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 100,000 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. A new edition of the wine list will be published in November 2020, written by Txomin himself, born in 1935 in this caserío on the slopes of Mount Igeldo in San Sebastian, where the restaurant is located.

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, fortified 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.

In the day-to-day running of the cellar and looking after the clients in the bright dining room and on the pleasant restaurant terrace are Alejandro Hernández, a veteran sommelier with experience in leading starred restaurants, and Javier Caneja. Both have just updated and digitalised the entire collection of Rekondo bottles. Wine prices are reasonable, especially considering that many are from vintages no longer available on the market: a Viña El Pisón 2010 costs €242 and there are quite a few old Vega Sicilia vintages priced between €300 and €350 but there is also a good range of wines starting from €20. 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. Lourdes Rekondo, Txomin's daughter, manages the restaurant and upholds her father's legacy. Y.O.A.

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