IWINETC 2016 and BOTTLES 017

The 8th IWINETC was recently held in Cataluña, near Barcelona. I was delighted to be invited to attend, as a staff member!


My role was to be threefold – Moderator of the Panel Discussion on basic Dos & Don’ts of Wine Tourism; Tour Guide; General Dogsbody! Although quite physically demanding, I relished all three.


The International Wine Tourism Conference, which is a unique opportunity for all those involved in Wine Tourism to meet, network and plan further development, is the brainchild of much travelled Anthony Swift, who now resides in the hills above Villafranca del Penedés. Anthony is also responsible for the lauded ’50 Great Cavas’ competition, which, after a good deal of tasting and visiting, translates into an impressive, beautifully designed and finished  publication, which readers may like to buy (, perhaps for a surprise Christmas present this year – though stocks are limited!

Just some of the 300+ delegates enjoying some Cava before the inauguration of IWINETC 2016
Just some of the 300+ delegates enjoying some Cava before the inauguration of IWINETC 2016

There were two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, of fascinating talks by speakers from countries of origin as diverse as: Indonesia, India, China, USA, Australia, Hungary, Moldova, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Montenegro to name several, though by no means all! Delegates from varied walks of life, all related to Wine Tourism, of course, began arriving on Sunday, with a large influx on Monday. This was to be my first day of action!

IWINETC Founder Anthony Swift in action!
IWINETC Founder Anthony Swift in action!

Cava Llopart was my destination, where grapes have been grown since at least 1385, as a document has been discovered which proves this, and where, in 1857 the Llopart family wine business started. Llopart was one of the first to produce Cava in the area and the 4th and 5th generation of the family are doing the same today!


Llopart Cavas are very well known in the area of Cataluña, but, as production is limited from this relatively small winery, they are not so well known in the rest of Spain, or indeed in the world, as only 15% of their production is exported. However, the quality of their products is such that they should be extremely well known – outstanding cava.

An excellent visit at Cava Llopart - enjoyed by the whole group!
An excellent visit at Cava Llopart – enjoyed by the whole group!

And an outstanding guide! Cristina, one of the panel members of the discussion I was to chair a couple of days later, has the knowledge and the ability to impart it in user-friendly terms, and with a smile as delicious as the cava we tasted. Cristina heads the small Wine Tourism Project – and I’ll be back!


The next day was the first of the days which were to concentrate on all manner of talks centred on wine tourism, with the highlight, for me certainly, being that being presented by Sarah Jane Evans MW (Master of Wine). Like all Masters of Wine, Sarah Jane has an immense depth of knowledge about all things wine orientated (the title gives it away, really!), but her specialist area is Spanish wine. I knew I could learn from her, of course, it was just a question of whether I would be able to attend her talk on Cava, and the tasting of her selection of 8 cavas, each high ranking in the aforementioned publication, ‘50 Great Cavas’.

An inspirational talk about Cava from Sarah Jane Evans MW - Spanish Wine Expert.
An inspirational talk about Cava from Sarah Jane Evans MW – Spanish Wine Expert.

Fortunately, as it happened, Anthony had me down on his list as ‘dogsbody’ for this keynote talk and I was to meet Sarah Jane before the event to discuss her needs, re timing, glasses, pouring etc. I have to say that this was a highlight of the whole week for me! Charming, erudite, intellectual and happy to share knowledge, it was an instructive pleasure to spend some time with Sarah Jane. The more so to find that we had views in common, for example re the importance of placing the date of disgorgement on the back labels of cava bottles, and more.


As chief bottle opener (have you ever opened just under 150 bottles of cava?!), I unfortunately didn’t have much of a chance to taste any of the cavas, nor to listen to all Sarah Jane’s comments. However, her standing ovation at the end of the talk, told the story of how popular a talk it was.


That night there was a Gala Dinner to be held in the elegant restaurant of the largest sparkling wine producer in the world! That’s right – Freixenet, whose countless millions of bottles sit silently in the dimly lit cellars that run for kilometres underneath the streets of Cava’s natural home, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, until it is their time to come into the spotlight in one of the countries of all five continents in which the Freixenet Fizz is sold!


First though – the tour! As I’ve been in Spanish wine tourism for 19 years now, since even before the word ‘Enoturismo’ had been coined, I seem to naturally gravitate to the guide’s seat at the head of the bus, in contrast to being always at the rear as our group went ‘on tour’. And what a tour it was – at each of the several stops, which took in the museum above ground and then the various levels below, there was a glass of cava for us all, accompanied by a paired tapa. And, whilst there is nothing wrong with the world famous, distinctively bottled, Cordon Negro, the cavas served to this knowledgeable group were all top cuvees!

Freixenet Tour begins!
Freixenet Tour begins!

Each dish of the four course dinner that followed was also, of course, paired with cavas from their huge portfolio. An excellent, though very late, evening!


The next day I was determined not to miss the much anticipated talk about Wine Tourism in India, to be given by Subhash Arora, one of the real characters of the conference! Entertaining and highly knowledgeable, Subhash charmed us into wanting to visit such an ancient culture with such a nascent wine tourism industry by talking us through the various wine routes he recommends.

Wine Tourism - in India!
Wine Tourism – in India!

Later it was my turn! Mine was really Mission Impossible, in fact, my opening line to the 100+ people who attended. The idea was that I should tease out of the distinguished panel members, each of whom had been asked to consider the idea from a different perspective, as well as from the audience, a definitive list of Dos and Don’ts regarding Wine Tourism. German, Jochen Erler, played the role of the Wine Tourist; Sarah May Grunwald is a Wine Tour Operator specialising in Georgian Wine Tours; and Cristina Soler, Guide and Head of Wine Tourism at Cava Llopart.


That night we had another Gala Dinner, this time after we had toured Bodegas Torres, probably the most famous winemaking family in Spain. Another fascinating and extremely tasty tour – though there’s  not enough space to include details here.

IWINETC 2016 and BOTTLES 032

For the final two days I was back in my familiar position as guide – the venues were really excellent, with such committed and passionate people, all keen to tell us their own, unique stories. Again though, there simply isn’t the space to include them here!


My final thought is one of great optimism – for Wine Tourism, of course, but also for the human condition! There were over 25 different countries represented at the International Wine Tourism Congerence 2016. Countries, all with history, and not always a pleasant one at that, and yet there was not an unpleasant word spoken, heard or I’m sure, thought! The IWINETC was uplifting, in every respect!


My next Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme on is live on Sunday 1st May from 6:30pm – 8pm (Spanish Time). Wine Chat, Tasting Tips and Info as well as Restaurant news and Wine/Food suggestions – it’s all there, with some fun too! Then Sunday 15th May and every two weeks after that!


PS If you think Indian Cuisine is best paired with beer, I suggest you think again – and join me at Restaurante Kathmandu, Moraira on Sunday 8th May; and at their sister restaurant, Kathmandu, in Javea on Sunday May 22nd, for a super Spanish Wine/Indian Cuisine Pairing Evening! Please e-mail for more info and to reserve the few places left!

Alimentaria Anecdotes Day Two

Alimentaria Anecdotes – continued, Day Two!

Well, Alimentaria, and the exhibitors present will be pleased with the second day of the large* wine/food fair held every two years in Barcelona. The number of visitors has increased from the first day and the aren look busy!

However, the * above will help keep feet on the ground! I’ve substituted the word ‘Huge’, used in the fist Anecdote, preferring instead the word – ‘large’. It seems to be related to the law of diminishing returns!

My blog yesterday was about how there were fewer exhibitors than in previous years – this has been highlighted again today by a further trip around the Intervin Hall today. Too much unused space (therefore revenue-less!) and too many extraneous stands which, really should be in the food halls. I wonder why.

Well, having asked others – it seems I got it right yesterday. It’s too expensive to exhibit and the demand for stands at Fenavin, the competition may well exceed the space available. A source said, “It’s [Alimentaria] dying!”, for these reasons.


But it’s certainly not all doom and gloom. VinorumThink – is an excellent innovation, as I said yesterday. High profile speakers are presenting tastings of high quality, and they are all organised very professionally. Plus, those exhibitors who have arrived are very pleased to talk and present their wares.

I went to two Vinorum presentations on Day Two. The first was ‘The Best Wines in Spain’ according to the Proensa Guide. This followed yesterday’s final presentation, which I also attended, with the same name –  but according to Guia Peñin! So who’s right?

Well, it’s not really like that – each publication has its highest pointers and the presenters selected 9 for us to taste – there could have been more, of course, and I think there had been a deliberate attempt to make sure that wines were not used in both tastings, despite their probably figuring in each guide. Sensible – and better for the tasters who attended both!

There was some controversy, in my book at least, re the Proensa tasting. I follow this guide, if not like the Bible, at least very closely. But I’d take issue with Señor Proensa’s declaration, for example, ‘To talk about natural wines means that all that we have tasted today are unnatural.’ And, for another example – ‘Bio-dynamic production is just a marketing argument.’

I also went to Victor de la Serna and Juancho Asenjo’s presentation ‘ The evolution of Spanish Wines’ – as perceived by their magazine El Mundo Vino. This was an excellent opportunity to taste super wines from various different locations – including, near to my base, Utiel-Requena and Alicante!

I also like to attend here the tastings organised by Cataluña – smaller, but alwyas interesting and well planned, with good speakers too.

Tomorrow the final day – with more reflections, more anecdotes!

Photos from all three days to follow! 

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!