This June, wine professionals across the UK gathered at The Landmark London Hotel for a very special evening celebrating wines from Spain.
This year’s edition of the annual Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino Investiture Dinner brought together more than 220 people who promote Spanish wines in the United Kingdom – from wine merchants, producers, and importers and exporters to journalists, educators, broadcasters and more – for a gala dinner to celebrate the three newest members of the Gran Orden as they were inaugurated into the historic organisation.
Since its inception, the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino has recognised those who have contributed greatly to – and been passionate about – promoting the quality and diversity of Spanish wines in the UK, and as such the dinner to celebrate the latest new members is always one of the most anticipated events on the calendar for members of the food and wine industry in the UK.
As you’d expect, the evening’s action revolved around spectacular food and wine. Invited guests were treated to some superb dishes by Executive Chef Gary Klaner, alongside a curated selection of wines – from sparkling and white to rosé, red and fortified – paired with each course.
The chance to celebrate was one taken to heart by Elisa Carbonell, Director General of ICEX, and Álvaro Nadal, Head of the Spanish Economic & Commercial Office. Both Elisa and Álvaro had the chance to give their thoughts on the state of play of Spanish wines both at home and abroad to an audience of like-minded wine professionals, and to congratulate the three new members for the work that has led them to be recognised with such a prestigious honour.
This year’s new Caballeros were revealed to be Jo Ahearne MW, an experienced winemaker, consultant and buyer who specialises in Spanish wines; Ferran Centelles, previous head sommelier at El Bulli, now a writer and researcher working with the elBullifoundation and Jancis Robinson; and Jesús de Madrazo Mateo, a fifth-generation winemaker and previous technical director at the influential Viñedos del Contino group and the founder and winemaker of Jesus Madrazo Wines.
Jo Ahearne MW
Born and raised in London, Jo Ahearne began her career at wine merchant Oddbins, before realising her dream of working at the heart of the winemaking process in Australia with Charles Melton. After completing her Oenology degree, she began a distinguished career as a flying winemaker across many short-term and esteemed projects across Spain in the 1990s, from Extremadura and La Mancha to Navarra and Jumilla and living life as an adopted Spaniard, before returning to Australia for another 11 years. Jo returned to the UK to work as a winemaker and consultant for Marks & Spencer, working across Spanish, South American, French and Italian wines, and then as Head Wine Buyer for Harrods. A variety of consultancy roles in Spain, France, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia followed, before the allure of Spain’s wines proved too strong to resist and she moved to Boutinot, where she now works as a buyer for Spain. Jo completed her Master of Wine qualification in 2008.
Ferran Centelles is an influential sommelier, who has been working at the upper echelon of Spanish and international gastronomy for decades. As a teenager, Ferran became interested in food and restaurants, before going on to study hospitality at a young age, but quickly found his natural place in front-of-house and wine service. Soon after, he began to learn his trade at a restaurant of towering influence, ElBulli in Barcelona. Under the tutelage of Eloy and Juli Soler, Ferran began learning about the world of wine at the very top level. Ferran has since gone on to make a career as a wine writer and educator with both the elBullifoundation and Jancis Robinson, and aside from Eloy and Juli, counts both Jancis and Ferran Adrià as the biggest influences on a career that has been spent working closely with Spanish winemakers and importers, introducing Spanish wines to a generation eager to taste and discover them.
Jesús de Madrazo Mateo
Born into a winemaking dynasty, Jesús is a descendant of one of the founding families of one of Rioja’s most famous wineries, CVNE group. Having gained a degree in winemaking and viticulture in Spain in 1992, he held positions as winemaker, senior agricultural engineer and technical director at that same winery. Much of his career has focused on continuing the work of his father, José Angel, who founded Spain’s first single-estate winery, Viñedos del Contino. With 30 harvests under his belt, Jesús has been actively involved in exporting high-quality wines to the UK since 1999 and has become a much-loved titan of Spanish-English wine relations. In 2019 he launched his own project, Jesús Madrazo Wines, producing a range of styles of wine in Ribera del Duero and Rioja.
The three new Caballeros join one of the most influential and respected organisations in the Spanish wine industry, and also act as an inspiration to the next generation of professionals passionate about carving new ground in Spanish wines in the UK.
For more information about the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino or this year’s Investiture Dinner, please contact the UK office of Foods & Wines from Spain: firstname.lastname@example.org