By Regina Winkle-Bryan
Are young people in Barcelona, or young Spaniards in general, interested in wine? It seems like they are more interested in beer.
“Wine is ubiquitous in Spain, and therefore it’s often not appreciated, in much the same way you might overlook the beauty of your hometown. It’s not until someone comes to visit you, that you open your eyes and suddenly “see” what is exciting. Here, simple quaffable wine is served at many meals; parents pouring cheap plonk into glass tumblers. As children, people saw wine as a beverage, not a special drink, and definitely not something worth exploring. Until this changes and people demand something “different”, “unique”, flavorful, the status quo remains. Beer (and the craft beer movement in Spain), just might be the catalyst to help people jump from Don Simon (boxed wines) to higher quality drinks.”
Is there any difference between what young wine drinkers go for and what older wine drinkers buy?
“Yes. But it depends on their ages. Kalimotxo and Tinta de Verano are ubiquitous in Spain. The former, red wine blended with coca cola, and the latter with a 7up like beverage called Gaseosa. These are everywhere, and in truth, can be great summer quaffs. We don’t think this is a young versus old issue, however, it has a lot more to do with class. Spain is a not a “wine country” it’s a country that produces wine, yes. But it’s a small group that seek out special wines, or wines from abroad to experiment with. There is a new wave of wine drinkers, sure, but it’s not very easy to define.”
What are some of your preferred bars in Barcelona to drink wine?
“La Vinya del Señor is by far one of our favorite wine bars, with a sizable and diverse list of wines. Plus, it’s tourist friendly, located in the heart of the city and has a fab ambiance – especially in the summer. However, it’s typically standing room only which can be annoying for some.”
Back in the day every bar had its own wine barrel and served and sold its own house wine. Do you know anything about this and why it was stopped?
To be honest, this tradition hasn’t stopped. You can still find wine a granel across Spain, but it would require you to get out of the touristy areas. Many barrios have small wine shops that have vermouth and various wines in barrel, as do the majority of towns outside of main city centers. Simply enter the shop with a container of any size and you can “fill ‘er up”, sometimes even with gas pump like nozzles. When we are in small towns we always buy some vermouth considering each pueblo has its own blend and artisanal vermouths are amazing!”
How has wine changed in the last 10 years? The last 5 years? (In Barcelona)
I wouldn’t say it has changed a lot. To be honest most of the wine shops that were there then, are there now. Monvinic (a new bar in the Eixample) was a huge change, but isolated, in that they served a wide range of international wines. But as a whole, the wine scene is very similar to before. Restaurants are still not very adventurous unless you are talking about the higher end places, and even these places tend to focus on the traditional more than the artisanal. Moritz’s Bar a Vins is a cool place, and a great addition, and could be a sign of changes to come. But for the 8 years we were in BCN we didn’t see major shifts.”
When it comes to wine tourism in Spain, my experience has been that this is not Napa. It can be hard to find a cellar with a tour and tasting set up for visitors. How is this changing or how has it changed already?
You are absolutely correct that Spain is not Napa, in large part because they don’t collaborate. The US culture understands that without collaboration, you cannot sell wine. In order to attract consumers, you need to ensure that they have everything catered to them, from convenient shop hours to joint events in your region. A winery needs to promote its region as a whole, not just its wine, and this requires teamwork. In order to succeed, you must work with your neighbors, hand-in-hand, to ensure consumer satisfaction. Spain fears that level of collaboration, terrified that someone might “steal” their business. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The more you guard yourself from others, the more hurdles are created, and the less opportunities consumers have to buy from you.”
How are Spanish winemakers and wine bars collaborating with chefs and helping to promote Spanish / Catalan cuisine?
At the celebrity end of the spectrum you see collaborations with chefs and winemakers to promote Spanish/Catalan cuisine, but in Barcelona we don’t see a lot of this. The Catalans are convinced by their wines and foods! As are the Spanish. So there is not a lot to promote internally.”
Any wine tours near or in Barcelona you recommend?
Absolutely! There are loads of wine tours available, ranging from biking through the slate vineyards of the Priorat to customized cooking and wine courses. Barcelona does not lack in options, it’s merely a question of what you’re specifically looking for. Catavino works with several trusted tour companies to create customized tours specific to wine and food lovers. Happy to provide links if you desire.
Anything else you think we should know about the Barcelona or Spanish wine scene?
“We hate to emphasize the same point, but Spain is not a wine country, it’s a country with wine. Which means most people here don’t put wine on a pedestal. It’s a beverage with dinner. Ryan used to say “In America people pick up a bottle and debate what to serve with it. Here in Spain people sit down to dinner and say ‘Where’s the wine’”. That said, there is no shortage of wines and foods to explore, but in large part, we highly suggest jumping into a car and getting out there to find those nooks and crannies of the country. There are many wines and styles that never make the pages of international wine magazines but are amazing nonetheless: Sherry is more than a cocktail mixer; Fondillon, once the world’s greatest wine back in the 1800’s; Rancio, Mistella, Vermouth, and then not to mention all the grapes. So much more than just Tempranillo.”
Where do you go when you want to drink a good Catalan wine?
Honestly, home We love to cook, so we tend to break open bottles we want to explore with meals we want to cook. And if we’re lucky, our experience is always shared among friends. Though if you are a visitor to Barcelona, currently we recommend Bar a Vins by Moritz. They have a focus on Catalan and it’s just a super cool place to hang out.”
Want more on tours, tips, and wine trivia? Visit Gabriella and Ryan Opaz’s site, CataVino, HERE.
About Ryan Opaz: Born in Minnesota, Ryan is the co-founder of Catavino.net, Catavino Marketing, Wineblogger.info and the European Wine Bloggers Conference. He also consults on the AVIN project and the social tasting note site Adegga.com Although a chef at heart, Ryan’s time is spent giving workshops and speeches internationally on social media and blogging for wineries.
About Gabriella Opaz: Born and bred in Chicago, IL, Gabriella is the co-founder of Catavino.net, Catavino Marketing, Wineblogger.info and the European Wine Bloggers Conference. Considered the “Little Engine that Could”, Gabriella is the motor behind Catavino’s projects, giving them life and fruition. Member of the Wine Century Club & the Circle of Wine Writers, a Certified Sherry Educator, Editor for Palate Press, Judge at Essencia do Vinho (2008,2009) and Bacchus (2010) and a post graduate of UMN with a Masters in Education.