The pandemic did not stop the fifth edition of the IWC Merchant Awards Spain, which was held yesterday with a virtual ceremony watched by more than 1,000 people. There were some changes, such as a reduction in the number of awards and some slight name changes (the award we received in previous years as an Online Media Platform, is now called International Media Platform) and the inclusion of a special prize that recognizes solidarity. In addition, and for the first time, the nominations were submitted by the jury.
Patricia Mateo, director of Vocento Gastronomía & Mateo&Co, acted as master of ceremonies at a gala which lasted just over an hour and a half and which, in spite of some technical issues inherent to live events, perfectly mirrored the current times and the sector's ability to adapt.
"Wine has always been a vehicle for development in the world", said the President of the Jury, Pedro Ballesteros, from his home in Brussels. "At present, this sector is suffering a great deal but we must not forget that wine is part of the economy of the country and is important as a creator of society".
There were important appreciations for small but highly enthusiastic businesses such as La Tana in Granada (Best Wine Bar) or A Curva in Portonovo (Pontevedra), a modest bar and restaurant which, as owner Miguel Anxo Besada said when he received the award for Best Sommelier, "is in a small village in a corner of the country so people don't just pass by. My mission is to act as a meeting point between producers and wine lovers". Or the award for Best Book, which went to Rioja, Vinos Silenciosos, the journey of journalist Alberto Gil and Antonio Remesal Villar through the villages and small producers of the "other Rioja". In one of the most remote places in this region, Daroca de Rioja, sommelier Carlos Echapresto, ambassador together with his brother Ignacio of the produce, cuisine and culture of their land in Venta Moncavillo restaurant, took the award for Best Wine List.
Awards were also presented to fully established businesses such as Vila Viniteca (Best Wine Shop) and La Semana Vitivínicola (Best Online Wine Publication), the dean of wine magazines in Spain, coinciding with the year it commemorates its 75th anniversary.
The vitality of the wine community in the midst of the pandemic was evidenced by awards such as the Best Online Marketing Campaign for the DO Jerez's Sherry Week, which this year took full advantage of the online tools to engage with sherry lovers around the world.
The special awards recognised the work of Pau Roca, the first president of the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine) who, resolved to make this organisation more dynamic, spoke of the importance of diplomacy and negotiation in reaching global agreements. Particularly moving was the lifetime achievement award to Txomin Rekondo, a role model for his passion for wine culture at his restaurant in San Sebastian, who pointed out that wine is meant to be shared.
Lastly, Sergi Ferrer-Salat, who insisted on the need to combat inequalities, took the Solidarity Award for the transformation of Monvínic from a temple of wine and food to a charity kitchen. Ferrer-Salat and his team have also created a garden school and workshop to help handicapped people integrate into the community in Barcelona. Based on the words of Pedro Ballesteros MW, it is very likely that the event will eventually include a Solidarity Award as a permanent feature among its annual prizes.
Best Online Marketing Campaign: Sherry Week
Best Wine Shop: Vila Viniteca
Best Wine Shop: Museo Vivanco Cultura del Vino
Best Packaging: The Palmas series by González Byass
Best Wine Book: Rioja, Vinos Silenciosos
Best Wine Publication: La Semana Vitivinícola
Best International Media Platform: Spanish Wine Lover
Best Wine Education Centre: Instituto Galego do Viño
Best Wine List: Sale Moncalvillo
Best Wine Bar: La Tana
Best Sommelier: Miguel Anxo Besada
Solidarity Award: Sergi Ferrer-Salat
Personality of the Year Award 2020: Pau Roca (OIV)
Lifetime Achievement Award 2020: Txomin Rekondo (Restaurant Rekondo)
The jury of this fifth edition, chaired by Pedro Ballesteros MW, was formed by Ferran Centelles, former sommelier at El Bulli and critic for Spain at JancisRobinson.com, Master of Wine Fernando Mora, José Luis Benítez, general director of the Spanish Federation of Wine - FEV, Benjamín Lana, President of the Gastronomy Division at Vocento Group, Ángel Riesgo, former President of DDB Spain and DDB Latina, Juan Luis García, sommelier at Casa Marcial Restaurant with two Michelin stars and Best Sommelier at the IWC Awards Spain 2019, and the educator, journalist and wine critic Juancho Asenjo.