The wine event organized as part of Madrid Fusión Alimentos de España highlights the depth and variety of the country's wines through surprising tastings and interesting roundtable discussions.
This year's The Wine Edition Wines from Spain was focused on "discovery." Something is shaking up the Spanish wine sector, and this event, sponsored by Food & Wines from Spain, sought to travel off the beaten path to look at wines that don’t fit the standard or traditional prototype. The inaugural presentation, entitled Restoring the Mountainside, was a reflection of that. Fernando Mora, Master of Wine and head of Bodegas Frontonio in Aragón; Ricard Rofes, from Valldencomte, in Priorat; Roberto Santana and Alfonso Torrente, from the Envínate project in the Canary Islands; and winemaker Telmo Rodríguez spoke at length about recovering areas where there may be high quality vineyards, but which have been ignored. "In the Canary Islands, vineyards continue to be abandoned," explained Santana, who underlined the value of those "smaller production areas, which are more difficult to access." Telmo Rodríguez, one of Spain's great winemakers, explained that, in Valdeorras he has found "some of the best vineyards in the world,” which shows that Spain "is a country of great wines and with great potential." Ricard Rofes explained how his recovery of vineyards in Montsant allowed him to raise the profile of those wine growing areas which hadn't been used for more than 30 years because previously mules had been used. "My idea was enable locals to feel pride in the area once again."
This same eagerness for discovery was present in the presentation dedicated to wines from La Raya, the area bordering Spain and Portugal. Pedro Ballesteros, Spanish Master of Wine, defined them as wines that "speak of history; we're in an area where, currently, some of the best wines on the Ibérico Peninsula and the world are produced." "Having our own varieties is really an enormous advantage compared with New World countries," he said.
A breath of fresh air: natural wines and the sherry revolution
This open-mindedness also characterized the roundtable discussion on natural wines, moderated by American author Matt Goulding, who is based in Barcelona. Other participants included Santiago Lastra and Anthony Gopal (chef and sommelier, respectively, of Kol restaurant in London, with a Michelin star), Rafael Peña (Gresca restaurant in Barcelona), and Daniel Ochoa (Montia restaurant in El Escorial, Madrid, with a Michelin star). Ochoa, who makes his own natural wines at the restaurant and only works with this type of wine, explained how "the supposed errors that many notice in them" allow him to "balance out some of the dishes" he serves. Peña also pointed out that the "main challenge in the sale of natural wines in restaurants is often the sommelier."
The silent revolutions in DOs as old as Jerez also accounted for a large part of the activities. As part of this new focus on wines from southern Spain, winemaker Willy Pérez and viticulturist Ramiro Ibáñez talked about their projects to recover old vineyards and former winemaking techniques, looking for fine terroir wines with short biological aging that focus on the vineyard. This same obsession with terroir in an area that has always highlighted the winery more than the grape inspired the project that prestigious winemaker Peter Sisseck—the father of Pingus—started in Jerez. In his case, this project is motivated by the desire to enter a DO that represents "the greatness of Spanish wine." His love for sherry is clear: "It's the best, and most original, white wine in Spain." The focus on wine from the South concluded with a tasting of singular wines paired with artisan cheeses and an overview of wines from one of the most legendary wineries in Jerez, González Byass, producer of Tío Pepe. It was organized by Corral de la Morería restaurant in Madrid, which may very well have the largest sherry wine cellar in the world.
Analyzing dining room service and pairings with top-flight products
Dining room service and food pairings at restaurants were also an important focus of many of the presentations. Mohamed Benabdallah, sommelier at Etxebarri (Axpe, Bizkaia), with a Michelin star and considered among the best in the world, presented different pairing options for meat dishes, an approach that highlighted great wines such as Bufadors Vinya del Rascarà 2014, a Xarel.lo from the Corpinnat association, and a Valbuena 2017 from the legendary Vega Sicilia winery: from sparkling to red wine. The role of the sommelier was also discussed by José Antonio Navarrete (Quique Dacosta Restaurant, three Michelin stars, in Denia, Alicante), Ferran Centelles (former sommelier at elBulli), and Annegret Kühnert (restaurant manager at Noma, three Michelin stars, in Copenhagen) in a passionate presentation. Complex (and controversial) issues such as the length of the pairings, the greater or lesser informality of the sommelier with respect to the customer, and new ways of serving diners were some of the most important topics.
Could wine and dessert pairings be the big next thing? With an increasing number of restaurants offering exciting pairings, The Wine Edition Wines from Spain set out to explore the connections between desserts and Spanish wine. Ferran Centelles, Albert Adrià, Jordi Butrón (chef at Espaisucre in Barcelona) and Fátima Gismero (Best New Pastry Chef at Madrid Fusion 2021), took part in a fun tasting in which Centelles chose wines to pair with extremely memorable desserts. It was an opportunity to discover sweet wines "beyond those from Jerez and the Canary Islands, areas from which we did not include any," said Centelles. Fondillón from Alicante and an ice wine from Manchuela DO were served, as well more unusual options such as a golden wine from the Rueda DO and a supurao from Rioja DO, made from raisened grapes. The feeling for attendees was, once again, one of discovery of the enormous variety of sweet wines available in Spain. “It is often said that the perfect dessert is a sweet wine," Albert Adriá said at one point. That just about sums it up. In another memorable session, Sarah Jane Evans, Master of Wine, had previously demonstrated how chocolate and wine can go together beautifully, "as long as it's not red," she clarified. For her pairing, she proposed a Basque cider and txakoli, an orange wine from Valencia, and a sweet red wine from Málaga.
Sweet combinations aside, those interested in pairing with premium products attended a true masterclass on pairing by truffle producer Javier Acedo, and Raúl Igual, sommelier at Yaín restaurant, in Teruel. While Acedo outlined the different types of truffles found in Spain, Igual proposed a pairing for each of them, taking into account the earthy character, acidity, and intensity of the wine.
The 2nd Wine Edition has made it clear that Spain's wine repertoire is very extensive and that there are a lot of places to highlight beyond the best-known DOs, such as Rioja and Cava. "This is possibly the most beautiful tasting for the public that I have ever done in my life," explained Andreas Kubach, Master of Wine, in his talk about villages as the expressive core of all great wines' beginnings. The same emotion—and many smiles—were seen during this 3-day event on the faces of Ferrán Centelles, Peter Sisseck, Telmo Rodríguez, and Albert Adriá, as well as on those of the attendees, as it was one of those editions that leaves a lasting impression.
Author: Javier Sánchez/@ICEX