8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Friday, April 26, 2013

I recently sat down for lunch at Boulud Sud with Victor De La Serna, wine critic for El Mundo Vino, one of Spain’s most acclaimed wine columns. With extensive years of journalism experience, Victor comes from a school of thought where the news is always first and the journalist, second — his job is to interpret and inform from a singular and informative vision. So, how does one approach lunch with an individual of such conviction? I quickly put my nerves aside and let the conversation flow. Also, I’ve learned that food and wine are the best icebreakers around.

At first, we discussed the current popularity of Spanish wines in New York City. As a wine professional, I sometimes feel the burden of dissecting the misconceptions and antiquated ideas that some New Yorkers have regarding Spanish wines. Just a few years back, Spanish wines were relegated to the bottom shelves of many prominent city wine shops. That has completely changed — now wines from Spain compete head-to-head with bottles from more well-known wine-producing countries. The influx of Spanish restaurants from regions such as Catalunya, Pais Vasco and Andalusia have also helped carve a niche for these wines in the palates of discriminating New Yorkers. Victor and I agreed that Spain is having its cultural and culinary ‘moment’ in New York. For him, it’s rewarding to find a diverse selection of Spanish wines here, wines from small producers that showcase terroir, tradition and most importantly, honesty — from up and coming Denominación de Origen (DO) wines such as Manchuela, Ribeira Sacra and Terra Alta to the all-mighty La Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Witnessing this movement with his own eyes and palate seems to excite Victor; for me, it fuels the need to continue educating the public about the intricate and honest labor that many Spanish wine producers put into their wines. A great wine is made with effort, but most importantly, it’s made with passion and love for the craft.

By the time our main courses arrived, talking to Victor was like talking to an old friend. I enjoyed listening to Victor outline the origins of Spain’s indigenous varietals, Monastrell and Garnacha, and narrate stories behind Spain’s historical and traditional wine regions, Rioja and Andalusia. He also recounted a recent vertical tasting at Bodega De Marqués de Riscal, Rioja’s oldest and most historic winery. Behind the closed quarters of Riscal, he said, is a rich tradition dating back to 1862 when the winery was founded by El Marqués de Riscal, who had just returned from exile in Bordeaux. Riscal’s first cellarmaster was a Frenchman named Jean Pineau from Château Lanessan. More than a century later, that Bordeaux influence continues to play a significant role in Riscal’s identity; Cabernet Sauvignon (a foreign varietal in Rioja) became the backbone for Riscal’s wines, giving them longevity and Bordeaux-like authenticity. After the history lesson, Victor described savoring some of the world’s oldest and rare wines, few of which are available to mere mortals.

I highly respect Victor and his team of El MundoVino for the work they do in educating and informing the public about the ever-evolving Spanish wine world. They are professionals who live and practice journalism the old-fashioned way, without pretense or a celebrity complex. At the end of our meal we asked for espressos and ended our conversation talking about my favorite subject, champagne.

I’m looking forward to Victor’s next visit to New York. Perhaps then, we’ll be discussing new facets of Spain’s food and wine culture as it continues to be interpreted by chefs, wine merchants and sommeliers all over the city. Thank you, Victor!

- Oscar Garcia


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