It’s about this time of year that Europe’s wine fairs get well underway. There’s Millésime BIO, an organic wine fair in Montpellier at the end of January; the huge Vinexpo event in Paris in mid-February; and Prowein, the grand-daddy of them all, in Dusseldorf in mid-March. With all those international events, it can be quite an expensive time for Spanish bodegas. So, it’s no surprise that in recent years lower key, less theatrical events have popped up to offer bodegas more affordable ways of showcasing their wares.
Barcelona Wine Week (BWW) is the new kid on the block; a fairly glitzy affair which elbowed its way into a crowded calendar back in 2020. It offers a packed programme of (Spanish only) producers plus a sumptuous sideshow of wine-related talks and catas (tastings) to boost everyone’s wine education.
The third edition of the BWW took place this week, and the Simply Spanish Wine Team – ie Ben and I – have been regular attendees from the get-go. With tempting new rail bargains on the Madrid to Barcelona route, a day out in the Catalan capital is practically cheaper than staying at home and it’s a perfect way to sniff out and line up new wines for the SSW list.
This year we cast our net pretty widely geographically speaking.
First up we looked east to the Valencian coast and the little pocket of winemaking country around the comarca of Marina Alta. You’re just a short drive inland from the tourist haunts of Dénia, Javea and Calpe, but this is an area steeped in winemaking history with cracking white Moscatels and lesser-known but enticing native grape varieties like Giró to discover. The climate of course is decidedly Mediterranean, but despite – perhaps because of? – the heat and sunshine, there are plenty of forward-thinking winemakers demonstrating that with careful handling it’s possible to avoid over-ripe fruit and make wines, reds and whites, with plenty of subtlety and freshness.
A shortish hop inland and we crossed Yecla and are into Jumilla, home to the red Monastrell grape which traditionally suffered from an unfortunate reputation for producing high alcohol red wines with lots of untamed tannins. As elsewhere on the Spanish wine map, we’re happy to report that situation is changing rapidly for the better, and certainly now in the higher northern reaches of the DO we’ve discovered some brilliant new winemakers coaxing the very best out of some very old vineyards. More on all that soon, so watch this space.
Finally, without leaving Barcelona we pointed our noses south west and whizzed 500km across Andalucía to the Marco de Jerez. Packed with historic sherry houses, brilliant white albariza soil and a wine language and culture all of its own, it’s one of our favourite winemaking regions in Spain and high up on our list of priorities for new wines for the list (see our article on the world of Sherry). We spent a hugely educational 90 minutes with two of the leading lights from the region who are combining all of that vino generoso tradition and know-how with a curiosity for the new. And don’t forget the so-called vinos de pasto or unfortified table wines from the region which are enjoying a well-deserved revival and work brilliantly with all types of rice dishes and seafood.
We finished off our packed day at the BWW with more wine chit-chat and exploration: Chardonnays from Somontano, mouth-wateringly rustic Rufete from the Sierra de Francia on the way to Portugal, and innovative new producers from Valdeorras and Rías Baixas in Galicia.
All in all, an exhausting but brilliant wine day out. Watch this space as we bring new wines on stream in the coming weeks and months.