Friday, 18 April 2014

The REAL Wine Fair 2014

I’m just back in Madrid after an intense 4 days in London, 2 days of which were taken up by the REAL Wine Fair itself, and 2 days of which were for me!

My main mission: to boldly seek out an importer for my wines in the UK

Secondary mission: to relax, enjoy, rest, drink wines, chat, get a change of scenery, etc. And I did!



I flew in to Gatwick with EasyJet on the Thursday evening after working at the office for a half-day; it’s close to the airport so it seemed like a good idea. I went straight to my friend’s house (in Battersea, see below) and dumped my suitcase, which only contained 6 bottles of wine sadly! Actually I was over-weight – 29 kg – but the young lady at the EasyJet check-in didn’t say anything. And neither did I!

Home Base in London Battersea
So it was straight to the pub, as I had a meeting arranged with the husband of the artist who did the artwork for my new labels (Jane Frere).

We went to the Prince Albert, just by Chelsea Bridge:

The Prince Albert - Image courtesy of www.fluidlondon.co.uk
We had some nice wine and nice food at a reasonable price!!! I was surprised, as my past experience of London has been of bad and expensive wine and food!

Lovely oysters at the pub
The next day, Friday, I had absolutely nothing to do! No-one to meet, no convenient access to my emails, no task or no deadline for anything! It was great, even if kind of unsettling!

I woke up at my usual time, around 7:00, even though I didn’t set an alarm. So I lazed around a bit, made a coffee, and went back to bed and fell asleep till about 11:00!  Lunch was actually a full English breakfast, which I like to do once a year :)

photo english breakfast

Then I went for a wee lie down, with the intention of doing some reading, but I fell asleep – till 7:00 in the evening!  I think this was my body catching up on lack of sleep during the year of my (ab)normal lifestyle!

Next up was dinner, and we went to Soif, which is within walking distance of my friend’s house. It was really nice: a great wine-list of course, great food, friendly knowledgeable staff and again reasonably priced! What more can one ask for :)  Then, to bed early as I was a bit tired after such a hard day of doing nothing!

The next day, Saturday, was my last day of freedom, as it were, so we did some wandering around, just seeing what was to be seen.  We walked across Chelsea Bridge, through Eton Square and down to Buckingham Palace and Pall Mall and St. James’ Park.  A bit disneyfied and touristy I found, but hey, the weather was beautiful. Then we went into China Town for lunch (at the Beijing Dumpling) where I met up with fellow winemaker Alfredo Maestro.  After lunch more wandering around and we then went to Bar Italia in Soho, for a post-prandial coffee:

Bar Italia 1

Bar Italia 2
Then even more wandering around and we ended up at Gordon’s wine-bar, by Embankment. Great place; inside, a dark and low-ceiling dungeon like locale,  it was full up and there were no tables so we sat outside round a wine barrel for a while.

photo gordons

Now it was coming up for dinner time; and the Caves de Pyrene had kindly organized dinner for all the Spanish growers at Brawn, another awesome restaurant with a brilliant wine-list and equally brilliant food.

So I hooked up with Daniel Ramos, another Spanish grower (with whom I share a bodega in El Tiemblo), who had just arrived at Stanstead, and we walked all the way to Brawn; which was quite a hike, but the weather was nice and we felt like some fresh air. We got there about an hour early, so we sat at the bar and had a couple of wines! And tried some 'brawn'! I had no idea that such a think actually existed. I had always thought that ‘brawn’ was just the opposite of ‘brain’! I’d heard of ‘potted heid’ in Scotland, but never made the connection!

Brawn - image courtesy of www.maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com
Then, after dinner, back to the house for a good night’s sleep, prior to the first big day at the fair.

Sunday was the day the fair was open to the public, and the forecast was that it would be busy.  And it was! I have to say that I’ve never had to work so hard at a fair in all the years I’ve been exhibiting at wine fairs.

My table at REAL

Cutting out and sticking on my labeles
The time just flew from 10:00 to 18:00. I did nothing but speak and pour wine, and I had sore feet and a sore throat! Usually, at wine fairs, I prepare a sign that says “I`ll be back!” and I go off and taste as many wines as I can and chat about wine stuff! But this time… I didn’t even have time to prepare the sign!

I suspect that something viral or ‘word-of-mouth’ happened, as the first thing that many people said to me was “I’ve been recommended to come taste your wines by….”.  It was awesome, thinking about it. It’s really the best and most sincere compliment that can be given to a wine producer. It has encouraged me no end, and has reconfirmed my belief that I should listen to myself, my heart and my intuition. I generally do, but there are moments when I’m assailed by doubts. The memory of that day will help to keep me on the right path. The path of low-intervention, terroir-expressing wines!  :)

The next day, the Monday, was a trade day, and I was also quite busy, though not as much as the Sunday. And in fact I had a volunteer helper:

Me and my helper
This is Leila, a friend who I was out with the day before, and she asked me directly “Can I be you wine bitch tomorrow?”  I was shocked and speechless for a few seconds! Because, not living in the UK, I’m not really sure these days what’s politically correct or socially acceptable to say or not anymore, but if she said it then I guess it must be OK!

So, thanks to her, I was able to escape from my table a few times and taste some other wines, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to. Apart from restaurant and wine shop people, I also got some growers coming round to taste my wines, which is quite unusual for me (unless they knew me previously from some other occasion). I could tell they were growers because they were silent and didn’t ask any of the usual questions. They would just hold out their glasses, sniff, taste and look each other in the eye silently, and then go away!

So I don’t know what to think about that! But I think I’m going to take it as a compliment, because they must have had some kind of recommendation from someone, and they actually took the time to get away from their table. Unfortunately I don’t actually know what they thought of my wines, as they were so taciturn!

And then lastly, to round it all off, was the Georgian banquet, or Georgian supra, as it’s called. This is a wonderful way of having a dinner or banquet. Basically, instead of just one or two main courses, there was a constant flow of small dishes of different things.

photo

But the main distinguishing element of a Georgian dinner, is the custom of giving toasts to all the guests. Every so often during the meal, you hear the ting, ting, ting of a knife on a glass and that’s the signal that the toastmaster is about to give a toast. I think this is a great custom, and we should adopt it here in Western Europe too. It has the effect of bringing all the guests at the different tables, together and of uniting everybody in a way. I found, at any rate.

Yet another distinguishing feature of Georgian banquets, is the singing. This time there is no ting ting ting on the glass, but every so often you hear the melancholic, minor key, sad, sad singing of two or more voices. You may or may not like it, but I’m a sucker for it, and it actually really did bring a tear to my eye. What with all that Georgian wine flowing too, and me being like the way I am! Of course I have no idea what the words in Georgian mean, but I’m imagining deep tragedies and laments, and yearnings; maybe from the Persian invasions of a few thousand years ago! I don’t know.

The next day, I was to fly back to Madrid – but in the afternoon. I decided a few years ago, that life was too short, not only to drink bad wine, but also to take early morning (or even morning) flights!

Which gave me time to go to the Doodle Bar, in the TestBed1 space/project/thing, which is in danger of being “redeveloped”. I hope my little contribution helps.

photo

And then it really was time to go home. But wow, what a weekend, what a refreshing, illuminating, and encouraging few days. Just what body and soul needs, maybe just a few times a year :)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Getting ready for REAL Fair 2014

Yay, this Thursday 10th April I’m off to London Town! To the REAL Wine Fair. It will be a nice break for me, as I’ve managed to needlessly stress myself out lately instead of enjoying!

Boring but necessary tasks:

  • Buy return ticket Madrid-London with (Sl)Eazy Jet. Check – Did that a few weeks ago. Printed out the boarding passes already
  • Accommodation. Call friend and ask to sleep on his couch.  Check. Confirmed. Couch available
  • Send wines. Check. Done that already. But boy was it complicated! Now there are new EU-wide online forms to be filled in which are SO USER-UNFRIENLY, that you wouldn’t believe it if I could be bothered going into the grindingly boring details. Just to say that it took me several days, including liaising with the good people from REAL fair, AND their warehouse and shipping people. The forms are diabolically Byzantine, obviously designed just to keep specialist form-designing bureaucrats (un)gainfully employed. Better than having them roaming the streets I suppose! But no, relax, I’m not going to go on a rant here! hahaha :)
  • Pack bag. Nope, haven’t done that yet. But I don’t really need much for 5 days: change of clothes, extra bottles for wine, toothbrush, and not much else. Sandwiches and fruit for the flight, so I don’t need to buy any overpriced industrial sub-products on the plane! 
Some boxes of wine, ready for shipping off to REAL Wine Fair

So that’s that all sorted.

But like I said, I’ve managed to stress myself out lately for no good reason. I managed to finish pruning all my vineyards this weekend, which I think is a record for me. Usually I run very late and don’t finish till May some years! Also I’m in the process of designing new labels, which is proving to be really difficult and stressful! I am in fact all labeled out, and I don’t know what I like or even think any more. I need to get away from it all! These tasks are supposed to be enjoyable, not stressful.

But anyway, once I’m in London, my main goal is to reach an agreement with an importer in the UK and start exporting my wines there. It’s high time! I’ve been wanting to have my wines in the UK for a long time now, but have never got round to doing it.

The reason being that it’s hard being a one-man-band, small-time producer, because there are so many different areas of activity that all have to be dealt with; and each area is a universe in itself! Here’s the way I like to classify all the activities that I feel are necessary:

1. Tending my vineyards (and sourcing grapes)
2. Winemaking
3. Marketing, promotion and sales
4. Admin, paperwork, bureaucracy

Each one of these four main areas is of course incredibly complex and time-consuming, and so really, I only manage to do the absolute minimum necessary, in order to be able to produce quality wines (AND keep working at my day-job AND maintain diplomatic relations with friends and family) hahaha you gotta laugh!

For example, "Tending the Vineyards" includes at least the following:
- Pruning
- Removing canes
- Ploughing
- Cutting back grass
- Manureing
- Thinning
- Harvesting
- Transporting grapes to winery
- Dealing with vineyard owners
- Dealing with harvesters

And all of these sub-areas require time and thought and money; and can themselves be sub-divided into even more specific activities! And the same applies to the other three main areas of activities!

I find that sometimes I get carried away with one activity (for example, pruning) and before you know it weeks have passed and you’re late with some other activity (winemaking in the bodega, for example, or some paperwork deadline, or whatever). Or you take a look at your email in-box, and Oh Woe there are several important and/or interesting emails waiting for a reply. Which is of course rather frustrating because I know that I'm not doing a good job.

Anyway, the important thing for me, as I try to remind myself, is to (try to) relax, make good wine, and enjoy! I don’t even have a boss to deal with. Only me myself, and my own aspirations! I don’t NEED to stress myself out and worry about unimportant trivia!

But I’m not complaining. Far from it. I’d rather be doing this, than being bored, reduced to watching TV, or some such lifestyle! Maybe I need to do some yoga?

So really, what I'm most looking forward to about going to REAL (apart from finding an importer, which is of course really important) is just getting away from the label designing, bottling and corking up and shipping out, and sort of taking a deep breath, before getting back to the real world again in Madrid and getting down to some good productive work :). And of course tasting lots of wines and chatting with lots of people!

So dear readers (all 50 of you!), if you are in London this weekend, do come and visit me at Table 56, and taste my wines.

Here are some pics of the possible labels I’ve been playing around with:



Wednesday, 26 March 2014

I really wonder where all the time goes?

Here we are at the end of March almost what have I achieved?  Winter is gone, and Spring is springing here in Spain, the weeds are sprouting, the early bloomers are blooming (almonds, cherries, etc) and more to the point the sap is starting to circulate in the vines.

photo

Bitter Almond tree in Carabaña, next to the vineyard

As usual I haven't finished pruning, and in fact I’m am running even later than usual!  Day and night temperatures are rising fast.  That's the thing with central Spain - there's no time to acclimatize from cold, dark harsh winter, to blisteringly hot arid summer! It takes about a week/ten days.  We are having lunch outside on the pavement terrazas of restaurants already!

And here I am just the week before, all wrapped up against the cold:

photo


However, there's been a sudden cold snap over the past few days and temperatures have dropped again.

On the other hand, even though I complain about not pruning in time, I really have achieved quite a lot so far this year, even it’s already a quarter gone!. I've started writing down all the things I actually do get done, so that I can remember them can feel good about it! Otherwise one just gets depressed because the to-do list is never-ending and in fact seems to get longer!

The most important thing that I've achieved this year is getting all my legal licenses and permits and basically complying with all the local, regional, national and EU bureaucracy. One would really need an entire human resource department to deal with all that paperwork, but hey ho, what can one do? I risked the fines for ten years, which is a good stretch I think, so I decided it was time to get as legal as possible. It's taken me about 4 months so far and I've managed to get lots of numbers and certificates and other bits of paper from the Local Authorities (El Tiemblo), the Provincial Authorities (Avila), the Regional Authorities (Valladolid) and the national Authorities (Madrid). I didn't actually have to deal with Brussels (EU) directly!  Compliance with all the legal requirements here in Spain is so complex that you are obliged to hire an accountant to deal with it all, and so I have to now pay €100/month just to have someone keep books and fill in forms for me. Is this normal? Does this happen in other countries?  Maybe I'm living in my own private fantasy world.

What else? Well, I've managed to expand and consolidate at the same time! On the one hand, I've reached agreements with local grape-growers to buy their grapes. The deal is that they don't use any chemicals, and I pay them over the going rate for grapes in the area. Also, I get to select the date of harvest, and the grapes have to be harvested in small crates (as opposed to in a trailer). On the other hand, I've also managed to reach agreements with vineyard owners; in this case I get to manage the vineyard directly in return for an annual rent.

So now I manage the following vineyards:

- Carabaña, 1 ha (Tempranillo/Airén field blend), 11 years
- Villarejo, 1 ha (Malvar), 4 years
- El Tiemblo - La Dehesa, 0.5 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- El Tiemblo - Castañar, 0.5 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- Cebreros - Santa Maria 1 ha (Garnacha), < 1 year
- Navas del Rey, 4 tiny plots x  0.25 ha, (Garnacha), < 1 year

Here are some pics of these vineyards:

photo
Old vine Garnacha vineyard in Cebreros.
The top third are about 100 yrs old, and the bottom two/thirds about 40 yrs old


photo
Garnacha vineyard in El Tiemblo


photo
Another Garnacha vineyard - in Navas del Rey this time


photo
Same Garnacha vineyard in Cebreros, but looking downhill


Apart from the grapes from the above vineyards, I also buy in grapes from local grapegrowers:

- Morata de Tajuña, Airén
- El Tiemblo, Garnacha
- El Tiemblo, Albillo
- El Tiemblo, Chelva
- El Tiemblo, Doré
- El Tiemblo, Tempranillo
- Cebreros, Sauvignon Blanc

Phew! It's starting to get complicated!

In addition to all that, I'm working with a graphic designer on the production of some proper labels!  Here’s a preliminary selection of what we’re cooking up:

photos labels


I've always been ambivalent about getting round to producing 'proper' labels. On the one hand I like the idea of just printing off my own, as it goes with the idea of artisan wine, ie my whole winemaking operation is artisan and so, the labels should be too, no?

Here’s one of my own old ‘home-made’ labels:

Airén 2010
100% Airén (from Carabaña, Madrid)
Unfiltered, unclarified, no added sulfites.
13% vol. Bottles produced: 1200 750 ml


But on the other hand, they su**!   I've never seen such cr**py labels anywhere, not even at the natural wine fairs I go to, nor at conventional wine fairs, nor even on the internet on the webpages of artisan producers! Everybody all has nice, proper professionally designed and printed labels!

Decisions, decisions!  “No rest for the wicked” is my phrase of the month!

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Force is with me. And so is Robert Parker Jr, Promoter of Natural Wines

Wow! the Universe really is Infinite and Abundant, and it seems to be looking out for me. This time it's delivered a huge helping hand to me (and other 'naturalistas') via Robert Parker's latest pronouncement on natural wine. Here. Basically, he predicted (along with 14 other predictions for the wine world in 2014) that natural wine would be exposed as fraud. Extraordinary! At first I couldn't believe that he, obviously a very intelligent and knowledgeable man, could say such a thing. But then I just couldn't believe my luck. Publicizing the existence of a category of wines called 'natural wine' to all his followers and subscribers! An advertising campaign with a similar outreach would have cost thousands and thousands of dollars - certainly beyond the marketing budgets of any natural wine producer, distributor, outlet or association. All I can say is "Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!"

Now there will be thousands and thousands of wine consumers who have been exposed to the phrase 'natural wine' and some of them will be curious to find out exactly what it's all about. And some will actually go out and taste some. And some will like it and become customers!

I feel that I should also address RP's claim that 'natural wine is a fraud', but I'm at a loss as to how to do it! I am in fact having difficulty understanding how he can possibly be serious. I mean, there are thousands of genuine, hard-working, sincere producers, distributor and retailers out there, and possibly tens of thousands of consumers who genuinely enjoy natural wines for many valid reasons. Are all these people members of some giant conspiracy to hoodwink the unsuspecting public? Obviously not. Are they all being brainwashed into admiring the emperor's new clothes? Obviously not.

But maybe RP was just referring to some silly claim possibly made by some individual natural wine proponent at some time in the past? I don't know. The quote in the post doesn't go into details.

Or maybe he was referring to the semantics of the word 'natural', along the lines of Tom Warks's numerous posts on that topic? Again, I don't know. But if this is the case, then I've already addressed the semantic question in some of my own previous posts here and here.

The most puzzling thing for me though, is why do intelligent and knowledgeable men like RP and TW make these absurd claims? My latest theory is that they in fact really know nothing at all about the reality of making natural wine, or about the reasons that it's made, or the reasons why so many consumers like to drink it; I believe that they've just synthesized a whole complete natural wine fantasy world in their own imaginations from out of nothing (or maybe from out of a few scraps and anecdotes); and they now really believe that there really is a natural wine movement out there, with its leaders, champions, dogmas, beliefs, and of course a team of evil marketers, constantly scheming to deceive the public. A great fantasy for sure, but nothing to do with the real world!

Another theory I have, (or rather, a related theory) is that the Infinite and All-Powerful Universe is using all the means at its disposal to promote natural wines, and therefore environmentally friendly viticulture and chemical-free products for human consumption. And that includes using the words of supposed adversaries, who are in fact helping us! One thing that's clear, though, is that the Universe works in mysterious ways! Who would have thought that the world's most influential wine critic would actually help the people he most disparages.

Another thing that has become clear to me is that at last I've found my place, direction and mission in this life; and it's also become clear that critics like RP or TW, far from being adversaries and enemies, are in fact allies who are helping me and others all the way.

My mission, I now know, is to make as much and as many wines as possible, from native grape variety vineyards, from as many different places as possible; to save, preserve and give productive, and profitable and sustainable use to these vineyards, to keep alive and thriving as many grape-growing and wine-making and cultural practices as possible, all this by means of partnerships and agreements with local grape-growers; by means of making many, different, beautiful, delicious, complex, terroir-expressing, minimum intervention, comment-worthy, natural wines; by means of promoting, marketing and selling all these wines honestly and transparently to people who appreciate such wines and efforts; and all this by means of sustainable, non-polluting, environmentally beneficial viticulture.

I just need to carry on doing what I've been doing all these years; just keep going with the flow; now I just need to find a model that will allow me to produce more wines from more vineyards, but without losing the quality, genuineness and singularity that I've attained and maintained so far over the last 11 years. Now I need to somehow expand my one-man-band operation and make arrangements with local grape-growers, and other players to make all this happen.

Anyway. Enough. here's to the future! :)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Long Live Natural Wine - in this Infinite and Holistically All-powerful Universe! Vive le vin Naturel!

Thank you, Oh Infinite Universe, for putting Tom Wark in my path!

I've learnt a lot from him over the years, though it's taken me years to realize it. Over the years of interaction with him (always on the topic of natural wine, in the form of comments to his posts) I think I've gone through all the emotional phases, starting with anger, hate, resignation, frustration, pity and finally now, acceptance and gratitude.

His latest post on natural wine, here, just brought it all home to me. I now realize that we humans are just extraordinary in our diversity, and that all our diverse points of view represent richness and complexity and wondrously different ways of seeing the same world in which we live. This applies at all levels of philosophy, not just the limited and trivial world of wine which we wine geeks think represents the entire universe!

But anyway, even though I disagreed completely with everything he wrote, here's what I enjoyed about Tom's latest post on natural wine, which could be seen as yet another rant in a series of over 20 similar posts, but which I believe is not:

The first thing that struck me was his extraordinary tenacity in clinging to the primary dictionary definition of the word 'natural, despite the fact that native English speakers (and proficient foreigners) are perfectly aware that words in the English language can have many, many different meanings, and sometimes even apparently contradictory meanings too. Tenacity is a quality to be admired, IMO, and success is often built on it. I like to think that I have my fair share of it too.

Allow me to be really boring for a few paragraphs here and actually provide the links to several reliable, recognized and respected linguistic sources, just to prove what I said above, ie that the word 'natural' really does have multiple meanings, including the one used by people talking or writing about natural wine, and that it wasn't just invented a few years ago by the evil scheming marketers in the employ of some natural wine producers:

- Mirriam Websters (Definition 2: not having any extra substances or chemicals added : not containing anything artificial)

- FDA ("...the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.")

- Oxford English Dictionary (1991 edition) (subscription only) gives as part of meaning 7a: 
manufactured using only simple or minimal processes; ”
- Encyclopedia Brittanica (1888) edition). (That's eighteen eighty-eight). A long article on wine in general, where 'natural wine' is discussed in the same sense as we do today.

- Do bianchi. An interesting post with explanations and links to an Italian text from 1896 on natural wines.

- French Wikipedia article on the uprisings and riots in Languedoc in 1907 where the slogan "Vive le vin naturel. A bas les empoisonneurs" was used.  (Translation; "Long live natural wine. Down with the poisoners!"  Can you imagine anyone using that slogan today? ha ha!)

Text of the speech given by Marcellin Albert on 9th June 1907 in Montpellier during a demonstration of around 500,000 protesters, during which he uses the phrase "natural wine".


To summarize: the main primary meaning of 'natural' is "existing in nature; not man-made" (eg, an ocean, a mountain), the meaning that Mr Wark believes is the only one; but other meanings exist, have been around for a long time, and are used by many, many English speakers in a perfectly natural way.

Basically, what I'm saying here, by providing all this evidence, is that the use of the word 'natural' is more than justified and legitimized by these authorities and by the length of time that the term has been used.

But in addition to that (as if it weren't enough), sheer common sense and intuition should be enough for any native English-speaker to realize that words have more than one meaning. Just think of the word 'organic'. The primary dictionary meaning is 'containing carbon atoms', or 'applying to living things'; historically the word has been used in phrases like 'organic chemistry', 'organic compounds', 'organic growth', 'organic waste', 'organic history', 'organic molecules', 'organic synthesis';

Then at some point in history (1970's?) the word started to be applied to agricultural products made in a certain way, and we got 'organic farming', 'organic fruit', 'organic vegetables', 'organic wine', 'organic soil', 'organic agriculture', etc.  Wow! A new meaning for the word 'organic'! Now it means, not only 'containing carbon atoms', but ALSO the meaning we all know and love and accept today, ie "grown without the use of synthetic chemicals". I wonder if there were people back then who fulminated against the 'organic' movement and accused the marketers of organic fruit and veg of deceit?

The second thing that struck me was the wonderful and amazing leap of logic that formed the basis of his latest post, showing incredible ingenuity and creativity:

1. Take a set phrase in the English language ("as nature intended")
2. Interpret the words separately and literally
3. Provide a long list of links to blog posts that used this phrase in connection to wine
4. Allow something wondrous to happen in the language processing centers of your brain
5. Lo and behold: the conclusion is that the "natural wine movement" believes that Nature has consciousness and intentionality!

I think that all native speakers of English understand what 'set phrases' are, and use them accordingly in everyday speech and writing. Just look up a dictionary to see what "as nature intended" really means; as you can see, the phrase just doesn't mean that nature actually intends anything, like Mr Wark suggests. It's just a set phrase that has the general meaning of "not interfering too much in a process or situation".

Here are some more set phases:

Let nature take its course, Nature abhors a vacuum, To answer the call of nature, Mother Nature, The call of the wild, Silence is golden, Money talks, As chance would have it, Put your cards on the table,...

There are thousands of them in English, and not one of them means what the individual words mean literally. It's quite intuitive really, and actually more difficult to explain than it really is!

Thirdly, I was saddened to read that Mr Wark is continuing with his personal crusade against Isabelle Legeron MW. Very saddened. At least there were no direct personal insults, like in this previous post of his; this time he just used some indirect denigration by associating her name with Wiccans, Pantheists and Druids, and April Fool's Day. Not much good karma there.

Fourthly, there's the question of setting up straw men (that's another set phrase, not men made of straw!!!) so as to proceed to knock them down. I think it's rather pointless and silly of Mr Wark to do this, because attacking distorted or fictitious aspects of natural wine does not really address the actual real position at all, let alone engage in a constructive dialogue.

But getting back to what I was saying at the beginning of this post, I believe that at last I've found peace with myself, and with this whole 'natural wine' thing, thanks in part to Tom Wark's posts over the years. Basically, I think that the semantics and history of the word 'natural' is irrelevant (even though it's interesting in its own right, especially to people with an interest in linguistics and etymology. Like me!). No, the important aspect for me is the qualities and characteristics of the wines that are made in a "natural" way, and which for me boil down to three aspects:

1. Can natural wines express their terroirs better?

2. Are natural wines safer and/or healthier?

3. Are natural wines better for the environment?

Obviously, I believe that the answer to all three of those questions is YES. That's why I find myself in the natural wine camp, not because I think it's a great marketing idea. I was in fact making wines for 7 years in this way with no contact with the outside wine world, until I "discovered" blogging, and social media etc in 2009, at which point I also "discovered" natural wine! And the rest is history! Was I happier in those days? Was I making better wines? No, I don't think so. I think I was probably making worse wines, and that I've become a lot stricter with myself and more demanding, especially over the last 3 or 4 years.

Am I going to promote and market my wines as 'natural wines'? Yes, but not exclusively. There are several inconveniences about using the term natural wines to market my wines, that I have to bear in mind. The main one is that most consumers don't know what it means! Because there is no official or legal definition. Another inconvenience is that there are a lot of bad, faulty and extreme wines out there that I don't want to be associated with. I want to produce interesting, complex, terroir-expressing, comment-worthy wines, not wines that can just be slotted into a marketing category. I want to make wines that smell good and taste delicious! Just like the majority of natural winemakers.

Since my family hasn't been making wine for generations, and customers aren't beating a path to my cellar door, I have to promote and market my wines somehow or other. The use of the category of 'natural wines' may or may not be good for me: I will have to decide. Not only do I have to be a good winemaker, but I also have to be an astute marketer! I will just go with the flow and try to keep some grace while under pressure :)

The obvious advantage for me in marketing my wines as 'natural wines' is that ALL my customers, and contacts in the trade, know exactly what is meant by 'natural wine', and the quality and characteristics of my wines can speak for themselves. This is because my production is so small, that all my sales are within the 'natural wine community' or wine-lovers who already know what natural wine is all about. If and when I ever significantly increase my production and have to reach out to the wider wine-loving community, then I will have to think about it. A problem of plenty, really!

Interesting times we're living in!





Sunday, 9 February 2014

Tasting and Pruning With Gabriel

I spent the other day (Sun 2nd Feb) pruning with Gabriel, my first ever "intern" who spontaneously volunteered to work for free in return for whatever I could teach him! Wow! I was honoured that anyone would want to do that. Lots of people have helped me in the vineyards for free over the years of course, but they were always people I already knew - family, friends, regular consumers of my wine, etc.

Gabriel tries his hand at pruning


On this occasion it was different, as I'd only met Gabriel (Sánchez Blocona) about 2 weeks ago at a tasting that we were at. As it happened, it was a tasting of the wines of Basilio Izquierdo, which would merit a whole post to itself, as there were some really incredible wines there. Including some really old ones (for me!) like a CVNE 1948 which is the oldest everest wine I've ever tasted in my life. But I won't go on about that - I've been getting paranoid lately about turning into a wine-bore! I think that's what happens when you read the Hosemaster of Wine!



Anyway, that was in the morning. After lunch (here) (which, btw, was the most expensive lunch I've ever paid for in my life, and where I witnessed for the first time a bottle of wine being opened with a pair of heated tongs!) we (Gabriel and I) decided to gate-crash another tasting in the evening.



This one was one of these wine-tasting clubs of friends who get together regularly to taste and comment on interesting wines. I knew a few of these friends (including Alfredo Maestro) so I figured that they wouldn't mind. As luck would have it they were doing a blind tasting, which I love, even though I never identify any of the wines.



The only clue we had was that all 6 bottles were non-Spanish. Incredibly, I was the only one who identified the country of provenance of 4 of them (Georgia)!  I think this was because no-one else there had tasted Georgian wines before, while I had - once, two years ago in London at RAW fair. Amazing! Then of course I had to explain that I'm not an expert or even experienced taster and that it was just luck that I remembered those wines. This is true, I'm a very inexperienced wine-taster, as the only tasting I ever do is of my own wines, and even then just checking for faults/off-tastes/strangeness/etc. I'm practicing though, and I try to get to whatever tastings I get invited to, time and tasks permitting!



Gabriel on the other hand is a wine-geek, an experienced taster, and collector of old rare wines. But he doesn't know much about grape-growing, vineyard work, pruning, etc. So, there was a win-win situation if ever there was one.

Now pruning is quite a skilled task, it's not just manual labour; so it's a bit of risk to just let anyone loose in your vineyard with a pair of pruning sheers! :)  A bit of a risk only in the sense that he/she might snip off a bit too much, or the wrong canes, and hence reduce the production of a few 'mutilated' vines!  I mean to say, it's not a catastrophy or a disaster. Vines can survive a lot worse than a crazy pruner :)  But in any case, why do it wrong, when it's so easy to do it right?

Here's me pruning a vine

So this is what we did: First he just followed me and watched, while I pruned and explained. But that gets boring after a while and the 'student' doesn't really learn anything new, after so much theory. So I sent him a vine ahead of me to do some pre-pruning. This entails snipping off all the obviously unwanted little canes, the canes growing from obviously wrong places and those growing in obviously wrong directions (all of which I explained beforehand).

Nice ladybird. Super-predator. Eats up all those nasty aphids

Contemplating ladybirds :)
 
I also got him to snip back all the remaining major canes but leaving 5 or 6 buttons. Then I myself would either prune these canes right back to the wood, or prune it to 1 or 2 buttons, as appropriate.

Those tasks that I set Gabriel to are very useful for getting to know those obviously useless canes, which can then just be snipped off without a second thought, and also for learning to handle the pruning shears, getting to know their weight and balance, how far they open, possible angles of entry, etc.

Nice earthworm. Sign of healthy living soil

His final task was to pick up all the snipped canes from where they fell and to put them in little piles in the middle of the lanes. Now that really is pure manual labour, but it saved me a lot of time :)  Come on, I had to do SOME brutal exploitation!  :)

Vine and thistle

The next time he comes out to help me, I'll teach him how to actually choose which canes to prune and keep, and which ones to prune right back to the wood. That is of course the most important piece of knowledge in pruning. How well you do that impacts not only the quantity of grapes that the vine will give you that year, but also long-term it will affect the health, vigour and longevity of that vine.

Ready, steady, prune!
Gabriel is also an awesome photographer, and he took all the photos in this post (except for the one of himself, obviously!).

His camara has also got this function that makes speedy videos. (For UK reader: think Benny Hill!) Check it out:
video


I'd be happy to teach anyone who wants to learn what I know. It's just a question of arranging to meet. Which is actually more difficult than it sounds because I usually don't know when I'm going to prune until a few days before! Anyway, feel free to contact me if you're interested.

Another really useful thing to do when short of time and you have thousands of vines to prune, is simply to temporarily duplicate yourself:


Me and my double ready to go
 After a hard day's work, our just reward:

In a bar, back in Madrid


Very pretty, but is it art?  ha ha!

Friday, 24 January 2014

First Post of 2014: Vineyard and Winery Tasks

Good morning, Happy New Year, etc. I hope you all survived.

Well, it's 2014 already, and I've got lots of decisions to make, chickens to stuff, and joints to roll, as they say :)

I'm just back from a long-ish break in Scotland (rain, rain and more rain, every single day!) where I hardly ever logged on to the internet, did almost no social media at all, and generally just slothed out, by watching TV, and occasionally going out for a pint of beer or a glass of wine! And a well-deserved break it was too, even if I say so myself, after an intense 6-month period of non-stop frenetic cleaning, scraping, painting, fixing up the new bodega, followed by weeks of harvesting and fermenting loads of grapes and wines!

Now basically, I have to settle down and get on with the following:

1. Pruning/tending my vineyards

2. Selling all the wines I just made

3. Deciding which wine fairs to go to, if any

4. Beautifying the new bodega

1. Pruning / Tending my Vineyards

I have till round about April to do all the pruning. At the time of writing this (Jan 2014) the leaves have fallen off the vines, which means that the vines have become dormant for the duration of the winter and have drawn back the sap and nutrients into their roots and trunk. So it's OK to start pruning because you won't be removing any of that sap and nutrients, which will come in very hand for the vines in spring when they wake up and start sprouting new leaves.

I've found that there's no point trying to schedule this activity, and I'll just go to the vineyards and prune whenever I have free time and when I'm not doing Activities 2., 3. or 4. above.

This year I have an extra vineyard to prune, in El Tiemblo, which is an old-vine Garnacha vineyard. About 1 hectare. I think maybe about 70-80 years old, but I'll have to check that with the owner.

(photos pending)

2. Selling all the Wines I Just Made

Yup, there's no point filling up the bodega with bottles of wine, is there? I have to ship them all out.

Basically, this will involve me sitting down in front of my computer and writing emails to importers all over the world. Except for the USA that is, where I already have Jose Pastor Selections. ("Hi, José"!)  :)

But it's not that easy! Before writing off emails, I'll have to do some research and some due diligence, because it's not a good idea to work with just any old importer! I have to try to find importers that will be good for me, and who I will be good for. My wines have to fit in with their existing portfolio and they have to be able to place my wines in the right type of outlets. And so forth. Then, after the flurry of emails, I will probably have to send samples. And then, hopefully, there will be a flurry of orders, and will have to bottle, cork, label, box my wines and ship 'em out! :)

3. Deciding which wine fairs to go to, if any

Basically, the basic criterion here for me is the cost: air-fare or petrol, accomodation, shipping of wine, and living expenses while there (ie breakfast, lunch, dinner, local transport, etc).  Is it worth it? ie, will any possible extra sales cover all these expenses?  Well, in my limited experience of wine fairs so far, the answer is absolutely not!!!   On the other hand, a wee trip abroad to a wine-fair is good for the soul, and it's nice to chat and drink wines with other producers and with a different wine-loving public.

I`m juggling with these fairs:

- REAL Fair (London) in April
- RAW Fair (London) in May
- Villa Favorita in April (Italy)
- H2O Natural (Tarragona, Spain) in July
- others...

4. Beautifying the New Bodega

There's lots of work to de here! Even though we worked hard for three months or so this summer to get the bodega up to standard, there's still a lot that we can to to make it actually look nice. At the moment we've just done the basic minimum, legally required works and installations in order to get our permits and licenses.

Ideas include:
  • Making a vegetable garden so I can plant fresh veg!
  • Putting up some poles and wires so I can train so grape vines along them, to create shade and a nice spot to lounge under
  • Selling all the scrap metal we've found
  • Throwing out all the other rubbish and rubble we've found
  • ...other ideas!
Well, that's enough tasks and good intentions for now. Lets just see how it goes!

(photos pending! no time to seek them out dammit. Publish and be damned I say)


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Wrap-up Post for the Year 2013

(This is going to be my last post of the year - unless something really interesting happens between now and the 31st, that is)

Well, what can I say that is not too boring? I think maybe a quick summary of all the different wines I've made this year would be acceptable, followed by some humour :)

Or maybe I should subject you all to my Great Thoughts on the "State of the Wine World" or some such enlightened topic. Nah, maybe I'll spare you for the time being and do that next year! In the meantime you can just browse though my assorted comments and thoughts and ramblings on the 11 different whites and 5 different reds that I managed to make this year: That should be quite bearable :)

New wines of 2013:


Panoramic view of all my wines

Whites:

1. Airén 2013. From Carabaña, fermented in clay amphora

This is the wine I've been making for the longest time. Since 2003 in fact, though no bottles exist from that time as far as I know. The oldest bottle I have is from 2006. I really regret not keeping a few cases back from those days. But who could have known then that it would have been an interesting thing to do at that time? Such is life!

Anyway, at the time of writing this post (mid-December 2013), this wine is coming along really, really well, I'm glad to say (as I touch wood). It's got body, it's got complexity, and it's got its terroir. Sí, señor! This is normal and par for the course for this wine, but it's really quite extraordinary for an Airén from central Spain. Those of you who know me and who read my posts know that I'm not one to blow my own trumpet (or beat my own drum, as they say in Spain!), but after 10 years of positive feedback, I really have no qualms about saying how good this wine is! Even if I say so myself!  All the other 100% varietal Airén wines I've tasted are all wishy-washy insipid affairs that don't have anything to say. (Except for Samuel Cano's 'Patio' Airén, that is. From La Mancha.)

This year's Airén (2013) is slightly different from all my previous vintages, in that the harvest was really late. About 20-25 days late in general. In particular, I harvested this Airén from Carabaña on the 19th October. And that meant that it didn't have time to finish fermenting before the temperatures dropped too low for the yeast to work. I think!  When I taste it, I'm pretty sure there's some residual sugar in there, so I think the wine will continue to ferment in spring (2014) when the temperature rises again. This is a bit of a bore in one way, because I usually release this wine before Christmas. Apart from being good for my cash-flow (!) it's also a really fun and enjoyable experience to drink this year's wine in the depths of deepest darkest winter. It sort of brings light to life.

So, this year, I'm not releasing it 'officially' or promoting it or actively selling it yet, as it were, but if anyone asks or orders it from me on their own initiative, then I'll ship it.

2. Airén 2013. From Morata de Tajuña. Amphora

This is from a vineyard only about 10 km down the road from my own vineyard in Carabaña. I bought the grapes from a young grape-grower who cultivates them organically.

I made this wine in exactly the same way as I made the one above, from Carabaña, ie:

Grapes crushed manually (using a manual crusher), then pressed manually (using a basket press), and then I pumped the juice into these two large clay amphoras. And that's it! Nothing else! I didn't add anything, I didn't take anything out, and I didn't subject the grapes or must to any other processing whatsoever. C'est fini!  All I have to do now is wait for gravity and the cold of winter to do what they have to do, and then bottle up in January or February or March. Maybe it'll be slightly, naturally sparkling? Who knows? I hope so.


3. Albillo 2013. from El Tiemblo. Stainless Steel

The Albillo grapes came from a vineyard a few kilometers from the bodega in El Tiemblo, overlooking the reservoir known as El Charco del Cura. See this post. They were picked by the owner, Vicente (86) and his family, while I drove the van between the vineyard and bodega with the boxes.

This was my first time making Albillo, but it's not going to be the last! I'm really impressed with this grape, though I shouldn't have been surprise because I'd tasted a few Albillos from the area before (by Daniel Ramos, Alfredo Maestro, and others). This is an awesome grape variety that should be way up there with all the other famous and well-known grape varieties. I reckon this is yet another case of Spain (or Spaniards) not knowing how to market and sell their products. Which are of course just as good as the French and Italian equivalents. But hey, what can I do? I'm not an NGO, nor am I independently wealthy, so I can't go promoting Spanish quality products in general! What I CAN do is promote my OWN quality products, which is what I'm doing. It's a bit of a bore having to work with this negative perception that the world has of Spain and of Spanish products, but... this is where I live and work, so let's just get on with it, no?


4. Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Amphora

This is another first for me. I've never made a wine with Sauvignon Blanc before, but there's always a first time for everything, no?  So, just up the road from El Tiemblo, in Cebreros there's a 'finca' (an estate) that produces very good quality olives, honey, vegetables, and ... grapes. I had the opportunity to buy some of those grapes, and I did.

Two days soaking on the skins, then crushed, pressed and pumped into a clay amphora, and into a stainless steel tank. Just like the Airén, nothing added, nothing taken out, no unnecessary processing.

At the time of witing this post (mid-December) it's tasting very nicely. No cat-piss at all, though I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing! For tasting notes and considered opinions on these wines see Nacho Bueno's blog here (in Spanish) and also Mar Galvan's tasting notes here (pending).

5. Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Stainless Steel

Same as above.

6. Chelva 2013 (A). Stainless Steel

Now, this is by far the most interesting experiment I did this year. And I'm definitely going to be doing more of it next year. I did three experiments, but two of them were failures in the sense that the wines were not very pleaseant or interesting to drink or enjoy. But they were of course extremely useful to me, as a winemaker. The third experiment is quite drinkable and interesting, though I'm not going to 'release' it for sale. I will of course sell it and ship it to anyone who orders it. See here for some tasting notes and opinions that are not mine!

Personally, I quite like it, and if no-one else wants it I'll just use it as my own personal table-wine for the year!

7. Chelva 2013 (B). Stainless Steel

Horrible. Crap. Don't even try it it, unless you're a wine geek. It has lots of academic, vinous interest, but it's not the type of wine that you can sip and enjoy while flirting or just having a normal conversation, or while having lunch! It's even more extreme that the above Chelva (A). But don't get me wrong, it has no faults or defects, and is perfectly drinkable, it's just that it's rather ... unusual, or maybe 'green' is the word, I'm not sure what the descriptors are. Basically, IMO, this is because the grapes were picked earlier than the Chelva (B). See about half-way down this post.

Chelva (C). Stainless Steel. This third Chelva experiment, I'm not even going to dignify with an experiment number!


8. Malvar 2013 (A). Amphora


9. Malvar 2013 (B). Amphora


10. Malvar 2013 (C). Amphora

Malvar, Malvar and Malvar


These three white, skin-contact ('orange') wines should have been all the same, because they're made with the same grapes, from the same vineyard (Malvar from Villarejo), harvested on the same day, and processed in exactly the same way - grapes destemmed and crushed manually and everything (must, skins, pips) poured into three different clay amphorae. The only difference is in the size and shape of the amphorae. And maybe the composition of the clay? Or the linings?  Whatever. The fact is that the three wines taste slightly different. I don't know yet whether to keep them and sell them separately, or to blend them all together. Time and tastings will tell.

In any case, I'm not going to release them for at least a year. I believe that 'orange' wines improve over time and age well (at least mine do!). I still have a few hundred bottles from 2012, and they are tasting really well. The complexity and intensity of the aromas and tastes are amazing.

Now the reds:

I think I'll write about the reds some other time, because at this rate I won't have this post finished till next year! Just to say that I have these 4 reds this year:

11. Tempranillo (Carabaña). 
12. Tempranillo (El Tiemblo). 
13. Garnacha (Sotillo)
14. Garnacha (El Tiemblo)

So Merry Christmas, everybody.  For the holidays in general I recommend you drink the wine you like, and will enjoy, and try not to pay too much attention to all these recommendations that ar in our faces everywhere :)


Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Wee Anecdote En Primeur

I was at the Le Petit Bistrot the other week for the Beaujolais Nouveau night:

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé
By the way, as I've mentioned several times in the past already, Le Petit Bistrot is the ONLY bar in all of Madrid that sells exclusively natural wines (ie, wines that do not contain added ingredients, like colourants, thickening agents, sulfites, additives, preservatives, etc), a fact that never ceases to amaze and embarrass me as Madrid is the capital city of one of the biggest wine-producing countries in the world. But my primary reason for going, apart from quaffing some nice Beaujolais, was to meet a distributor who was interested in carrying my wines. So what better place to meet than Madrid's only natural winebar!

By the other way, apart from the 2013, there were also some wines by the same producer from previous years. Not carbonic maceration, but 'normal' fermentation:

More Beaujolais, but not nouveau
 And here's a pic of Carlos, the owner of the bistrot, who is French, despite the Spanish name:

Le Owneur de le Petit Bistrot
I thought that the name producer of the Beaujolais Nouveau wine in question was "Justine Titegoutte", (because that's what it says on the front label!) but it turns out that this is just French humour. Check out the Wikipedia article (here) or other sites of your choice. The idea is to fit a name before the surname 'Titegoutte' and make a play on words, or double-entendre. For example, the case in point: Justine Titegoutte doubles as "Juste un 'tite goute" (ie  'Just a wee drop") geddit?  I thought we British were the only ones to do that kind of terrible punning :)  

So, I didn't take a photo of the back-label cos I thought at the time that Justine Titegoutte really was the name of the producer! You'll have to contact Carlos at the 'titebistrot if you want to know!

Anyway, here's the lineup of my whites of 2013 that I brought along for this distributor to taste:

Airén 2013       Chelva 2013       Malvar 2013       Albillo 2013       Sauvignon Blanc 2013








Each one a slightly different shade of yellow-orange. The only one that really is an 'orange' wine, ie white-grape extended skin contact, is the Malvar; the others are normal whites with no skin contact, believe it or not!

They are all of course extremely young, the grapes having been harvested and processed in August (for the Albillo) and at different dates during September for the rest. So they haven't really settled and clarified themselves yet.

As you can see, I don't have proper labels yet, but I should have some soon. An artist, Jane Frere, from Inverness (Scotland) is working on them, and the artwork should be finished by new year.

Those are not all the white wines that I made this year, but I thought it would be excessive if I brought too many!  I really went over the top this year I think, because I actually have all these:  (11 different white wines from 2013)

Two (2) Airén (one from Carabaña, one from Morata de Tajuña)
Three (3) Chelva (all from El Tiemblo, but two different vineyards)
Three (3) Malvar (all from the same vineyard in Villarejo, but in three different amphorae, and so they all taste different! Go figure!)
Only one (1) Albillo (from El Tiemblo)
Two (2) Sauvignon Blanc (from the same vineyard in Cebreros, but one lot in clay amphora and one in stainless steel)

Assorted containers full of 17 different wines!

Well, I won't bore you all with the tasting notes, and I'll just say that the distributor liked them a lot and actually placed an order for some of them! So, I was very pleased indeed!  This is the time of year when we small artisan producers have to start promoting and selling our wines, as the harvesting and fermenting is finished, and there are no urgent tasks to do till after new year, when one can start thinking about pruning! So, good news! 

The interesting  (weird, even) thing about this meeting/tasting was that "this distributor" insisted on total discretion and confidentiality!!! ie, I'm not allowed to tell anyone his name or what wines he bought or how many of them. I'm still kind of puzzled at this. Also, he offered to buy "en primeur", ie he's going to pay me now and take the wines whenever I decide to release them, the only condition being that the price he pays now has to be less than the price I set when I release them. I don't know what to think any more!  The only occasions  when I've heard of this 'en primeur' business has been in relation to scandals and marketing media-circuses in Bordeaux and in Burgundy etc. And now it turns out that I'm doing it too! On a much much smaller scale obviously :)  But, dammit, now I'm going to have to start thinking seriously about all this!!!

PS. The reds that I made this year are another story, which I'll save for another post!




Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Two Days of Pouring Wine in the Italian Consulate (Madrid)

Well, that's not how I usually spend my weekends, but a change is as good as a rest they say, and I needed a rest! I haven't actually had time to stop and rest or think, since June: for three months - June, July and August - I was cleaning, scraping, painting and generally preparing my new winery in El Tiemblo (see several previous posts staring from this one) and then in September and October, it was non-stop harvesting and processing of grapes (see all these previous posts starting from this one)

So now that the harvesting and the intense part of the grape/must/wine/processing is done, we small artisan winemakers have to turn our minds to actually promoting and selling the wines that we've produced!

So, enter the 'Mercatino di Natale'. This is an annual market organized by the S.I.B. (Società Italiana di Beneficienza), a non-profit organization that does charity work here in Spain. Italian producers living and working in Madrid are invited to sell their products and to donate 30% of the takings to the SIB.

The event was held in the Italian Consulate, a beautiful 19th century palace in the centre of Madrid:





Italian Consulate in Madrid(photo from Wikipedia.it)
It's right next to the Italian Primary and Secondary Public School, also quite an impressive building, which it used to be a pharmaceuticals factory (Instituto Farmacologico Latino, S.A.) that manufactured condoms, among other things, until it went bankrupt back in the 1970's.








Check out these 2 photos (then and now!):

Then. This must be from the 70's or 80's, judging from the cars and the sign over the gates
(Photo from http://azpressnews.blogspot.com.es)

Now. Not much has changed
(Photo from http://www.cadenaser.com)

Anyway, I thought this would be a great opportunity to sell lots of wine, so I signed up.

Here I am at my table with my wines and leaflets:






Here's a view from my table towards the grand staircase:



This is the ground floor where all the producers of food products were located. Including Negrini, an importer (into Spain) of quality Italian products, Fior d'Italia, a producer of fresh pastas, sauces and ready-to-eat dishes, based here in Madrid, and Quadra Panis, a producer of fresh bread, among others.

And here's the view from the grand staircase - my table is hidden away at the very back on the left.




And here's my tri-lingual "I´ll be back" sign, specially had-crafted for this event :)


I'll Be Back
I'll Be Back

This is the first floor, where all the fashion producers were (clothes and jewellery and accessories, etc):



The 'fashion' floor
So, did I sell a lot of wine? Nope! Only 22 bottles over three days!!! (2 on Friday evening, 8 on Saturday, and 12 on Sunday)  Why? Well here's some theories:

1. My basic, minimalist, natural, homely style of presentation (of the table, leaflets, biz cards, labels, bottles, etc) doesn't make a good impression on Italians, who perhaps pay more attention and give greater importance to 'presentation' than other nationalities. Instead of conveying positive things (like 'artisan', 'homemade', 'quality', 'not mass-produced or industrial') it conveys negative qualities (like 'shoddy', 'unprofessional', 'lacking in resources', etc)  I dunno, just ruminating here.

2. Maybe wine was not a good product to sell at this event.

3. Location, location, location! Maybe being stuck in a corner didn't help!

But on the other hand, I did meet a lot of interesting people and made some interesting contacts. The highlight of the weekend for me was when the Italian Ambassador in Spain and his wife came to taste my wines! No kidding!  It was like this. I was wandering around upstairs (having placed my "I'll be back" sign on my table), when I spotted my friend Fernanda, who works for the SIB and who was one of the main organizers of the event. I know her quite well as we have coffee every morning in Non Solo Caffé, so I just walked up and butted into her conversation with a "Hi, how's it going?" at which point she introduced me to the Italian Ambassador. I managed to keep calm and not stutter or dribble in the presence of such an important personage and we had a brief chat during which I invited him to come down and taste some wine, if he had time, and then I made my excuses and left them to carry on with their conversation. Well, I wasn't expecting him to really come - you know what these diplomats are like - very diplomatic among other things! - but he did!!! Later that afternoon he appeared all of a sudden with his wife and they tasted through all three of the wines I had brought, all the while chatting about wine, and where we were from in Italy, and being foreigners in Spain, etc, and he said he'd come out to my bodega in El Tiemblo one day. Then he was spotted by one of his staff who came up, whispered in his ear and took him off somewhere else.


So that's the second ambassador I've met in my life. The other one was the Spanish ambassador to Lithuania. Don't ask!


And lastly, here's a pic of my daughter (8) and her pals at her table, hawking their wares (necklaces, bracelets, etc). They spent all day Saturday there (from 10:00 till 21:00), and not only did they have a great time, but they managed to raise over €50 all of which they donated to charity (about the same amount that I raised over three days!).









 
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