GMW Takes Five With Rafa Salazar

GMW Takes Five With Rafa Salazar

Rafa spanish wine week green man wines wine blogThis year’s Spanish Wine Week is somewhat different, not to mention the fact that it is on in October having been postponed from its usual week in April. No in-store paella and wine tastings for us this year. But at Green Man we will continue to celebrate with lots of new and interesting wines found and imported by Vinostito, one of our main wine suppliers and certainly our largest Spanish supplier. Many of you may know charismatic Rafa, co-founder of Vinostito, from those wonderful, if distant annual Spanish wine tastings or perhaps you have spoken to him at our Christmas Wine Fair..

Here, we sit down with Rafa, our Spanish wine expert and good friend, to discuss the latest happenings in the Spanish Wine Scene.

Oddbins Dublin, the very best training ground!

Rafa from Cadiz in Andalucía, moved to Ireland in 2001 and despite having a law degree, decided to pursue his real passion – wine. And who gave him his first job opportunity? None other than our very own – David Gallagher at Oddbins! In 2007, he joined Antonio Lorente in Vinostito and together they went in search of new and exciting wines that they could bring back to Ireland. First in Spain and then their search expanded into Europe and now globally.

15 years later, they have created a portfolio of highly desirable wines. “Our search has been first and foremost for good wine and people we believe we could build a long term relationship with. Trust and a good connection with our winemakers are crucial to us”. This was obvious earlier this year when winemaker legends such as Rafael Palacios, one of the leading white wine producers in Spain, Peter Sisseck of Pingus, Thomas Pico from Chablis and visionary winemaker Raúl Perez to name a few, came to pour their wines at Vinostito’s portfolio tasting event at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Favourite Wine Style

For Rafa his favourite wine is his native sherry. Sanlúcar sherry was his first drink and he “has an emotional attachment to it, its smell alone conjures up great memories’. Sherry is a growing market in Ireland and Rafa is very proud to have 3 sherry producers in the Vinostito portfolio. “Sherry is now seen as a wine in Ireland, served in a proper wine glass (no longer poured into a tiny glass) and presented in many restaurants as a food and wine pairing”.

Rewriting the Spanish Wine Map

Spain is having a renaissance right now, although big names and Rioja will continue to dominate the Irish market, there has been many new/old grape varieties coming out of Spain from new and exciting regions. Jancis Robinson as co-author of The World Atlas of Wine, says she dreads the constant evolution of the Spanish wine map. But for Rafa, it is what has made operating in this space for the past few years so rewarding. “Our timing has been excellent, over the past few years I have witnessed the birth of new wine regions, such as Gredos near Madrid and the work Commando G is doing there, revving ancient Spanish vineyards. The fact that it is happening right now and we are part of it is very exciting”

Fashionable grapes /Spain’s old vines

In the past few decades there has been a massive shift in mentality towards farming and vinification in Spain. “30 years ago only Tempranillo was being planted in Spain. Everybody wanted to make Rioja cause Rioja was well liked and in demand”. But today there is a growing interest in regaining lost viticultural heritage. “As well as producing distinctive local wines, indigenous varieties tend to thrive in their native region. As such they can tolerate heat better than the international varieties, this is even more important given global warming. Spain is more comfortable with itself now”.

 The One to watch

Although hard to choose, the wine region Rafa is most excited about at the moment is Galicia in the northwest. Galicia boasts 5 main DOs – Monterrei, Rías Baixas, Ribeira Sacra, Ribeiro, and Valdeorras and its where you are most likely to find grape varieties such as Albariño, Menica and Godello.

Galicia Wine Region

Galicia Wine Region

“20 years ago you couldn’t find an Albariño on the shelves in Ireland, today its on every shelf and you can find 1 or even 2 on most wine lists in the country”. But the area to keep an eye on for Rafa, is Ribeiro – “it is less well know but the one with the most potential. A rising star if you will”.

Adventurous generation of Spanish winemakers

Of course all of this wouldn’t be possible without the rebels, the pioneer producers. “It is really all about the people – the well travelled, well qualified, ambitious winemakers who are not afraid to have a go, take risks in planting in new regions and recultivating almost forgotten local grape varieties. Producers such as Rafael Palacios and Telmo Rodriguez in Valdeorras , José Luis Mateo of Quinta de Muradella in Monterrei and  Raul Peréz in Bierzo”. It’s not just that these winemakers are producing good wines; many are making serious, terroir-driven, varietals that can stand up to Old World benchmark bottles. Top quality wines to be taken seriously.

Celebrating Spanish Wine Week

At the end of the week we are all looking for the same thing – a good bottle of wine to be enjoyed with friends and good food. “Although this week I will be sure to make it Spanish”.

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