Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?
Most of my early wine experiences involve my grandad in Galicia. I would spend 6 weeks a year at my grandparents' house in a small village just outside of the Rias Baixas region called Pobra do Caraminal.
We had a daily ritual there. My grandma would stay home to prepare lunch and I would walk to the town centre with my grandad and my twin brother for drinks and tapas.
My grandad would always drink Albarino and sometimes let us have a sip. Even today, some 25-30 years later I will taste some Albarinos that immediately transport me back to those small wine bars with my grandad, watching him drink and argue with people about politics.
Also, Christmas was always a great early wine memory for me. My parents would always buy bottles of Faustino I for our Christmas dinner. Back in those days it was quite expensive and people didn’t often spend lots of wine so it was always a massive treat. Even today when I smell a bottle of Faustino I it takes me back to some great Christmas memories.
When and how did you realize Spanish wine is your thing?
I’ve always had an affinity for anything and everything Spanish. I loved the food, the wine, the football, the history and the laid back lifestyle even from a fairly early age. I was fascinated with The Spanish Civil war and The Republicans. My family in Galicia were deeply connected, particularly after the Civil War, so it was an area that intrigued me.
As I grew older I became fascinated with Spanish food; paella, calamari, octopus, croquettes, etc. My parents were a big part of that and we’d watch people like Keith Floyd and Rick Stein travel to Galicia and cook the local cuisine. To this day I don’t think we will find a better ‘celebrity’ chef than Keith Floyd! My nan in Spain and my mum were both amazing cooks so we regularly had home cooked Spanish meals with Spanish wine.
I’d always enjoyed the wine but as it was always such a natural part of any of our meals I’d never thought too much about it.
It wasn’t until I started my WSET studies a couple of years ago that the passion really took off. I’d grown up drinking Albarino during the year and Rioja at Christmas…that was essentially it! The WSET showed me how diverse and varied it was as a wine region and from then on I became obsessed with exploring as much as I could.
What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?
Discovery. I love discovering hidden gems and hearing winemakers’ stories.
I rarely take much notice to critics’ scores when reading about wines. They’re great as a guideline but wine is such a personal and subjective experience I prefer to consider other factors when looking for a new wine.
What resonates with me is learning about the winery, the vineyards, the winemaker, their story to becoming a winemaker, the local people that pick grapes at harvest time, the dog that lives on site!…essentially anything and everything that gives me an insight into who and what is involved during the winemaking process. All of these things are linked and have an impact into the final product.
Most underrated grape in Spain?
Godello. It is such a diverse grape and has the ability to produce wines with the structural finesse of a white Burgundy combined with the aromatic complexity of an Albarino.
If you’re yet to try Godello you’re seriously missing out!
What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?
It’s a difficult one. The natural wine scene has exploded in recent years, not just in London, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.
I do think people will continue to explore unknown grapes and regions as well as ancient wine making methods and low-intervention wines. Words like "pet-nat", "qvevri", "amphora" and "wild-ferment" are now common knowledge to even the most casual wine enthusiasts – which is a good thing.
I do also think that the more affordable iconic, traditional and old-school wineries will increase in popularity. Guys like Tondonia, Rinaldi, Chateau Musar, Emidio Pepe and some of the 2nd and 3rd wines from some of the top houses.
Wine drinkers are looking for a combination of a wine ‘experience’ and the ability to ‘flex’ on Instagram without needing a second mortgage – these sorts of wines fit those criteria perfectly.
In terms of regions, I think people should be looking out for still wines from England. There are some amazing producers around such as Ben Walgate from Tillingham, Jon Worontschak from Litmus and John Rowe at Westwell Wines. The weather has been kind in England in 2018 so fingers crossed it produces some amazing fruit.
What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?
I’m a sucker for a food and wine tasting experience…the more courses the better.
I love the way that wine and food interacts, for me the simpler the combination the better. It’s also the perfect excuse to eat and drink your body weight!
What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?
I’m currently reading “The Dirty Guide to Wine” from Alice Feiring which I’m really enjoying. It’s an area of wine that baffles me the most but she puts a great spin on it and I love the way she categorises the regions by soil type. It’s fascinating how wines from completely different regions in the world have similar soils and tasting characteristics despite being thousands of miles apart.
I also love “The New Vignerons” from Luis Gutierrez. He focuses on 14 key wineries/winemakers from around Spain to discuss their history, landscape and traditions and also ties them in with the typical food of the regions.
I’m not a huge podcast fan but I really enjoy the UK podcast “Interpreting Wine” from Lawrence Francis. He’s had some great guests on there from all over the wine world and it’s always relaxed and interesting conversations.
We’ll give you 3 Spanish actors/actresses. You tell us the wine they match with:
Javier Bardem – Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5o
Both often play a supporting role but frequently win awards for that performance. Lots going on with plenty of complexity which somehow combines into something elegant and though-provoking.
Penélope Cruz – Alavaro Palacios L’Ermita
Both leaders in their fields with the ability to inspire others. Natural beauty and class…subtle but powerful.
Antonio Banderas – Vina Tondonia Reserva
Both are dark, smouldering and traditional, but with the odd curve-ball thrown in. And ages really well!