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Passion for Spanish wine

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Rekondo, in the Basque city of San Sebastian, is undoubtedly one of the world’s must-visit restaurants for winelovers. At this oenological Louvre, owner Txomin Rekondo acts as patron and caretaker of over 125,000 bottles and around 4,000 selections which range from a txakoli from neighboring Getaria to Vega Sicilia or Mouton Rothschild -two of his favourite wineries.

But rather than a museum, Rekondo is a place where wine is a consuming passion. Written in the 242-page wine list are legendary names such as Romanée-Conti and other Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rioja greats, but there is room for many more, including a fabulous choice of sherries (many of them served by the glass), unusual verticals such as Qué Bonito Cacareaba, a white Rioja from Benjamín Romeo or various selections from Matador, an innovative wine and art project. Although Rioja has a major presence, there are wines from every corner of the world, from Lebanon to New Zealand through Germany and the US. It is the result of Txomin’s 50 year-search to find, purchase and store great wines which today form one of the world’s most impressive collections, according to Wine Spectator.

The cellar is just as spectacular as the wine list and a visit is well worth it. Neat, pretty and with the right amount of light to be kind to bottles and visitors, it is divided into three different spaces. Champagnes, sparkling and white wines are stored in the first one.

Worthy of note is the impressive Château d’Yquem collection, which includes six jeroboams from different vintages. The next room acts as resting place for old wines, with verticals of classics such as López de Heredia, Cvne or Paternina. Three of them are very dear to Txomin: his Marqués de Riscal collection, with around 80 or 90 vintages, one of them from 1880; a Vega Sicilia vertical, which starts in 1917 and includes vintages which are not even owned by the winery; and his Mouton Rothschild collection, dating back to 1945, when the label was changed and designed by artists such as Picasso, Miró, Dalí or Kandinsky.

Despite the apparent order, sommelier Martín Flea -who shares his wine passion with Txomin- acknowledges that there is not a proper stock control at Rekondo. Hence the occasional surprise, such as the recent discovery of a Sierra Cantabria 1992 bottle which was unaccounted for.

Wine prices are very reasonable: Contino Reserva 1981 is on the wine list for €60 whereas the excellent Fino La Panesa will set you back €35 and a few old Vega Sicilia vintages are priced at €250-300. Txomin bemusedly recalls a few occasions when some foreign customers have asked him whether wines were priced by the glass!

The kitchen is run by Iñaki Arrieta and is based on excellent quality products cooked in a traditional fashion, such as the tomatoes from a nearby caserío (Basque farm) in Mount Igeldo, wild mushrooms of Iberico ham. Rice with clams and oven-cooked txangurro (spider crab) are classic dishes at Rekondo and are always served in generous portions. Food pairing is frowned upon here - Txomin and Martín prefer to advice clients based on their preferences. Both believe that good company is the perfect match - who would contradict them? Y.O.A.

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