The Alimentaria Anecdotes

This biennial wine/food fair is always a must in the wino/foodie’s diary . . . . albeit that . . .




This biennial wine/food fair is always a must in the wino/foodie’s diary. I think this is my 7th time in Barcelona for this event and after the first day I’m pleased to say that I’m enjoying the experience as always. Albeit, that there seems to be a change afoot – although it could be a one-off?


I know the halcyon pre-la-crisis days (before the Spanish recession) are gone, maybe forever, but I have to say that the encouraging signs that Spain is coming out of that dreadful economic blight, as witnessed in my area of the Costa Blanca, where the phoenix-like real estate agents proliferate once again, are not so noticeable here.


The rise and rise of the popularity of artisan olive oils is evidenced by the noticeable increase in the number of stands devoted to them, in a marked contrast to the number of wine stands this year. Furthermore, in the Intervin Hall, where two years ago for example, not even in pre-la-crisis times, there have to be the fewest wine exhibitors I’ve seen, but the most wine related (sometimes tenuously) other stands offering for example, snacks etc to accompany wine, and boxes in which to place the bottles.


And if that’s not worrying enough (for the hosts) there are several areas where rough seating has been arranged, occupying spaces that should have been filled with wine exhibitors. In past years the exhibition area has been full to bursting with wineries all trying to tempt the press and, more importantly, buyers too.


Indeed I wrote one article several Alimentaria’s ago entitles ‘The Changing Face of Alimentaria’ – a reference to the increasing number of Chinese buyers who were being feted by all and sundry in their attempts to break into the, predicted burgeoning Asian market. The aisles were packed – today not so at all.


So what does it mean? That the quality of Spanish wine is on the wane? No – far from it. I’ve just returned from a José Peñin led tasting where impressive statistics were shown, indicating, nay, proving that the standard of Spanish wine is currently at an all time high.


So exactly what is the nature of the problem, perceived by me at least?


Is it perhaps the competition? Fenavin, another Biennial fair, held usually in Ciudad Real, where I was last year, seems to expand year on year – is this a reason for an apparent decline in numbers exhibiting in Alimentaria? Or, maybe it’s the prices charged by a perhaps slightly arrogant Alimentaria?


A new friend of mine, a ‘natural wine’ maker was asked if he’d like to exhibit at Alimentaria 2016n as poart if a group of similarly disposed winemakers. His reasons declining were firstly the cost, and, admittedly, the perceived public’s indifference to the notion of ‘natural wines’.


Or is the decline simply a matter of a gradual loss of Alimentaria’s magnetism – are fewer people drawn to the event?


I suspect it’s a combination of all the above. And maybe it’s just a one-off, perhaps a cyclical thing, with a bigger and better bounce-back in 2018?


Well, rather a minor-keyed intro to Alimentaria 2016 above – there are also lotsa good things about this year’s event too!


The ‘Vinorum Think’ concept, a new innovation this year, is excellent. I’ve been to two of the ‘cata’ (tasting) events so far and I’m planning on a few more too – as they’ve been excellent! Luminaries such as José Peñin (he of the Guide) and Guillermo Cruz, sommelier extraordinaire have presented exemplary catas with extraordinarily fine wines (e.g. a horizontal tasting of Rioja’s from the 2001 vintage; and a sample of the wines given top marks in the Peñin Guide 2016).


So, there’s plenty more to come here at Alimentaria 2016 – and another Anecdote later!

First Published Costa News Group April 2012



You’re never far away from Cava in Barcelona. It is, of course, the capital of Cataluña where some 95% of all cava is made (remember that Cava is the only Spanish Denominación de Origen that has more than one geographical area of production – cava, for example, is also made in part of Valencia).

So it’s not surprising that the aperitif drink of the city is cava, it’s an integral part of the undercurrent ‘fizz’ of such a happening city. Indeed many of the hotels lay on splendid buffet breakfasts headed always by an open, nicely chilled bottle of cava – often next to the fresh orange, perhaps in a gesture of appeasement to those of a more temperate nature? Probably not, Barcelona is anything but politically correct!

No surprise then that at this magnificent metropolis’ biennial Wine and Food fair, Alimentaria, there is always a plethora of cava houses happy to show off their wares. And, as part of my mission there this year was to research just how good is Spain’s answer to the perhaps more distinguished sparkling wine of France, I was in the right place!

The names Codorniu and Raimat are interchangeable, though the controlling company is the former of the two. Their stand was alluring (like their cavas, I was soon to discover) even though I was one of the first visitors to the huge Intervin Pavillion as the clock touched 10:00 am. Although the fair officially opens at 10, those on the stands don’t expect any visitors so they use the time for meetings, staff training etc. Sure enough, when I spoke to the charming young ladies I was told that the man I needed to speak to was in fact in a breakfast (with cava, claro) meeting on the other side of the large stand.

However the observant gentleman in question (I’ve lost his card unfortunately) saw me hovering and asked if he could help. I explained for whom I was writing, and the meeting was adjourned!

There is a fear in the wine world that the bigger the company the less quality is produced – I’m sure it’s true in some, maybe many cases – but certainly not at Codorniu. I’ve been to the bodega, tasted wines in their custom-designed tasting room an impressive 100 metres above the cellers where millions of bottles of cava peacefully repose waiting for their fifteen minutes of fame, and it’s clear that here, big is beautiful!

Raimat operates under the auspices of DO Costers del Segre as well as DO Cava, I’ll explainwhy in a moment! Their 100% Chardonnay Vino Espumo (what’s in a name? …) Brut was our starting reference point, and a fine cava, oops, it is – straw coloured with some lime hints, full on the nose, medium weighted with a touch of buttery toffee.

Raimat Gran Brut Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend, may not in fact say the magic word ‘cava’ – another of the ridiculous red-tape rules at which the New World wine-makers scoff. Up until fairly recently Cava did not allow the use of Pinot Noir as one of its approved varieties for blanco cavas. But don’t worry, it’s the same thing (he’s said it again!). By any other name this is a super glass of fizz, fine mousse with a distinct and endearing slight sparkling cider nose to it.

Now officially a cava, because it obey all the rules, their Brut Nature is made with local darling Xarel.lo and French Champagne variety Chardonnay. Aperitif dry with a touch of butter on the palate, this is a wine for amuse gueule. Lovely.

Interestingly I was then given a taste of their still white wine, made with the same varieties as the above sparkler but without the second fermentation in bottle. It is a very approachable and aromatic white wine, dry and fresh yes, but quite full flavoured with measured acidity. I’m starting to have renewed respect for Xarel.lo, this wasn’t the first nor the last white wine I tasted in Barcelona made with this indigenous grape which when allowed to fully ripen, yet picked early to maintain acidity, can be a super drink.

Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Noir (white cava made with Pinot Noir, a black grape, by keeping the skins away from the must to avoid any colour transfer) is a product of our age, Cava’s slightly more enlightened age as they now allow this wonderful Champagne variety to make white cava. There’s a tiny amount of colouring from the skins, an extremely pale onion skin colour, but there’s nothing sour about this wine, and of course it’s widely available and well priced.

One of their top, flagship cavas is Reina Mª Cristina Reserva 2008. It’s a Blanc de Noir (watch out for this wine and this style as it seems to be becoming more prevalent, which is all to the good) and is elegance and finesse combined with full flavours and aromas plus a long finish. Excellent!

PS You are still in time to reserve for our final Ethnic Cuisine Meets Spanish Wine – A Marriage Made In Moraira evenings, if there are places remaining! We are at Restaurtante Bajul the wonderful Indonesian Restaurant, Weds. 16th May; and at Restaurante Himalaya, superb Nepalese/Indian cuisine Tues. 29th May. My job is to match good Spanish wines with the restaurants’ individual specialities! Please call 629 388 159 for more details and to reserve!

Contact Colin: and through his unique wine services website,