Posted on February 10th, 2008
Below, my first in a series of interviews with wine people. This time out, I’m talking with Antonio Lorente of Spanish Wines
So, Antonio, what brought you to Ireland?
Well, I am from Madrid, Spain. Wine did not bring me to Ireland but rather the
friendly people and very active lifestyle. These are the things that I think
were brought me to Ireland.
Tell me about Spanish wine. Up to now we haven’t seen a whole lot of it here. We’re probably most familiar with Rioja and more recently, Ribera del Duero, what else is out there?
Yes I can see mostly wine from Rioja and Ribera here in Ireland. This is mainly what made me think, “let’s offer something a bit different”.
Tell me, what’s different about Spanish wine? What’s worth trying?
I think Spanish wines in general are “extrovert” wines, with a lot of character, expression and very elegant. I think that these days Spain is doing more modern wines than in the past and we don’t mind experimenting. Maybe Italy is more classic these days than Spain. Also, I think you have to spend a bit more money in France to get a good wine than in Spain.
There are around 100 DO (Denominaciones de Origen - official wine regions) in Spain and every year appears a few more. However, there are also winemakers that prefer stay outside a DO to keep their own style. It is very exciting what is happening in areas like Bierzo, Valdeorras, Jumilla, Somontano, Toro. And inside the traditional DO there are a lot of wineries doing new things too.
Sometimes is difficult to sell whites from Spain but this is something that is changing as there are fantastic wines and local grapes like Albarino from Rias Baixas or the Godello from the same area.
Close by, areas like Bierzo or Valdeorras are excellent. Rueda is an excellent area to have a look into, they have also a local grape called Verdejo, very fruity and with good minerality. It is a grape with a fantastic expression.
There are more and more independent off-licenses and wine shops opening in Ireland. I think there is a little bit of a revolution as it is not as difficult to to get a license to sell wine these days and there are more and more wine shops that emphasise the “binomio” of food and wine.
This is the list of some of the Denominaciones de Origen and wineries I bring wine in from:
- DO Somontano, Bodegas Pirineos
- DO Rioja, Bodegas Baigorri
- DO Bierzo, Bodegas y Vinedos Gancedo
- DO Rueda, Bodegas Monsalve
- DO Toro, Bodegas Carmen Rodriguez Mendez
- DO Ribera Del Duero, Bodegas Hijos Ds Antonio Polo
- DO Rias Baixas, Adegas Castrobrey
- DO Priorat, Bodegas Cesca Vicent
You can see a description of the regions and the wineries on my Spanish Wines website
Tell me about Xestal, a wine I bought recently and loved. It’s from Bierzo and made from a grape called Mencia. Is it comparable to any of the more “common grapes” that I’d be familiar with?
I think this wine is unique. The grape is from the Bierzo area and they don’t know exactly how it appeared there. It could be comparable to cabernet-franc but still quite unique. That aside, it’s from a very small winemaker, the annual production of Xestal is 8000 bottles and I can assure you the producer put all his effort and love to produce this bottle.
I was in the presentation at Fallon & Byrne of the World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and she did a winetasting with this wine and another 5 reds. Xestal was the less expensive and the one that she liked the most and also the one that most surprised her.
What about yourself, Antonio, what do you like to drink?
I like to try new wines all the time but I really like to drink wines from Priorat or Toro or the elegantly fruity ones from Ribera del Duero
In whites I love Verdejo from Rueda, Albarinio or Godello from the North of Spain. I really like the rose from Somontano
You mentioned your website, spanishwines.ie, tell me about that side of the business and the challenges you face in selling wine online rather than in a bricks and mortar shop
I think a blog is one way to interact with your customers. Also there is always a contact number in our website. We are always available and very happy to talk and recomend any of our wines to our customers.
On our site, I prefer to give a lot of information about the wine while keeping it clean and tidy so the customer don’t get lost. I need to give it more time but I am working on a blog for spanishwines.ie at the moment
Excellent, looking forward to seeing it. The website certainly is clean and tidy – well done on that front.
Thanks very much. It is great to have the oportunity to apper in your blog and keep the wine world alive and I think this is the way. Gracias y mucha salud y vino!