitx (Mallorca) made by Terra de Falanis, a project led by the owners of Ánima Negra. And some cheerful bubbles from Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in Catalonia. The artisan, family-owned Montesquius Extra Brut Gran Reserva 2016 Rosado (a blend of Monastrell, Trepat and Pinot Noir fermented in clay jars) is perfect to celebrate one day less under lockdown. Camino 2019, a blend of Garnacha Blanca and Chenin Blanc, and Caminito Garnacha 2019 from Empordà, near the French border, are a welcome relief to tread this hard and difficult path [camino means path in Spanish].
The list goes on: “Amidst the melancholy of tango and the reality of a harsh, pebbly road, I uncorked a bottle of Hacienda Monasterio 2017, a perfect match for the monastic silence that envelops downtown Madrid these days and a reliable wine, vintage after vintage. Speaking of Madrid, the opulent, complex Valquejigoso V2 2008 brings sweet memories and invites to take a stroll along the beautiful meadow it comes from, just 45 km from a city that has come to a halt. Fancy something sweet? Valverán 20 Manzanas is an exciting ice cider from Asturias, with perfect sweet-acid balance that ‘sees the light’ after two years of ‘confinement’. Wishing that ours lasts much less... stay healthy, be patient and drink well!”, recommends Paz Ivison. A.C.
Editor-in-chief of the most comprehensive guide to Spanish wines, Javier admits that the lockdown is proving to be somewhat bittersweet for him: “I couldn't believe that something like this could happen to us; it reminds me of an apocalyptic manga film. For me, it’s the biggest global misfortune I've experienced so far. And it' s surprising how easily you get used to being confined.”
The best part for Javier is that he is spending a lot of time with his family and this compensates for his many trips away to taste for the guide. At the beginning he found it hard to work from home with his two children around —aged seven and nine years old— as they need help to do their homework. But after establishing a routine, he feels that he is making up for the lost time. “Apart from studying, we have dressed up, baked bread and pastries, eaten good food in generous amounts and we have paired our food with wine.”
His small cellar features mostly Spanish wines which he found interesting at different times and laid them down to follow their development. “I’m interested in the effects of bottle ageing, also for modest wine,” he says. The list includes “a Bierzo red made by Bodegas Peique, Selección Familiar 2003, which I liked a lot on its release, but I had doubts about how it would age. Now is the time to find out.” He is planning to uncork wines that touched him particularly “like Domaines Lupier La Dama Garnacha 2016. Everytime I walk past the wine cooler, this bottle shouts at me: Hey, Javier, here I am!.” He also buys some foreign wines to keep on learning like Quinta das Bágeiras Garraferira 2015 from Bairrada (Portugal). “I’m lucky that at home we enjoy wine and also talking about it, so I do not miss that part,” he notes.
Beyond wine, Javier is using his time to play the guitar, read and listen to music. “The eight o’clock clapping dedicated to the people who are giving their all these weeks seems to come earlier each day. You say to yourself: Already? Time flies! I have the feeling that, despite how terrible this crisis is, we will come to miss the time spent together at home. I hope that we rethink ourselves as a society and begin to take things easier. In life, as in cooking and winemaking, rushing is not good; things take time.” A.C.
Sommelier at Lera, a restaurant specialized in game and a no-nonsense champion of sustainable cuisine, Rocío is staying at her parents' home in Valladolid during the lockdown. She cherishes the presence of her family, whom she normally sees little of, but acknowledges that she misses life in Castroverde de Campos (Zamora), a village in rural Spain where she moved to in April 2019, upon starting work at Lera. " There are 100 people living in Castroverde, so you know everyone there and you don't need to take the car. It's very relaxed place to live," says Rocio, who is 25 years old.
In the restaurant, the destination of many foodies in search of an authentically rural cuisine, Rocío is constantly meeting new people and longs to share moments around the wine and dishes of chef Luis Alberto Lera. "The quarantine has also made me realize how much I like my job and how much I miss it.”
Now, as the 14 staff are temporarily unemployed, Rocío worries about the future, but she manages to keep herself busy by reading books, studying for the WSET Diploma and recording occasional videos on Instagram in which she talks about Jerez, her great passion. "It's kind of a personal challenge and these videos help me to organize my thoughts. I'm interested in the classification of soils and vineyards in the Sherry Triangle and I'm very grateful to Willy Pérez for all his book recommendations," adds Rocío, who is also discovering the differences in soils and climates as she enjoys wines such as Callejuela, Ramiro Ibáñez and Caberrubia, a Fino that has been hugely popular with her family, despite the fact that Sherry is not one of their regular choices.
Since she keeps her "stash" of wine in the restaurant's large underground cellar at 12ºC all year round, she is buying wines online for the whole family to enjoy. "Some verdejos like Barco Del Corneta or Cantayano, a variety with which I am trying to come to terms with, bubbly like Léclapart or Benoît Lahaye, and of course, Jerez". Y.O.A.
The family restaurant located in the outskirts of Gernika in the Basque Country closed its doors the day before the state of alarm was declared in Spain. Jon Andoni, Best Sommelier in Spain in 2018, thinks that when all this is over “the hospitality industry will not reopen in full force; it will probably start with quiet restaurants and bars with terraces or tables separated by safe distances.”
Accustomed to travelling, lecturing, and working hard in the restaurant, Jon Andoni feels weird at home and confesses to going from one room to another. He plays with his children and spends most of his time studying for the upcoming Europe and Africa Sommelier Championship set to be held in Limasol (Cyprus) from 16th to 20th November “provided it is not cancelled,” he says.
He is drinking partly to follow his studies but also for pleasure. He has also been tasting new vintages like Luar do Sil Godello 2019 from Valdeorras, Tierra Fidel 2014 made by Agrícola Labastida in Rioja or a clay-aged Tempranillo by Paco García also in Rioja which is part of the experimental range Pucheros. In terms of the 2019 txakoli vintage, Jon Andoni mentions Egala, from a small producer in Arteaga, a neighbouring village, and Lapazaran in Muxika, a 20-minute drive from the restaurant. José Lapazaran was recently in the news because he had a terrible accident and was trapped underneath his tractor. “Doctors cannot believed he survived. The fact that he is a keen sportsman (he has been the Basque anvil lifting champion on many occasions) may have helped,” Jon Andoni told SWL.
A couple of special wines he has enjoyed with his wife include Lan Culmen 2011 (“it’s a classic Rioja style compared to Lan a Mano”) and Bassus Finca Casilla Herrera 2015, made by Hispanosuizas in Valencia. Jon Andoni is looking forward to open 1994 Torre Muga and other bottles from the 1980s and 1990s that are stored in his cellar. He has also found the time to taste a few sakes and a blackberry wine that he brought from Korea during an ICEX trip to promote Spanish wines in this country. A.C.
Manager of a premium wine tourism agency in Rioja, Amelia, who has lived in Italy for ten years, was warned by her friends in Florence so she was not surprised when the cancellations arrived.
After verifying that her clients and suppliers were in good health, she set to work trying to balance her confinement with an active emotional state, generating contents, giving free rein to her creativity and starting to form a community of partnerships with her network of contacts.
Having initiative is important, but Amelia knows that doing her best will not be enough. "We will have to wait and see how tourism evolves in the immediate future. Obviously, everything will be different from now on. No one will want to get into a car with strangers, and I foresee that most of the tourists will be national and split into small groups," explains Amelia, whose tours focus on Rioja and its cultural dimension, far from the run-of-the-mill visit and tasting in a winery. "In any case, Rioja is an ideal destination but we will have to create a mix of experiences so that our clients discover the diversity of this region".
She wonders if she will be able to return to work before August, but Amelia, who also runs courses in Italian gastronomy, is confronting the crisis with work but also devoting her time to cooking. "I do it because I find it most relaxing and because I pamper my guys [her husband, the tenor Miguel Olano, and her son Felipe] who are at home with me".
Wine is a good wine to bond too. "Today we drank a Vendimia Seleccionada 2018 by Bodegas Díez Caballero in Elciego with a delicious beef T-bone steak. On the menu tomorrow we will have peppers stuffed with meat in the most traditional Rioja style with a Garnacha from the Alto Najerilla region made by Bodegas Juan Carlos Sancha". For a hedonistic experience, Amelia has a recommendation: "find a moment of solitude and enjoy a young tempranillo -Abel Mendoza, Valentín Pascual...- before dinner as you listen to Puccini's Manon Lescaut intermezzo in the background. Pure melody and great brio". Y.O.A.
The uncertainty and the global economic downturn that is upon us seem a little less daunting from the house with garden and sea views that this Galician innkeeper restored 15 years ago and where he lives with his wife and three children. "I think about the people who have to be locked up in a flat in the city and with small children and I feel lucky," confesses Miguel Anxo.
In a regular Easter week, the tables at A Curva in Portonovo and Casa Aurora in Sanxenxo would be buzzing with tourists and locals alike hoping to enjoy their famous volandeiras and excellent wine list, but not this 2020. "We started the season at Casa Aurora on 13 February and a month later we had to close and lay people off", he explains. The employees of A Curva, scheduled to open around this time, are still on the dole. "I will not recoup the Easter revenues even if we have an extraordinary busy summer. And forget about those bars full of people; we'll have to fit three tables where there used to be six".
Although aware of the dire situation that awaits us, Miguel Anxo is able to unwind and enjoy the good local produce of Sanxenxo and the wines he has brought from A Curva. "These days I'm looking for wines that transport me to the place where they're made, like Emilio Hidalgo Oloroso Gobernador, La Casilla de Ponce or Finca Les Tellades de Cal Nicolau, a terrific wine that Joan Asens makes with Picapoll Negre in Montsant. I have a Quinta das Bageiras Rosé in the pipeline and I also drink Champagne, Burgundy, and of course wines from Galicia. I drink everything and have nothing against any region, as long as the wines are well made".
It took some convincing, but he will finally be on Instagram with his friend Xoan Cannas, from wine education centre Ingavi, and perhaps in a few other broadcasts. "The thing is that I'm not too sure how all this social media stuff is done and I work in my father's vineyard in the afternoons", says Miguel Anxo, who made wine in Valdeorras and other areas of Galicia with Cannas. "They are hard, hybrid vines that produce extremely acidic wines. They were planted 70 years ago, at a time when wine was nourishment. My father doesn't drink any of my wines, but he loves the wine he makes from these grapes.” Y.O.A.
A charming, multifaceted woman, Pilar is in charge of corporate events at Lavinia wine store in Madrid and is the lead singer of The Winedrinkers a band of producers, wine writers and wine enthusiasts. She calls herself a wine drinker and uses the letters WD after her surname -not too different to the prestigious MW initials (Masters of Wine).
"I was saying to my husband not so long ago how I'd like to spend a couple of months at home sorting things out. You have to be careful with what you wish for!,” she says resignedly. But Pilar also looks at the bright side of the crisis: "Thank goodness, everyone around me is healthy, so I'm having a wonderful time studying, spending time with my daughters, and making lots of handicrafts with them.”
She thinks this is a period of introspection. "We are seeing the benefits of having digital skills in terms of managing relationships and business. There are many activities that can be done from home, and as a result, the planet seems to be benefitting.”
She keeps her spirits up: “Maybe it's my dyslexia, but I read coronavinous and feel like pouring a glass of wine. Earlier today I opened a bottle of Ca’di Mat (the name means madhouse in the Piedmontese dialect) made by my friend Curro Bareño, which perfectly mirrored what was going on at home: drums classes, piano playing, teenagers on videoconference… all at once”.
“I have enjoyed, or am about to, wines made by Bodegas Fulcro, Suañé, Goyo García Viadero, Toro Albalá, Alvar de Dios, Torremilanos, Roberto Oliván, Quinta Milú, A Pie de Tierra, Fuentegalana, Oxer Bastegieta, Dominio del Pidio (a couple of these bottles have ben converted into table lamps) and my favourite smart buy: and old Amontillado released by Williams & Humbert to mark the 20th anniversary of Lavinia.”
Pilar concludes: “I’ll try to resist opening Hey Malbec! This wine is made by Matias Riccitelli and was a present from Flori, a colleague at Lavinia, who brought it from Argentina before all this started; I promise to share it at a rehearsal with The Winedrinkers. Long live wine and rock’n’roll!” A.C.
With an extended career as a sommelier, educator and contributor to various publications, Bruno has spent the last few years working side by side with sommelier Ferran 'Fredi' Centelles, scientist Rubén López-Cortés and journalist and sommelier Silvia Cullell on the massive Sapiens del Vino, the wine section of Ferran Adrià's ambitious Bullipedia. The lockdown came at a quiet period for him. The priority this year for Adrià was the reopening of El Bulli. He was expecting to be back at work with the Sapiens at some point this year, but the the Covid-19 crisis may change these plans.
In the meantime, Bruno is spending the lockdown at home in Sitges, a beautiful coastal town near Barcelona. He claims to be holding up “gracefully” and says he has maintained a solid routine. “From Monday to Friday we follow a Spartan discipline to avoid physical and intellectual decadence: a frugal diet, intermittent fasting, exercise, reading, discussions, online work... But on weekends we heartily embrace a joie de vivre mindset and we dress smartly, as if we were going out, and indulge in gastronomic celebrations. My partner is a bon viveur who cooks beautifully. My goals are very humble: I'm endlessly trying to improve the technique of making micheladas [a Mexican cocktail] and aniseed carajillos [hot coffee with liquor].”
Although their cellar was running low when the crisis began, they have managed pretty well. “We began the lockdown in style with a pleasant vertical tasting (2016-2017-2018) of Blanc Subur, the unjustly unknown young Malvasia from Sitges produced by the heroic Sant Joan Baptista Hospital, which ages beautifully [the hospital saved this grape variety from extintion and Bruno was a member of its board of trustees]. An Astrales 15 worked perfectly with rice with sausage and vegetables. And from the supermarket, we have rediscovered the virtues of the legendary Sangre de Toro, an underrated but thoroughly satisfying red -I recommend to double decant it and serve it in the best posible Bordeaux-style glasses”.
“We fully enjoyed four original, well-made wines from Torre del Veguer. This producer was the first to donate 33% of its online profits to fund Covid-19 research. This week we will place some new orders. At least some wines from Vall-Llach and Scala Dei (we miss Priorat!)”. Bruno promises to comment about them on Instagram.
Beyond food and wine fests, Bruno Tannino is working together with other wine professionals in “several activities to cope with this situation and its consequences. Since the end of March I have published a musical piece on Twitter daily with the hashtag #MúsicaParaSuperarElApocalipsis (#MusicToOvercometheApocalypse): it’s a set energetic pieces paired with wine.” A.C.
A sommelier, educator and lecturer, Sara is spending her confinement in Gran Canaria, with her husband, whose company has made him temporarily redundant, and their eight-year-old daughter.
"I suppose that many of my followers expected me to do live online tastings or publish selfies with wine bottles, but I don't really feel like it, plus I think there are others who are much better at it, like Fernando Mora with his very interesting live shows on Instagram".
She does not hide her fears. "My parents are old and far away and my brother lives in Mexico, a country that is not taking the situation seriously enough," she laments. "I'm afraid because we are living in a situation that is almost impossible to assimilate. The future is uncertain, because at home we make a living out of wine and tourism. And yet, what to do? Surrendering is not an option. You have to go on, face the situation and fight.
Despite the economic uncertainties faced by freelancers like Sara, she is enormously grateful to her clients. "They are behaving wonderfully, they write to me often and choose to postpone rather than cancel their planned actions and training. If the wine trade in the Canary Islands does not join forces now, they will never do so", Sara concludes.
She is going through the bottles, not only the ones to be drunk, but also the ones that she enjoyed with good friends on happy days. "I intend to continue at the service of any winemaker who is loyal to their territory, both on the islands and on the mainland, in the promotion and awareness of their brands", adds Sara. "We're going to need each other and I hope that the work I've been doing for almost a decade serves a purpose when this nightmare is over and we move towards the professionalisation and empowerment of the sector. I believe that learning has to take on a leading role in wine. I would like to send my sincere congratulations and gratitude to all the brave people out there".
Sara has already decided which wine she will drink to celebrate the end of the confinement and with whom. "It's a 100% Listán Blanco from different plots made in La Palma in one of the oldest wineries in the islands by a person who is very dear to me, Victoria Torres. She gave it to me as a gift on her last visit to Gran Canaria. Made with wine from 2013 and its lees in a 600-litre cask, it was not bottled until 2018. During those years, the wine was refreshed occasionally without drawing it out. It is an interpretation of soils and spaces, of time and learning. It's the last wine that Victoria made with her father and it will be the first one I'll drink with mine when this nightmare is over and I can cover the 2,400 km that separate us". Y.O.A.
Partners in life and wine, Ana and José Félix work together at Evena, Navarra’s Viticulture and Oenology Centre located in Olite. Evena tirelessly works to rescue forgotten grape varieties and biotypes which can provide answers to climate change and vine diseases.
These days doors are closed to the public and all non-essential activity is restricted. This includes postponing the “Vinos Old-vidaos” tasting (loosely translated as Old and Forgotten Wines), meant to showcase the efforts of Evena in terms of recovering grapes, but “activity in the vineyards and the cellar has not stopped,” Ana and Félix confirm. In the last few days, they have been bottling some white wines from the past vintage. Meanwhile, the vine cycle continues and the snow arrived on the last day of March. “Looking at what is going on in other areas, we feel fortunate,” they say.
On the picture, Ana and Félix share a quick lunch at work. “We paired a manchego cheese from Santa Cruz de las Zarzas with La Versa Moscato, a wine from Santa Maria della Versa, a small village in Pavia (Lombardy). Like in Navarra and many other Spanish and Italian wine regions, these small villages who make a living of wine growing are set to face difficult, dark times. We choose this wine as a tribute to our Italian colleagues and we raise our glasses and wish that this situation is over as soon as possible and in the best possible way. We stay positive and hope to go on raising our glasses in the future.”
The general secretary of an association which brings together around 40 organic producers in Spain, Susana is spending the lockdown in Zaragoza while enjoying “wines made by the members of Spanish Organic Wines together with some other conventional bottles that I have at home.”
Susana, a versatile freelance who started her career in wine working for export group Araex, continued helping many Spanish businesses to export their wines. She still remembers how she had to reinvent herself after the 2008 crisis. Now, Susana no longer travels that much and is focused on promotion, tastings and training.
“In the photo I’m holding the latest bottle I have enjoyed,”, says Susana. “I’ve had this Ondarre VII Parcelas 2017 for some time now. It’s a classic rioja produced in Viana (Navarra). I opened it as a tribute to my father, who was born in San Adrián, a village in Navarra within the boundaries of DOCa Rioja, and died a few days ago after a long illness.” Given the current situation, the family could just hold what Susana calls a “virtual wake”, but she has found the way to say goodbye with this piece she wrote in her blog (in Spanish).
Other wines she has enjoyed during the lockdown are “Oliver Moragues Galgo, a delicious organic Callet from Mallorca and the subtle, also organic Dadell Garnacha Blanca (with some Viognier in the blend) made by Coma d’en Bonet in DO Terra Alta.”
She plans to open a few more wines over the coming weeks. “I have Gracián Viñas Viejas El Héroe 2016, a Garnacha from Aragón, my home land; a powerful Tinta de Toro I was given as a present; a fruit-driven, oak-aged organic Tempranillo from Señorío de Líbano (Rioja); and Cala nº2, an organic blend of Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon made by Tinedo in Castilla-La Mancha. I’m also looking forward to drinking Gris’10, an organic rosé blend of Garnacha Gris and Merlot made by Vins de Taller in Empordà (North Catalonia) which was released at Barcelona Wine Week in February. And if the lockdown goes on for some time, which seems to be the case, I will open Bodegas Robles VRMT vermouth. This is a genuinely Andalusian recipe made with a base wine of organic PX Oloroso and perfect sip to relax… Or perhaps I may wait to share it with friends when this is all over because, I guess, there will be many celebrations going and we will finally be able to toast in person rather than having virtual toasts. As travels and wine tours are not posible now, I'm traveling across Spain from my home evoking aromas, flavours and past memories.” A.C.
Merchant, producer and importer of wines in the Canary Islands, Rayco Fernández says he is stunned, but keeps his sharp sense of humour intact, despite the fact that 99% of his distribution sales are in the hotel business -the word is that hotels in the archipelago may not return back to normal until October. "Although we freelancers are used to getting beaten up, this beating has gone a bit too far", he adds.
Rayco, who in addition to his many entrepreneurial roles, is co-organizer of iNNoble Wine Fest with his friend Armando Guerra, wants to send a reassuring message to those who fear for the future of the event in Sanlúcar. "iNNoble 2021 has not been cancelled yet. Vinoble 2020 has; these people have always wanted to overlap with our date. They' re so eager to be in the limelight," he jokes.
Bottling has not been possible in the wineries in which he is involved, but the work in the vineyard proceeds normally. "Vicente Torres and Ascensión Robayna, from Puro Rofe Viticultores, have just finished in Lanzarote with the area where the Diego variety is grown and Esaú Suarez, winemaker and grape grower in El Hierro, is starting with preventive treatments in the vineyards of Bimbache Vinícola", explains Rayco, who misses his trips around the archipelago. "In 15 days I usually take eight planes between islands, and the same goes for Carmelo Peña or Pablo Matallana [winemakers at Puro Rofe and Bimbache, respectively]. Our wings are now gone and inter-island flights are minimal —it’s a good thing I decided not to buy a private plane!
He is spending the quarantine at his home in Las Palmas with his wife and partner, Silvia Viot, "opening wonderful wines as if there was no tomorrow, at least that's the way it feels right now. If there is, it feels like today, so we are in a loop". They have so far enjoyed a 2015 Benje, a 2012 Macle and a 2018 Rofe red and new-wave sherries such as Mirabrás, Ube Maína, Pastora and Fino de La Riva. "You know: albariza and veil to combat anxiety," says Rayco. "At this point I actually fear a cirrhosis rather than the virus."
While he tells Spanish Wine Lover about his worries, Rayco is drinking Tierra de Luna 2017, made by his friends at 4 Monos Viticultores, and Quintero Vidueño Viejísimo. "An outstanding wine with more than 40 years or ageing, bottled by Juan Manuel Quintero on the island of El Hierro, in a family winery with a long history".
Rayco says goodbye and sends a hug to everyone who drinks wine, "but in deferred form as a simulation. It has taken me years, but now I understand the phrase of La Cospedal [a famous phrase by a former minister during the Rajoy years]“, he ironizes. "We're going to get through this, I have no freaking idea how, but all the bad after-dinner movies that usually feature pandemics and holocausts drag on but they eventually finish. I know because when I wake up from my nap, they're gone.” Y.O.A.
She is living her confinement from her apartment in Burgos as a sort of break from real life. "What really worries me is what will happen next," says Pilar, who is self-isolating with her sister, who managed to arrive from Barcelona a day before the state of alarm was declared.
A sommelier, educator, organiser of wine tastings and experiences and, above all, passionate about wine, Pilar found herself out of work practically overnight, but instead of curling up on the sofa and licking her wounds, she took a break from paying her self-employed taxes and set up a bunch of activities to keep her busy all day. "My sister complains that we barely have time to hang out," she says.
She speaks daily and altruistically on Cadena Ser Burgos, offering recommendations for leisure and training activities to be enjoyed from home. She lends a hand at El Lagar, a local store owned by distributors Paco Berciano and Maribé Revilla with their online tastings during the lockdown and has put together a WhatsApp group. Several hundred people have signed up, mainly from Spain but also from Latin America, and she sends them videos with recommendations and information about wine four times a week. The idea is that it is something fun, approachable and suitable for everyone. "I find it very rewarding and I think it's a good way to keep in touch with people", explains Pilar, who then posts the videos on her Instagram account. "I'm not a winestar and I'm not good at live performances; they're home videos which are just meant to be fun.
The first few days, she drank champagne and various bottles she brought home from her office, but she now buys from friend suppliers such as El Lagar in Burgos or Majuelos Singulares in Valladolid. "They are hard-working people. I have purchased cases of six instead of individual bottles, so as not to make life more complicated for those who handle the orders in the warehouses". On the shelves of her house, made with boxes of wine, there are wines made by friends or people she cares about, such as Barco del Corneta, Guímaro, Can Ràfols del Caus, Al Límite from DO Arribes, manzanilla Maruja and fino Maestro Sierra or Eidos Ermos. "I love Luis Anxo", says Pilar. Y.O.A.
Located in Vigo (Galicia) since 2008, Tensi López’s wine store may look like a conventional business, but it relies on the loyal support of her customers scattered across Spain who eagerly await for emails announcing new vintages and releases of wines made by Galician cult producers. What’s the secret of her success? “Most customers know that the wines come straight from the producers and are stored in perfect conditions. You may get the odd corked wine, but my bottles have never been damaged for other reasons.”
Most of the stock is sold directly to customers, so despite the lockdown, Tensi can work from home and dispatch orders. “I don’t have more spare time than usual,” she says. Her husband usually lends a hand and these days he is helping even more. Their 25-year-old son is based in Madrid, but he was in Vigo recovering from surgery in his elbow when the state of alarm was declared in Spain, thus the family is staying together during the crisis.
These days Tensi is trying the latest releases of wines like Albamar and Leirana 2019 or the 2018 red blend by Forjas del Salnés, which includes Sousón for the first time and changes its name from Bastión de Luna to Goliardo in line with the rest of the reds in the winery’s portfolio. “Yesterday we tasted a bottle of Leirana 2012 and a the the first vintage of Cos Pés, 2010, both made by Forjas del Salnés. Both were stunning but Leirana showed that it still has plenty of life ahead,” she says.
“We enjoy drinking wines from many places. My husband opened yesterday a 2011 Burgundy Chardonnay, for instance, but the freshness of Galician wines is difficult to find elsewhere.” Tensi does not hide her passion for Galician grape varieties, particularly Albariño and Godello. Lately, she is also enjoying reds like El Mercenario, made by Iago Garrido in Ribeiro (Ourense) or Algueira’s Merenzao from Ribeira Sacra “which I like a lot,” she adds. A.C.
The great concern for Xavier Bas, one of Spain's most renowned wine label designers, are his parents, both of whom are elderly and in delicate health, but he does not hide his unease about the effects of this crisis on his studio, which employs two designers and two people in administration and management.
With the restaurant industry closed, many distributors stagnant and the activity of the wineries slowing down, Xavier Bas continues with the orders he already had but most of the pending operations have stopped. Nor is it easy to adapt to the routine of working from home. "We are used to printing and assembling a dozen different label proposals which we later discuss in the studio, the three of us together. Doing this on Skype, even if me talk daily, is more complicated. We are very analogical", says Xavier, creator of labels like José Pariente, the in-house brands of Vila Viniteca, Pago de Carraovejas or Villota from Rioja, whose wines he has been drinking during these days of confinement spent with his wife.
"My partner Miquel is not only a great enthusiast, but also a good taster. I'm more interested in just enjoying wine," says Xavier, who likes to taste wines from all over the world, pour himself an aperitif at the weekend and bring a bottle to family meals. He admits that these days he finds it difficult to drink just one glass and misses the after-dinner conversations with his daughters and their partners.
"Today I'm drinking 3404, a wine from Bodegas Pirineos, in DO Somontano. We're working on a project to revampl the brand", Xavier explains. "It's an inexpensive and easy-to-drink wine, a blend of Carbernet Sauvignon, Moristel and Garnacha". He is not one to lay down wines and rejects the "sacralisation" of some wines, but he keeps a bottle of Álvaro Palacios L'Ermita to open at some special moment with the family,. " We drank the last one when my eldest daughter moved in with her partner and I have this one saved for the youngest daughter". Y.O.A.
This is an important year for this Brussels-based wine educator who regularly travels to Spain for work. The Wine Studio was one of the first WSET course providers in Spain and in 2020 it will be the very first to teach the Diploma.
“Professionally speaking, this crisis has brought our activity to a standstill, but we luckily had no WSET courses underway and are already working to minimise the impact of the crisis. Consultancy work and new projects like the Rioja Wine Academy or the Spanish wine training program developed by ICEX keep us busy. I’m used to working from home and I’m lucky to have a garden to get away. The worse part for me is having my family divided between Spain, Scotland and Australia, but we try to talk at least twice a day. I have done a digital clean-up: I read the papers every couple of days, I have removed whatsapp from my mobile’s home screen and have quit toxic groups that were drilling my ears with apocalyptic messages,” says Elisa.
Happily for her, outdoor exercise is still allowed in Brussels as long as safety distances are kept. “People are very disciplined here,” Elisa points out and mentions a few tips to endure the lockdown: “Set timetables, dress nicely to be at home, eat well and exercise daily. We have a challenge with our friends in Madrid; every week, several families work on the same choreography and we record it on video on Sundays! I find it really uplifting. My training as a yoga teacher has proved very useful these days. Practising it and meditating daily helps me to keep balanced.”
And what about wine? “To start with, drinking is a constant temptation when staying long hours at home, so the first thing is not to drink more than usual. Sorry if I’m spoiling the party by not encouraging heavy drinking at home as many people are doing on social media. For me, wine means quiet, pleasant moments and is not a tool to cope with this situation. Having said that, we drink wine at home from time to time like the other day, when we had a Skype session with friends we cannot meet for now… We try to buy from small wine stores and distributors who have been forced to close but are still selling online. Our last purchases included Gurreri Sicilia Grillo, Little James’ Basket Press, Gris de Gris Sable de Camargue, Yering Station Village Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Marco Porello Barbera d'Alba and Escorihuela Gascón 1884 Malbec”. At Elisa’s, there is also room for an extremely original Spanish wine: the red pet-nat Viñátigo Ancestral. A.C.
With extensive professional experience in Abadía Retuerta, a renowned winery in Castilla y León, Álvaro Pérez has performed different duties in the company, but two years ago he became director of the Academia del Terruño (Terroir Academy), an education program aimed at wine professionals established in 2018 which keeps him busy working closely with the winery’s technical department.
Álvaro is using the spare time during this lockdown to put his cellar in order and “to open those bottles that you always want to, but are unable to because you lack the peace of mind and the time to enjoy them.” He shares all these wines with his wife Patricia.
The list includes “wines from good friends like Perrin’s Les Sinards Blanc, a terroir-driven cuvée made with Clairette, Grenache Blanc and Rousanne that he got as a present from his colleague Juan José Abó; Quínola 2012 from Toro which is drinking pretty well now, or the genuine El Tresillo Amontillado by Emilio Hidalgo, now part of the new and exclusive Sherry list at Refectorio, Abadía Retuerta Le Domaine’s Michelin-starred restaurant.” He’s also drinking some experimental wines “that look into the future like the fresh, lively Garnacha of the Winemakers’ Collection range, or some of the wines made from different soils that are tasted at the Academia del Terruño. I particularly like the wine from La Galera, a plot with clay soils, which is developing beautifully in bottle.”
Álvaro also has a few favourites as everyday wines. “I love good young wines and the latest 2018 vintage of our Vendimia Solidaria is a fruit bomb with lots of character on the palate. It reminds me of the best Primicias, an old brand of Abadía Retuerta; winemaker Ángel Anocíbar used to describe them as country wines and vins de soif.” For the aperitif, “our ritual on these past sunny days was a delicious, original vermouth from Ibiza that we enjoy in our terrace.” Álvaro also stores a bottle of Abadía Retuerta’s most exclusive wine. “I will uncork the Petit Verdot when the curve is flattened and we see a change of trend in Spain. I hope it will be soon. I’m looking forward to it!” A.C.
Two weeks wondering from the kitchen to the living room of his apartment and from the living room to the kitchen are testing the endurance of veteran San Sebastian chef Juan Mari Humada: "I'm like Camilo Sexto in his famous song: I can't take it anymore, although we have no choice but to be chameleons and adapt to the times," he says.
He is spending his confinement with his wife Nubia, a familiar face behind the counter of the bar and restaurant they opened in Gros in 2005, and with their 14-year-old son, with whom he plays ping pong on the kitchen table (the net is two wooden wine boxes) after schoolwork.
His eldest son and chef, Sergio, who left Via Veneto in Barcelona and opened Casa Humada in Lasarte just half a year ago, is having a much harder time. "When this is over, we'll have to give him a hand to overcome this", explains Juan Mari, the who stars in the book El Chef del Vino, written by journalist Manolo González, with whom he spent almost four months travelling around the country to select 73 wines paired with the same number of recipes created by Juan Mari. "Now I'm reading the book in the afternoons, picking out mistakes and already thinking about a second volume", Juan Mari adds.
On the day he temporarily shut the door at Hidalgo 56, he brought home a few of the bottles that were open at the restaurant: Tío Pepe en Rama, manzanillas like La Gitana or La Guita, which these days he is drinking as an aperitif, and other sherries like Leonor Palo Cortado. "For lunch, I'm drinking whites like Señorío de Villarrica, from San Asensio in Rioja or Corta y Raspa, from my friend, vigneron Antonio Bernal, who came from Sanlúcar to Donosti for the book party we had at the end of February, but also rosés like Naranjas Azules by Soto and Manrique, which I liked very much".
A rarity among chefs, who are generally not very fond of wine, Juan Mari is making good use oh his Coravin to try cuvées such as Mirando al Sur, by Olivier Rivière, San Román by the García family in Toro, El Puntido by the Eguren brothers or Baigorri Blanco Fermentado en Barrica which he pairs with the recipes he cooks at home and which he usually posts daily on his Instagram profile (juanhumada_hidalgoss56). Y.O.A.
As an export manager, Rocio lives out of a suitcase, traveling all over Europe. She can go for weeks without setting foot in her apartment in Logroño, so the confinement, which she is spending with her parents in Madrid, although isolated in one part of the house until the preventive period passes, is proving to be a rather surreal experience for her.
Like many of her colleagues at the winery, she continues to work from home but with the uncertainty of not knowing what the new normality will be like once the coronavirus allows us to go out again. Until she recovers her freedom of movement, Rocío tries to keep a positive attitude and take advantage of her free time to enjoy two of her greatest hobbies: watching basketball games - more specifically Estudiantes, a team she is a "die-hard" supporter of - and wine.
A good taster and an avid consumer of wine-related information, especially on social media, Rocío, who in the picture is wearing a Estudiantes limited edition T-shirt in support of breast cancer, is opening some bottles she brought from Logroño and others she had at her parents' house, but she has also bought online to discover some new wines and try others again such as Can Credo Xarel.lo, Recaredo's still wine project.
"It's one of my favourite grapes because of its versatility - it can handle lees, stems, skins and anything else you want - because, in the right hands, it produces long, complex, tasty and mineral whites and because of its ability to age," explains Rocío. "I also choose it for Recaredo; it was one of the first wineries I visited when I was studying for a master's degree in viticulture and oenology at Madrid's Polytechnic and Antoni Mata opened the doors of his house to us, showing us the winery and all the history behind it with great affection. Later I met his son Ton, who has always treated me with the same affection as his father and who conveys it in his cavas and wines. His sales team, Ferran and Alex, have also expressed this affection to me on the occasions when I have been back in the winery and when we have met at professional trade fairs. Wines also say a lot about the persons behind them".
The bottle of Viña Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1999, which she had been guarding for a long time, will be opened on April 10th, the day of her birthday, although she has another bottle to share on another special occasion, when the coronavirus is just a distant memory. Y.O.A.
It is not easy to make a living as a photographer in the internet age, least of all under the current circumstances. Abel Valdenebro’s agenda is empty until July and he doubts that some of his pending invoices will get paid. “Product shots have also been cancelled”, he told SWL. A passionate wine lover and a member of Los Generosos, a sherry wine club, Abel spends most of his time taking pictures at events or working for wineries and advertising and branding agencies.
Abel is self-isolating in Madrid with his wife and their eight and five-year old daughters who, for the time being “are enduring the confinement well.” He is happy to have plenty of favourite wines to drink. “After we moved to this apartment, I had to leave part of my wines in storage in the countryside. At home I have two wine cabinets capable of storing 50 and 100 bottles each and a relatively cool cupboard containing 25 boxes of wine. Oxidative wines and every day bottles are left outside”.
Valdenebro carefully picks wines he buys and stores, as well as the different styles he enjoys. He also keeps his wife’s preferences in mind: “She doesn’t drink whites (disproving the idea that women only enjoy white wines) nor sherry.”
Right now he is enjoying four different styles of wines: “Wines that were included in some batches of old sherry I bought, mainly reds from Bordeaux and Chianti and some old Rioja which, as I suspected, were past their prime, with the lovely exception of a bottle of Bordón Reserva Especial 1970. Old sherry, mostly biologically-aged finos and amontillados like San Patricio from the 1980s, Fino Coquinero from the 1960s or a bottle of La Ina from the 1980s —they were all utterly delicious. Thirdly, recent oxidatively aged sherries such as Hidalgo La Gitana Oloroso Faraón, Vintage Oloroso by Williams & Humbert, Fino Tradición and, my top choice, Oloroso Balbaína Baja by De La Riva. Finally, natural or classic-style reds to share with my partner like Barbadillo Vega Real Empecinado from Ribera del Duero, Muga Crianza from Rioja, Viña Arana by La Rioja Alta or Tondonia 2007 and Ziries Melé, a Garnacha from Méntrida”.
At the Valdenebros’ household, at least two bottles are open on a daily basis. A.C.
On March 9, Albert enjoyed what, he now knows, was his last meal in a restaurant. It was in Maitea, Barcelona, whose owner told us about his confinement a few days ago. He ate a T-bone steak with a friend, the painter Julio Arriaga, and drank a bottle of Les Crestes de Mas Doix (DOQ Priorat). The next day Albert returned to Burgos, where he lives with his wife and daughter, and that was that.
"The confinement has changed many day-to-day things but the one thing that remains the same is my wine intake: I drink more or less the same", confesses Albert. "I have a few bottles of Priorat, Rioja, Cava, Bierzo, some sherry and some Ribeira Sacra in my storage room. Things from friends like Fredi Torres & Marc Lecha, Sandra Bravo (Sierra de Toloño), Xurxo Alba (Albamar), Charlotte Allen (Almaroja) or Carmen Pérez (Villota)".
Of course, he also stocks wines made by the producers with whom he works as a brand creator and copy writer. "Given the situation, I think a lot about my work with them. Should I choose one of their wines to show in the picture? A bottle of La Montesa? Or perhaps Pago de los Capellanes Reserva? Vinya Anais Xarel-lo, Sota els Àngels, 3404 from the Pyrenees, Conde de los Andes?”
Albert finds it hard to decide, but friendship wins out, which in his case is also loyalty to a wine that features regularly on his table for more than 10 years. So he chooses the "simple" Qua, a Cariñena from Montsant made by Oriol Pérez de Tudela with a selection of grapes from the El Masroig cooperative. It is sold exclusively in bag in box. "It's probably the cheapest wine on this list. At the same time it may be among Spain's most expensive bag in box wines", comments Albert, who was born and raised in Barcelona. "I like it because it's easy to drink, something that is not at all at odds with a strong sense of identity. I am attracted to the many sides of Cariñena, which some days is lovely blue flowers, others thyme in limestone and other days it come across as shy, clearly telling us to leave it alone”.
Qua is a friend's wine, but Albert believes that it can provide other insights, both in terms of the business and its socioeconomic aspects. "It shows the relevance of quality-focused cooperatives; it shares the blending model (of which, Rioja is so well aware); it revives traditions; it encourages a way of drinking that is rooted in everyday life and is democratic".
Having said all this, Albert concludes: "Regardless of whether you turn on the BiB tap or open a bottle worth lots of euros, I usually enjoy a glass of Montilla-Moriles wine in the afternoon. At home I have a bottle of Amontillado Gran Barquero and another one of Oloroso Tauromaquia - their contents are diminishing dangerously". Y.O.A.
As a freelance wine writer (she is the online content editor for Spanish wine and food magazine Sobremesa and writes regularly for Traveler and its wine guide), working from home is not new for this Madrid-based journalist with extended experience in the world of wine.
Yes, there is a lockdown, but her attitude is to fully enjoy the time spent with her partner —and that includes, for instance, serving all wines in Zalto glasses to make every sip a memorable occasion. For now, she is tasting samples of bottles that she received for work (like Cristina, a new and original Malbec made in Ronda by Bodegas Conrad) as well as some old-time favourites and other wines she is looking forward to try.
As part of this strategy, Raquel plans to uncork soon a bottle of Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial 2010. “We also have a bottle of Hacienda Monasterio around here and that could follow any moment. Yesterday we enjoyed Tres Miradas by Alvear (Montilla-Moriles) and there is also some champagne on the list. And of course, some classic wines. I’m sure that we will drink one of the two Marcel Lapierre Morgon bottles that I have at home”.
She considers herself lucky to have a good stock of bottles at home to make the lockdown more bearable. Raquel also treasures the fact that she can enjoy almost every wine with her meals as opposed to the usual quick tasting note. “We are wine professionals, but we also love to enjoy wine with the people we love,” she says. A.C.
Like other hospitality businesses in Spain, Javi had to close temporarily the restaurant he owns in Campillos, a town of 8,000 inhabitants in the north of Malaga. He keeps in touch with other colleagues in the sector, with the bank and is aware of the measures announced by the government, but he is worried about the impact that the coronavirus crisis will have in Malaga, an area that is heavily dependent on tourism. " We can resist for 15 days, but stopping all activity for a month or two is going to be extremely difficult", says Javi, who has four full-time employees and two extras for the weekends.
He drops by the restaurant every now to check on his parents who live above it and to deliver their groceries. He also uses these trips to grab a few bottles from the wine cellar in Yerbagüena. Mainly sherry and champagne, his wife's favourite styles, who these days is working from home. "She didn't drink when we met but, interestingly enough, the first wines she appreciated were amontillados and palos cortados", says Javi, whose restaurant is a highly recommended stop for sherry lovers.
He is profiting from these days of confinement to play the guitar - he is one of the members of the band Bocata de Blues, formed mainly by local restaurateurs - and enjoy the odd aperitif choosing from one of the bottles he likes to keep open at home. The day we talked Javi was drinking a glass of Alvear Fino Criadera. "This wine is somewhere between a fino and an amontillado; I like the salinity of the fino and the structure of the amontillado. Alvear stocks many great wines," says Javi, who also had two more bottles open: Muchada-Léclapart white from Sanlúcar and Antonio M. de la Riva Manzanilla Pasada. "The oxidative part of de la Riva's manzanilla pasada is not as marked as in Alvear's and it is an excellent wine for dishes such as artichokes".
Javi is also fond of reading books about wine. "I have just finished Melendo's Champagne Guide and today I started the book Jerez, Manzanilla and Montilla by Jesús Barquín and Peter Liem", he says. He hopes the lockdown will end soon, but if it continues, he won't be short of readings. Y.O.A.
I was in the midst of developing a business plan for three wine-related projects, but the virus stalled everything. Despite the uncertainty, Lorenzo takes the situation with healthy doses of humour and confesses that he is uncorking bottles with great joy.
"Some say that the running of the bulls is a tradition in this country, although here at home we have changed the bulls for a seven-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. Their mother locks herself in a room to work in the mornings and I... I'm doing just fine. I have drunk four bottles of wine and I’m about to finish three more —in less than a week and being the only one who drinks at home. Well, anything to keep my spirits up," jokes Lorenzo, one of the four friends behind the website Enoarquía. "I'm supposed to take advantage of this free time to write and to keep lovers of this noble drink amused, but with my son's homework these days, I have plenty to be amused with until the boy goes to college".
He has not yet dared to uncork his finest bottles ("it will happen", he says), but he has been drinking sherry. "I bought a bottle of Fino Valdespino for four euros. It's true that it lacks the nerve of its illustrious older brother, but ladies and gentlemen, four euros!
He confesses to having " worshipped" Equipo Navazos. "Few wines let you drown your sorrows like their La Bota De... collection specially if it's their manzanilla pasada. They are in top form when they are released, but they are sublime with a few years in the bottle", adds Lorenzo, whose social media handle is @ClanTabernario. "I'm not going to discover anything new if I talk about the fine wines made by the whole Palacios family, but I'm increasingly surprised by the quality of their entry-level wines, such as Pétalos del Bierzo and La Montesa, both fragrant, crisp and with excellent fruit".
Perhaps, if the lockdown keeps us at home for a long time, SWL will again ask Lorenzo to tell us what other wines he is drinking. For the time being, he stops there. "Now I must help my boy with something about vertebrates and mammals and I have to explain to my daughter that she can make all the macaroni necklaces she wants, but that we'll have to eat them because there is nothing else in the pantry. But, of course, with good wine because there is no better pairing. Cheer up, stay healthy and be strong!”. Y.O.A.
The happy winner of the last edition of Vila Viniteca’s Wine Tasting in Pairs competition together with sommelier Rubén Pol, Lucía Viz is like many Spaniards, working from home these days. She is struggling with confinement and misses going out to exercise, but she is trying to make the most of her time. “There are a a thousand things to think about. If the universe has brought this upon us, perhaps we should take advantage of it in the best possible way and think over the situation.”
A practising lawyer, two years ago she joined Casacas Rojas, a food and wine lovers association that organises dream tours and trips (Lucía was wearing the group’s distinctive red jacket when she collected her tasting award). Champagne sparked her passion for wine. “I went to Reims one summer and fell in love with the region’s wines,” she admits. Thus it is no surprise that she has chosen bubbles to enjoy during the lockdown. She has also gone for a wine laden with a symbolic dimension. This is how Lucia herself expresses it:
“Fugaz (fleeting) means short-lived. There are many fleeting things in life. The name of this sparkling wine invites us to think of these apocalyptic-like days of confinement. We may doubt everything and realise that we can only rely on the here and now. Everything else is fleeting. And we must treasure and enjoy it before it disappears. Fugaz is a very special wine for me for two reasons. First of all because of its rarity: it is a sparkling wine made in Sanlúcar de Barrameda under the champenoise method with the Palomino Fino variety. It’s a limited production from 2016 and, unfortunately (at least for me), it will never be made again. Secondly, because of the people behind it: Ale Muchada, whom I had the pleasure to meet just a few days ago, and Champagne producer David Léclapart, two very different people but with a shared vision and passion for what they do. #LittleDinners #LittleBubbles.” A.C.
Grower, agronomist and consultant, Julián Palacios is experiencing some bittersweet feelings these days. It was particularly hard for him to postpone his yearly technical seminar scheduled for March 12th. “On Monday 9th, I woke up with the firm idea of delaying it. Some people said it was foolish, but the rapid development of the crisis proved that I took the right decision.”
He is at his home in Olite with his wife and three children since Mach 12th. “I’m used to working from home, but it is a bit difficult to make the most of your time when you have little kids around,” he says. Nevertheless, Palacios is happy that the winter tasks where already over in the vineyards when the outbreak started. “For us, it is probably the best moment for this to happen. I have been talking with my work colleagues via Skype to plan for the future. Fortunately, we can work in isolation or dividing groups.”
One of the wines he is enjoying during the lockdown is Casalasierra Guerinda 2019, a rosé made by Bodegas Máximo Abete in San Martín de Unx, just 10 km from Olite. Located in the Baja Montaña subarea, San Martín is Julián’s hometown where both he and his father grow vines, and a true Garnacha paradise. Casalasierra “is a traditional Garnacha rosé from Navarra, made following the bleeding method. I choose it because of its freshness and its sweet fruit character”, says Julián. “It is really enjoyable and a good option to drink while we must stay at home. In these difficult times, all of us have our own individual circumstances, so it is important that we support each other and stand together... and that’s #BetterwithWine. A.C.
Born in the UK but based in Barcelona, the quarantine and lockdown on Spain is proving to be a very trying time for himself, his family and his business. “We closed all WSET courses, our upcoming Spanish Wine Scholar course, all tastings and all enotourism events, leading to an almost complete obliteration of income and a halt in proceedings”, says Fintan. “I think this is true for the entire travel industry, the hospitality industry and the echoes of the economic pain are likely to hit anyone who isn’t a significant shareholder in Netflix or a producer of face masks and hand sanitizer”.
As well as maintaining his sense of humour, Fintan is trying to see the positive side of this period of seclusion. “Being stuck with my wife and two-year-old, who is taking all of this in his tiny stride, is where I’d want to be in a situation like this. I’m taking the time to catch up on my reading, writing and specifically, we’re working hard to create study guides for WSET students at different levels for Rack and Return; there’ll be a time for a return to normality and we’ll be ready for it!” He has recently started to offer WSET 1 and 2 courses online.
Fintan, also known as @Wine_Cuentista on social media, says he has never been so happy to have a solid wine collection. “Whilst I’m tasting around the world, a recent bottle of Envínate’s Lousas Viñas de Aldea 2016 completely knocked my socks off. Ribeira Sacra might just be the most exciting region of Spain for the past few years, and this bottle over-performs each and every vintage. When you’re stuck in a small apartment for days on end, having a bottle of wine so evocative that it can transport you to the rugged slopes of Ribeira Sacra is quite a boost!,” adds Fintan, who concludes his words with a sound piece of advice.
“It’s a difficult time but we'll get through it together. Stay safe and well, everyone, and if you have good wine available, now would be the time to open it up!” Y.O.A.
A self-proclaimed wine star, Santiago Rivas has brought a welcome irreverence to Spanish wine with his Instacatas, a collection of short, fun videos published on social media. His tongue-in-cheek style, sparkled with pop culture hints is also present in his columns on magazines like Sobremesa and Esquire. Who would expect that his day job is an American investment fund!
“Uncorking bottles non-stop” is his piece of advice for these days of self-isolation. “Now, more than ever, it is time to clear our cellars, so that we can fill them up again when we are finally allowed to go out. The wine industry will need our help desperately.”
Rivas, who is better known as Colectivo Decantado, has come up with a virtual “wine lover card” and advises his followers on which trendy wines will allow them to earn more points.
One of the wines he plans to enjoy during the lockdown is Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 2009 Rosado. “Unusual, unprecedented, apocalyptic circumstances, require an excepcional rosé. A real favourite of mine, I regard it as the country’s top choice for a wine lover”, he says. “Despite our confinement, we should not, whenever posible, stop to add points to our wine lover cards,” he adds.
Rivas says that as long as editing is available during the lockdown, there are enough Instacata episodes filmed to be broadcast until June. He also plans to continue with his regular columns. Used to live a busy life, he is enjoying the self-isolation with his partner and his little boy. "We cook a lot and, apart from wine, we have plenty of time now to make cocktails and indulge in the odd vermouth.” A.C.
Sad and very uncertain about the need to temporarily lay off their 23 workers, but "willing to move forward and hopeful and determined to succeed".
This is how Nico Montaner, owner with his brother Andrés of this Basque tavern in Barcelona's Eixample district, feels about the coronavirus oubreak.
Like many restaurant owners, he hopes that the government offers "effective and well funded" finance aid as well as mechanisms for businesses to borrow and to subsidize the unemployment benefits of so many people". But until the threat of the virus disappears, for Nico “we just have to be positive and focus on the few good things that this situation has brought onto us": spending more time with the family and play and cook with his daughter Laia (8) and his son Guim (5), "leaving only a short time to check the news and social media and enjoying each other’s company".
Normally he doesn't drink at home, but Nico has brought a few bottles from Maitea to get through the confinement: some manzanilla; a bottle from the Rhône called Octobre, his wife’s favourite red; wines like Confiança (it means trust or faith in Catalan), made by Salvador Battle, that capture the attitude that is needed at this time, or Vega de Ribes Sasserra, a wine that was sold by his friend Lluís Pablo, who passed away a few months ago. It is made with a variety, Malvasia de Sitges, that was on the verge of disappearing but came through thanks to the efforts of some brave individuals.
Also Cható Pqta 2018, "a wine which we love year after year and which is made by the great Eloi Cedó. It will be his last vintage before starting his project in Terra Alta. A wine that shows us that every end has a beginning.” Y.O.A.
This young woman behind Pintan Copas, a PR agency specialised in wine, is spending her time in isolation at her home in Aldeamayor de San Martín, a small village seven kilometres from Tudela de Duero, where she is originally from, in the province of Valladolid.
Vivacious and always with a smile on her face,Patricia tries to handle the situation with humour, optimism and some wine. She has always been happy living in a village, but the coronavirus is making her appreciate even more the small window of freedom that is her courtyard and the views of the meadow opposite her home.
"I'm staying at home but these days we have to keep thinking about strategies and ideas so that our clients keep communicating their message", says Patricia, who has decided to involve Gonzalo, her partner "and wine lover almost out of obligation", and Betty ("our cat, because she's always in the middle and has an opinion on almost everything") in the task of telling us what wine they are enjoying during these first days of lockdown.
The wine is Cifras 2016, made by Bodegas Tierra. Why? Gonzalo himself answers: "It's one of my favourite wineries, especially after visiting it. Carlos, the owner, is a great guy and his personality is reflected on his wines. I love Garnacha in all its shades and hues and I love whites with character. Besides, what better way to show solidarity with Rioja Alavesa?
As his job does not allow him to work from home, Gonzalo has a lot of free time these days. "I've hired him as a trainee and we're going to upload some short videos on social media in which he will talk about wine. It's going to be fun", says Patricia. Y.O.A.
She is holed up in her Barcelona flat since Friday, going out only to buy essential provisions, far from her family and the people she loves although in close contact by videoconference. "Perhaps the virus will make us reconsider the way we interact and say 'I love you', which is something we often overlook or neglect," muses the author of the book collection Retrats de Vi.
"I live right in front of the Sagrada Familia, and the setting has nothing to do with a week ago, when everything was joy and activity. The park next to my flat is quiet, shut, there's no movement, so this produces a certain uneasiness, but I think we should all show solidarity. At least we are lucky to have a home and many books to read", concludes Ruth, who lives her self-isolation reading a lot of poetry and keeping a healthy diet that includes wine. "I drink it with meals but also in the videoconferences these days and above all when I'm reading. I believe that cultural pairings have a lot of potential", she adds.
These days she has chosen two wines from Priorat, "a wonderful, unique, magical, telluric place, where I can take refuge, understand the cycles of life, and think —the sort of things that the coronavirus is forcing us to do," says the Catalan journalist.
"From Celler Vall Llach I am drinking Embruix, a wine made by Albert Costa, a fascinating human being and a fine winemaker. I am also drawn to [owner and songwriter] Lluís Llach' and his interactions with the poet Miquel Martí i Pol. It's a wine that exudes a poetic quality and it makes us feel good when we drink it", Ruth explains.
Another wine that she is enjoying during her confinement is the young Scala Dei Garnatxa. "A couple of weeks ago I walked up to Sant Antoni vineyard, owned by Celler d'Scala Dei. It’s a place that offers a different perspective on things, with greater depth, peace and serenity, which is exactly what we need these days. There you understand that the vineyard, stripped bare to its core, needs to take a break in order to be reborn, to be activated". Y.O.A.