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Posted January 28th, 2013 in Priorat, Sherry, Spain

La Belleza en la Botella (The Beauty in the Bottle)

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The Wine Industry is thought of by many as being glamorous and romantic.  But for those of us who are actually working the streets, we know that it’s not all flowers and sunshine every day.  I’ve been working sales in the NYC market for over 8 years now, and let me tell you: it is hard work. But now and then, we have moments that make us remember why it is we do what we do.

I was able to go and visit Spain- to the Catalonia, Jumilla, Priorat, Valencia, and Jerez.  I’ve been traveling to see producers a handful of times, but this trip felt different to me because I had been yearning to feel the passion for wine as I have felt before.

Sherry is gaining some serious momentum in the wine world today.  Because of this growing interest, people are coming from all over the world to Jerez because they want to bottle these super old casks/barrels.  Lucky me, I was able to go and taste Sherry’s straight from the casks in these amazing, old soleras.  Your whole way of thinking of wine and wineries completely changes when you see these 80-year-old men, who have been taking incredible care of these barrels for years.  They know exactly what’s gone into each barrel, treating them much like their own children.  They know which barrels to have you taste, what parts of the solera to see, to show you the truth behind what they do.  It was surreal to be in Jerez because it’s a very different place compared to the rest of the wine world.  Sherry is very intricate, so rather than putting my thoughts to rest, it seemed to only raise more questions from me.  Maybe that’s why people are so into it, because the learning process and knowledge is never ending.

Another part of my trip that was inspiring was our visit to the Priorat.  We arrived during harvest and met all of the producers (Joan Sangenis- Mas d’en Compte, Marc Ripoll- Closa Batllet, Raimon Castellvi- Celler de L’Encastell, Esther Nin and her husband Carles Ortiz- Nit de Nin, and Daphne Dorian- Clos Erasmus) at the plaza in the middle of Porrera.  They all arrived in style: on their 4-wheelers, straight from the vineyards.  Because it was the middle of harvest, everybody was very busy, so we were very happy they would take the time to show us around, see the vineyards, and taste the wines.  They took us to the top of the mountains, and it was incredible to see how the slopes were converted into vineyards.  They showed us whose land was whose, and explained why they were going against tradition by taking the terrasses away, making the vineyards into “costeres” (hillside).  So what was their answer for making this decision?  They just believe this is the right thing to do, that it’s best for the vineyards in the long term.  They’ve been working this land for so long that they know everything there is to know about the soil, the vines, and the micro and macro climate.
These 90+ year-old vineyards surrounding us may have been ancient, but they definitely knew how to survive.  It hadn’t rained for 6 months, the land incredibly dry. But these old vines seemed to be just fine…they knew how to find their way to water: through their deep roots.  When we were there, the garnacha had just been harvested, and they were waiting for the carignan to ripen.  It’s really a magical place.  It’s quiet, the air you breathe is different, clean and untouched, no pollution.  When you’re in the

mountains, it is as though you can touch the clouds.  You can appreciate that the place they work at is beautiful, but at the same time it’s very hard work with very hard conditions to work in.

Esther Nin is one special woman.  She makes her own wine under the label “Nit de Nin,” but also is the right hand woman at Clos Erasmus.  I asked her to talk to me about her views on biodynamics.  It was really hard for her to do this because this concept is not just some new “wine fad,” it’s a style of life.  So for me to truly understand this way of life, I would have to move in with her, which I definitely thought about.  Her husband is now making wine with her, and he’s a visionary.  They recently purchased expensive land together, so I asked: why would you do this if you’re not making much money?  Their answer was simple: it’s not about the money, it’s because that is the land they’re leaving for their children.

Because I speak Spanish, visiting these producers was amazing because I can truly understand their message in their native language.  I have been selling these wines for years, but there’s only so much you can learn from reading a tech sheet about the wine.  Wine may not be “romantic” to me on an everyday basis, but when you go and experience the wine with the producers, you get a better understanding of the hard work that goes into each bottle of wine that is made.  I wish I could take all of my accounts on these trips so they can understand the people, the land, and the passion that goes into these wines.  When you’re standing on the mountain top, feeling as though you’re in the heavens, that’s when you remember the true beauty of it all.

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