A regular meeting place for wine lovers in Madrid, Taberna Laredo launched its delivery service on Sunday 4th May. “We cook 10 flagship dishes from our menu on a daily basis plus a fixed menu on weekends and public holidays. We also have a wine list of 20 Spanish wines either made by friends or featuring styles that we particularly like; prices are midway between those of the restaurant and the wine stores,” Miguel Laredo explains. So far, only 10% of the orders have included wine.
While it is still early to draw conclusions, they have reinforced the presence of wine with pairings such as their prized stew with a red wine from Madrid at a fixed price. Miguel also plans to sell mixed cases of wine shortly.
Javier Muñoz (Group Adolfo), who launched Foodioom to raise the bar in terms of food delivery in Madrid in October 2019, says that 10% of the orders they deal with include wine. They sought advice to develop the four cuisine styles they offer (Andrea Tumbarello for Italian cuisine, Luis Arévalo for Peruvian-Japanese, nutrition expert Carmen Rebel for vegan and gluten-free dishes and Javier himself for Spanish cuisine), and they are doing likewise for their wines –this time, with the help of Lavinia.
Their experience to date shows that whereas large online food delivery platforms like Just Eat, Uber Eats, Glovo and Deliveroo are essential to bring in volume, wine is difficult to fit in this offer because most of their customers are very conscious of the price. "People are not aware of the existence of quality wine delivery because it is simply not present on these platforms. That's why our wine pairing suggestions have only worked on our website", he points out.
One of the reasons for Taberna Maitea, a must-go for wine lovers in Barcelona, to focus exclusively on house wines is the high fees charged by Glovo or Deliveroo. They are now building a website of their own with a wine list in line with the regular offerings at the restaurant. “This is important for us. Maitea is about eating and drinking. Without wine there is something missing because Txakoli, cider and Rioja are part of our DNA,” says owner Nico Montaner. Even so, he has doubts about the importance of wine sales: “Many people have a small cellar at home or can buy from distributors, local wine stores or the producers themselves”.
Although fine wines may not have been present at this early stage, Miguel Laredo confirms that he has privately sold some special bottles, mostly Burgundy, to clients. But he also warns against opportunists seeking to buy at low prices in order to resell abroad. “One must be very careful,” he stresses.
Adapting to the circumstances is key. Goxo, the new and successful food delivery venture launched in early May by three-Michelin-starred chef Daviz Muñoz goes for simplicity and a less-is-more approach with four dishes and four recommended wines. “Like food, the concept of wine has changed too,” sommelier Miguel Ángel Millán explains. “We offer easy-to-drink, affordable wines that match each dish and can be enjoyed both by connoisseurs and general consumers alike. I would love to have a wider selection as new dishes come out,” he says. Their list includes Ultreia St.-Jacques, the entry-level Mencía produced by Raúl Pérez in Bierzo, Xisto Ilimitado, a white Douro by Luis Seabra, Domaine Charvin Côtes du Rhône and Nigl Grüner Veltliner from Austria.
For the time being, wine plays a secondary role in the new food delivery app launched by Macarfi Guide, which includes a reliable list of restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona. Many of them are still working on their delivery service, so it will be worth seeing to what extent wine is taken into consideration.
How are wine-focused restaurants and bars facing the crisis? La Fisna is a cosy tavern in the heart of the Lavapiés district in Madrid. Once owner Delia Baeza took the lockdown in her stride, she sent a text message to her regular customers with a list of wines for sale. She updates her catalogue weekly and posts stories on Instagram to reach out to new customers. Baeza uses a simple Excel sheet with wines sorted by country and two additional sections dedicated to Champagne and old sherries. "I am often asked to put together a selection of wines to match a customer’s preferences for a certain budget", says Delia, who believes that working with off-the-radar wines helps a lot. This allows her to obtain some income, as she doesn't plan to provide takeaway or food delivery. "Some people come to our bar for our dishes, but wine is our main focus at La Fisna; we don't consider ourselves a restaurant as such", she points out.
Their neighbours at La Caníbal, one of the most novel places in Madrid in terms of communicating and serving wine, have released an online store that captures the spirit of their particular approach to wine and food: cases of artisan wines that most wine geeks will love, craft beers, cheese, olive oil and books. They have also found the way to provide a taste of their tap wines made by young, exciting producers (they usually attach their photos to each tap) with the sale of two-litre wine pouches which are relatively new in Spain. Easy to carry and store, could they turn out to be the perfect anti-crisis packaging?
Further north in San Sebastián (Basque Country), Iñigo Prado is discovering that many of his regulars at N.06, his deli store and gastrobar, came for the wine. For the last three weeks, he has been offering a shortened wine list and several food and wine hampers starting at €30 to an exclusive €110 dinner pack containing a Cava Gran Reserva, Numanthia, a premium red from Toro, tuna belly, pork cured loin, a local sheep’s cheese and truffles. His own staff delivers orders twice a week. “Despite being well short of our regular turnover, we want to feel close to our customers, preserve our image and prove that we are active. People in this city are used to buying wine within the €20-€25 price band in supermarkets, but we are finding that many clients are true wine lovers and we are building tighter bonds with them. We will keep the delivery service in the future,” Prado told us.
Cuenllas, a favourite address to enjoy fine food and wine in Madrid, has not yet resumed activity at its two restaurants, but their deli store sells some of the house’s dishes such as tripe, meatballs or potato and mayonnaise salad ("the word is out and we now sell to friends of friends and friends of customers", says Fernando Cuenllas). Home delivery is provided by the restaurant staff or through food delivery app Glovo. The online wine store is now updated and is working well, even though it is focused on limited production, relatively expensive wines. In terms of food delivery, Fernando believes that it is difficult to stand out and ensure that the produce arrives in perfect condition. "In the future we will focus on dishes to be finished at home and offer set meals with wine", he says. Whilst he is not planning to open the restaurants until customers can be served indoors, he is positive that there will be a great opportunity for home consumption when meetings of eight to ten people are finally allowed in Madrid.
For the moment, the most ambitious wine list belongs to Lavinia, a fine wine store located in the affluent Salamanca district in Madrid. Its restaurant launches delivery and takeaway services starting today. Wine lovers will surely enjoy the “Spring wine list” featuring small producers and affordable, highly drinkable wines sold at retail prices. The vast majority are priced under €20 and none of them, not even champagne, goes beyond €35. It also includes around 20 wines in small bottles (37cl and 50cl) with a special focus on Andulsian fortified wines.
In A Coruña (Galicia), 55 Pasos has been particularly innovative. Owners and partners Nataly Rodríguez and Balazs Menyhard decided to tap into Balazs' cooking versatility at their small restaurant focused on local produce which opened barely a year ago. With a good dose of humour, they announced on Instagram that they were "reinventing themselves or going to the dogs" and launched a weekly culinary journey to different countries. On the liquid side, they encourage clients to "adopt a winemaker" (that is, buy wines from small producers) adding live talks on Instagram -their first guests were Nanclares y Prieto from Rías Baixas.
They don’t have a website, but they publish all their news on social media, mainly Instagram. Orders are taken from Monday to Wednesday and deliveries are made by Nataly herself on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The couple works side by side making everything from pita bread for the Middle East week to tortillas for Mexico week. As for the wine, Nataly explains: "We have put together a list of small Spanish producers because we want to help people who produce their wines here." She acknowledges that demand for wine is not that high yet. "The good thing is that in A Coruña people trust us when it comes to advising them on wine and they let us choose it for them".
Opened last December in Badalona, Al Marge is in a similar situation. After barely five months in business, sommelier Marta Rombouts and Argentinian chef Germán Blanco -both had previously worked at Alkimia in Barcelona- decided to stay active and started offering food delivery on May 14. Wine made by small artisan and organic producers plays an important role at Al Marge so this spirit is reflected on a wine list featuring three sparkling wines, six whites, one rosé and seven reds. Marta points out that, although restaurant service costs are avoided during the crisis, there are added expenses in terms of packaging and a higher VAT rate (21% against the standard 10% at an eat-in restaurant).
Away from the bustle of big cities, Arrea! has made a name for itself with a cuisine rooted in the mountains of Alava (Basque Country). Now chef and owner Edorta Lamo has opened its terrace and launched a food delivery service to reach customers in rural areas nearby. Nervous and cautious, Edorta has compiled a short, yet carefully chosen wine list (local txakoli and craft beer, vermouth from La Rioja, and Rioja wines such as the young “cosechero” red by Frías del Val, the red Trueke made exclusively for them by maverick producer Roberto Oliván (Tentenublo), or the sophisticated Garnacha La Gargantilla by Valdemar). Lamo’s main concern is how to convey to his clients the feeling that the restaurant enters their homes. “First, we need to master the working techniques and then try to grow and add new possibilities. Of course, our cellar is wide open for any special order beyond the current list”, he notes.
Most restaurants offering takeaways and home deliveries are publicising their menus on Instagram, where most of the chatter is taking place during the lockdown. In contrast with websites that can be easily outdated, menus, wine lists, and special offers are regularly posted in this social media. Visual resources beyond photos -icons, illustrations, various font designs- are greatly appreciated and used in a creative way helping users to stand out from the crowd.
Another relevant aspect in this new era of enjoying food and wine at home is the presentation when the delivery gets to your place. With his several months’ experience in the food delivery business, Javier Muñoz from Foodioom highlights the fact that packaging and attention to detail are essential because they are the only element of contact with the client. "We can make a difference, be remembered as a special experience and get new orders," he points out.