Spanish Love!

by Dave

One of my favourite places to be in our store is within our Spanish section. Over the years we have managed to get a fantastic selection of exclusive wines from all over Spain and develop strong relationships with the producers’. Just recently I was able to travel to Europe and Spain to discover and meet some of the amazing winemakers who make the wine that we love! I always knew that I loved the wines and have been fascinated with the idea of Spain but after having visited and seen what it is all about my mind has been blown and I can’t believe how lucky we are to have the wines that we do.

During my trip, I was able to visit quite a few different wineries and try lots of different wines. One of the things that amazed me the most is that we do indeed work with some of the best winemakers in Spain. I’m not just saying that: there are two main producers that we work with that have been voted top winemakers in their respective regions. Toni Coca i Fito was named top winemaker from Catalunya this year. He produces many of the wines we feature from the region and also consults with some of the other wineries that we carry as well. The other winemaker is Basilio Izquierdo from the Rioja region. After spending about 30 years as head winemaker with CVNE, he now enjoys being a mad scientist winemaker; producing only the style of wine that he wants to. Basilio is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He is a whirlwind of energy and emotion and an absolute blast to be around.

My first main stop within Spain was Barcelona. After absorbing my fair share of cava, paella and the city nightlife I managed to stroll away from the city to the Priorat and Monstant region. I had read about this region before but I don’t think I was completely ready for what I saw. We started in Monstant. We went to check out Coca I Fito winery and their newest project; where they have purchased new lands and are working on planting vines and putting in a winery. Honestly, I don’t know where Miquel and Toni, the brothers behind Coca I Fito get the energy for everything that they are doing because after just 1 day running around with Miquel I was exhausted. We started the day by tasting white wine and their award-winning rose from Catalunya, enjoying both the wine itself and the view from the top of their property which is an amazing lookout where you can see all of Montsant with its glorious clay and red soils, scattered by old vines everywhere. The wines were fantastic and helped quench the thirst brought on by the blaring sun and +30-degree weather.

From there we headed to where they currently have their winery to taste some of their red wines in their cellar. The top of their winery is a bit more industrial looking with a smaller space. Stainless steel vats line both sides of the walls, wine bottles are piled high in the back patiently waiting to be filled and machinery is strewn everywhere ready to be put in action as harvest is just around the corner. The cellar itself is a different story. Small, sectioned rooms made of brick and lined with barrels from floor to ceiling in each room. Not only did we taste some of the wines from the bottle but we were also able to taste a bunch of different wines from the barrels and see how the oak can change the wine as well as interact with different terroirs. For pairing, we were supplied with a baguette and a special surprise. It turns out that Coca I Fito also make their own olive oil. A new experience for me was just dipping baguette in olive oil and sprinkling salt flakes over it. I have been converted and can’t wait to do it again. Never thought something so simple could be so amazing!

That afternoon we made our way to Priorat to visit Trossos del Priorat. This is a winery where Toni does a bit of consulting on the wine but the head winemaker is Eva Escude, whom we met and tasted four of her wines. Trossos is a beautiful newer winery that even has a gorgeous small hotel on the property. Everything looks beautiful and meticulously maintained. All of the vines are overlooking the valley of Priorat. The main difference between Priorat and Montsant is the hills and how steep they are, as well as the soil. Montsant contains more rolling hills with beautiful red soils while Priorat has very steep hills which consist of much rockier soil.

Within both regions but most noticeable in Priorat are the old terraces found all over the hills. Some of these long-existing terraces are being taken advantage of with vines planted in neat rows on the flattened surfaces, but the rest are hidden by forest. It was explained to me that, the whole of both regions was once planted under vine until phylloxera hit. Then, in a 30-40 year span, everything was decimated. Unable to maintain the dying vines, people had no choice but to abandon the viniculture. It is astounding to see now because all you see is forest everywhere and I found it hard to imagine that up until the early 1900s, it was all thriving vineyard space. However, every time I looked into the forest I would see these huge trees on top of terraced areas. Breathtaking and beautiful. I honestly can’t wait for the chance to head back and get to know it better.

If you go to Barcelona, I know it is hard to get away from, but Priorat and Monsant are both regions worth exploring and checking out the amazing wines they have to offer. If you can’t get there don’t worry, we have you covered and can help you out with some amazing bottles from both areas at the store.

La Rioja

As a continuation of the trip, La Rioja was one of the top places for me. It may not be that popular for your everyday tourist but it definitely should be. It is filled with fantastic wine, great food, a thriving nightlife, beautiful small historic villages everywhere and spellbinding views.

The Rioja is a large wine region in the Northeastern area of Spain. It is a long valley with mountain ranges on both sides, approximately 130 km’s long and split into 3 different regions. Rioja Alta(high), Rioja Baja(low) and Rioja Alavesa. These are divided due to the layout of the regions and also the Ebro River which separates the Rioja Alavesa to the North. Rioja Baja and Alta are separated at approximately the capital city of Rioja, Logroño. The Alavesa and Alta are quite a bit hillier than Rioja Baja, and Alavesa the hilliest of them all. We were actually able to find a lookout where you could see over the whole region and get an amazing perspective for the area and how the hills change throughout the area.

One of the first wineries that I visited was Baigorri. They are a medium sized winery for Rioja and have an absolutely stunning winery. It is a large building that when you look at it from outside you would never guess at the actual size of it on the inside. It is made up of 5 different levels and each level carries out a part of the winemaking. They don’t use any force on the wine at all and the wine is only moved through gravity. If they need to move wine to a higher level they will actually hook a crane up to the container that it is in and raise it back up. It is an astonishing setup and I haven’t seen anything done to that level. They were amazing and we were able to do their tasting menu paired with some of their wines to see how great they go with different food as well.

The other exclusive winery that we visited wasn’t so much a winery but rather a self-storage area that has been changed into a makeshift winery. This was one of the most different setups for a winery but this was a winemaker that completely amazed me and I hope someday to get to hang out with again. This was Basilio Izquierdo’s winery. As I mentioned before he has been voted one of the 50 most outstanding winemakers in the world by the Bordeaux School of Wine which for him was an amazing honour since he was recognized by others outside of Spain as well.  I would say that is quite the accomplishment. He started the day by showing me huge clay amphora that he hopes someday he will be able to use. He, unfortunately, has never been able to use them yet just because he doesn’t make that quantity of wine. All 3 of them were almost as high as the roof and beautiful. They were used by his grandparents in the past and are from 1914 and looking as impressive as ever.

Basilio Izquierdo

Basilio Izquierdo!

After that Basilio took us around to different spots within the place and it seemed everywhere we went, we were navigating through stainless steel containers, barrels of new experiments, and different equipment for making wine. After talking a bit about wine we headed downstairs to his cellars where he has all of his wines divided up depending on grape or vineyard and vintages as well. We started tasting from the barrels to be able to compare how each barrel changes the flavour and then just kept tasting and tasting. It was amazing. He treated every barrel like an old friend, remembering what it was, where it came from and what kind of barrel it was made with. Basilio buys his grapes from different vineyards but they are all people he has been working with for a long time and from very small plots with old vines. Some of the grapes come from plots that are only 5 rows and since they are old vines, they also have very small production. After trying as many of the barrels that we could we headed back upstairs to try a couple new treats that we don’t offer yet but hopefully will be getting in the not too distant future. What we do carry from him is amazing and definitely worth a try.

After Rioja, unfortunately, my trip had to come to an end and it was time to head back to the wonderful world of Kensington Wine Market. Reading about these wines and the regions they come from has always been fun. Getting the opportunity to travel, meet the people behind them, see what inspires them and the beauty that is put into each bottle has been a level of experience well beyond what is on the back of a wine label or in a book though.

To play even a small part of the magnificent world of wine is, I feel, a phenomenal gift. Every time I open up and share a new bottle from Spain, I will think of friends I have made along the way and the wonderful places and experiences that they represent. I love that at our store you can find these examples not just from Spain but from many different regions of the world. Every bottle tells a story, and every section of our shop is filled with phenomenon such as these, only waiting to be uncorked or uncapped.

I cannot wait to help you discover your own next wonder!

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