Interview with Amaya Cervera
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Amaya Cervera looks back at the Viñateros tasting in 2017 and forward to what’s changed in Spanish wine, and what we might see at the next one.
Amaya Cervera hails from the Basque Country, well known for excellent produce and a love of eating and socialising. She thinks this might have led her towards a career in the wine trade and as a writer and journalist in Spain. Amaya set up bilingual (Spanish and English) site spanishwinelover.com in 2014 to spread the word about the diversity of Spanish wine and to give a platform for the latest producers and developments.
She presented a master class at the first Viñateros tasting in 2017 and has lent her support and advice to help up draw up the list of 70 producers for the tasting next February.
“Some wines are well ahead of regulations. Most DOs in Spain now act as [mere] guarantors of minimum or basic quality standards. It is time to raise the bar”.
We asked Amaya what she remembers most from the last tasting?
AC - Putting all these wines together offered a multidimensional approach to what is going on in Spain and the amazing diversity of wines being made, many exploring their terroir from a different point of view. Producers were so happy to be part of this exciting moment.
Spanish Wine Lover has expanded since 2017, we asked Amaya if she is seeing more interest in Spain and its wines.
AC - Our contributors based outside Spain, mainly in the US and UK, report that there is a growing interest in Spain’s terroir-driven wines, yet there is still a lot of work to be done. Spain needs to get better at communicating its strengths and creating a story around a producer, a region or a grape. We need people to look at Spain from a broader picture, not just understating we’re making good wine but being capable of explaining the different styles and regions; ambassadors who can convey the excitement and help sell the wines.
What has changed since 2017?
AC - The wine scene is growing rapidly. I find it difficult to keep updated on all the new ventures that are flourishing across Spain. Some projects are tiny, this scarcity can make it difficult to draw attention to a region, style or grape. Those who started earlier are leading the way; they have a better understanding of their terroir and grapes, and are now more mature and precise in their winemaking. People like Raúl Pérez, Comando G or Envínate are role models for new producers. I also admire all the young people going back home to work the family vineyards, explore indigenous grapes and think local. Think of Roberto Oliván (Tentenublo) in Rioja or Juan Antonio Ponce in Manchuela who set a new standard for Bobal. We definitely need more Ponces in Spain.
Before the last tasting Amaya said: “Some wines are well ahead of regulations. Most DOs in Spain now act as [mere] guarantors of minimum or basic quality standards. It is time to raise the bar”.
We asked her for her views on the new classifications in Rioja, Bierzo and Priorat.
AC – Some wines are still ahead of the new regulations! Perhaps DOs should ask themselves: where do we want to see our wine region in 50 years’ time, what are our strengths, how do we want to work? It is easier to find consensus in smaller regions like Bierzo and Priorat where some of the larger producers who drive sales and are leading the discussion are people like Alvaro Palacios with a great focus on quality.
Rioja is much more complex with many different players and interests. There seems to be an inertia towards wineries and aging times rather than vineyards and terroir. There has been some criticism, it’s difficult to understand why villages wines are based on the location of the winery for instance. But even if the classification is far from perfect, it will allow producers to communicate their vineyards in more detail and hopefully add value to their wines. And consumers will benefit from exploring the nuances in this large, 100km wide, appellation.
"People like Raúl Pérez, Comando G or Envínate are role models for new producers. I also admire all the young people going back home to work the family vineyards, explore indigenous grapes and think local. Think of Roberto Oliván (Tentenublo) in Rioja or Juan Antonio Ponce in Manchuela who set a new standard for Bobal."
What for you are the most exciting current developments in viticulture or winemaking in Spain? What should buyers / sommeliers be focussing on?
AC – Bierzo – is becoming more and more interesting. It has a lovely old-vine heritage and an exciting bunch of producers working in the area.
Diversity is a strength of Spain – the Canary Islands are producing wines that are exotic and different, which are capturing wine lovers’ attention. Red wines from Galicia are definitely worth exploring. And there is an increasing interest in whites all over the country. Look for whites from traditional red wine regions like Rioja (from Remelluri to Abel Mendoza to those recovering extended oak-aging), Ribera (Albillos like the one made by Dominio del Aguila will bear soon the DO seal) or Priorat. When a quality-oriented producer takes the trouble to make a white in these areas you know it’s going to be good.
Southeast Spain and the Mediterranean – these areas are perhaps not trendy, but people like 4 Kilos in Mallorca, Celler del Roure in Valencia, Pepe Mendoza in Alicante and many others are starting to write their own rules, a lighter Mediterranean style which is very different to what we were used to.
Sherry influence –Terroir-driven and lighter, unfortified styles are a hot trend in the Sherry Triangle. This is also having an impact in other regions across Spain, wines under flor are not restricted to Jerez anymore.
The London Viñateros tasting on 25 February will allow sommeliers, retailers and other wine buyers to get up-close-and-personal to over 70 leading Spanish artisan growers and to taste around 350 wines. Amaya believes that Spanish artisan wines have the qualities to appeal to sommeliers looking for both new and exciting flavours and engaging stories to tell. “With such energy and diversity, it’s difficult to get bored with Spanish wine”.Welcome to your blog post. Use this space to connect with your readers and potential customers in a way that’s current and interesting. Think of it as an ongoing conversation where you can share updates about business, trends, news, and more.