The 2013 that was, the 2014 that could be

This is the time of year for reminiscing about the year that’s passed and the year to come because well, nothing else happens in Spain until after January 6th.

Annoying trends of 2013

adeu-sulfitsNatural wine
This is a big one and in the last year it’s gotten crazy hyped up. Sure, there are some really good benefits to this manner of producing wine, but it’s become “a thing”, a pervasive trend, and possibly even a religion. The skunkier and more approaching vinegar the wine is, the more this group is certain to love it, which brings us to the next item.

Hipster sommeliers
Yup, after years of fermenting in the US, they’ve finally landed in Spain, sneering derisively at everything they deem as too mainstream or “technological”. This means that they love “natural” wine because it’s “real” wine when in reality it’s just obscure and not approachable for average consumer, and that’s the key. Some of them do actually know something, many do not, but the sleeve tattoos are being flaunted and we’re all a little worse off for it, especially if you’ve already gone through all of this in San Francisco before moving to Spain.

Easily identified by their constant wearing of shorts, optional goatee, and potent aromas of expat these guys appear to be the complete opposite of hipster sommeliers, but are in fact the same. Their approach to wine is to make it more approachable. That’s mighty fine, but they still get caught up in the arrogance of wine and fail miserably, often tweeting about whatever beer they’re drinking because really, they’re just beer guys who sometimes drink wine.

“Artisanal” craft beers
This movement came and succeeded in the US some 20 years ago. It’s now getting to be popular in Spain, especially in Catalonia as again, it’s obscure and thus, hipster sommelier friendly. The problems with it are that a) the beers are crazy expensive and b) they’re often not really making them. The second point is important because when craft beers like Sierra Nevada started out in the US, they were brewing them themselves, thus giving people a reason to switch up from Budweiser. Here, people are just buying the already fermented beer, infusing it with whatever (herbs, honey, choice cuts of jamón…) and then selling it for 4€ a bottle–at the store. Get a bucket and start brewing at home guys. It ain’t that hard and if you really want to make your own beer, just fucking make it.

The “art” of pairing a wine with “something” went off the deep end this last year. Forget the fact that wine was paired with books, jazz, and opera, the fact that people are convinced in English that it’s called, wine “marriage” due to over reliance on Google Translate just made it more painful. Let’s forget all the fancy pairing and just drink and eat what tastes good in whichever situation we feel like it.

400% wine markup for shitty service
Wine markup in bars/restaurants is typically at least 200% because obviously they’re given you a space to drink it in and those don’t come cheap. Lately these markups are going to 300 and 400% even with the worst offenders being in the center of Barcelona and especially in wines by-the-glass as the recent tourists are often not the brightness or most thrifty. This might be tolerable if you’re getting some form of “wine experience” and the person serving you can give you in-depth knowledge about the wine. More often than not, you just get blank stares from untrained servers or sleeve tattoos without any wine knowledge to back them up. You’d be better off picking up a bottle at a badulaque and drinking it in the street (see below).

The hopes for 2014

priorat-wine-barMore local wine in Barcelona
Catalonia produces a lot of fucking awesome wine. There, it’s been said. Spread this knowledge far and wide as now the restaurateurs just need to serve it. Obviously they don’t feel like it when they can get some Rioja wine for 1,5€ ex-cellar, but it’s insulting that you don’t see more of the great wines from the 12 DO’s of Catalonia being served in Catalonia. This needs to change. Just look at Italy or France, guys.

More good bag-in-box
Jacuzzi parties in the American suburbs made the boxed wines infamous for being of low quality, overly sweet, and for people in their 40’s who still looked great and could seduce the neighbor’s wife just by mowing the lawn shirtless. While not as sexy perhaps, a great deal of Catalan producers have been making some great wines that do indeed come out of a box. They’re primarily for the export market, but they sell them at home as well and they offer a way to get a very inexpensive wine that’s great for the table and you can keep around for daily drinking once “opening”. More of these, please, and in criança versions as well if possible.

Wineries converting their Facebook profiles to pages
It’s bad enough that a lot of wineries in Spain STILL don’t have websites (it’s 2014, people!), it’s also very tiring to have to “friend” a winery to keep abreast of their updates. This is what pages you can “like” were invented for and they offer all kinds of benefits for a business over a friend profile. It’s very easy, just start here and you will be warmed in the glory of not having to log out and log back in to manage your winery’s info.

Wineries discovering email
Spain is still very much a land of the phone. When not creating winery friend profiles, some wineries have come around to email, but most not and if you email them, it will get lost in a digital dark hole. The problem (as it is for anyone bad with email) tends to revolve around how they organize their inbox and you then have to follow up with a phone call to ask about your email. It’s a pity as it’s an excellent way to contact people who are often out in the field all day. May 2014 be a pro-inbox year.

Death to DO Cava
That’s probably a bit harsh as there are excellent Cavas out there like Recaredo but there are also a lot that aren’t and there are some who are leaving the DO and others who have no plans to join it and prefer DO Penedès instead, but make a sparkling wine regardless and make an excellent one at that. We hope that some kind of resolution can be made to reform that very problematic DO whether it means breaking it up in to subzones or starting over (DO Conca del Riu Anoia?) or well, something.

Botellón with wine bottles
There’s a perception that Spain is all about people hanging out at night in the street, playing Spanish guitar and sucking on a bottle of wine–let’s just say that some of that is right. Bitching about Prime Minister Rajoy’s latest “initiative” or how you have three postgraduate degrees, 16 certificates and can’t find a job, but are going to still get another Masters are something that are indeed done in the street with a couple of bottles shared amongst friends because everyone is broke (note that the guitar is just for the expats). Almost all of the time, the bottle of choice is a beer. Let’s start seeing the street bitching with a bottle of wine to support some local winemaking pride, or pick up a bag-in-box if you’re a bigger group of friends/drunks. That in fact should be the new marketing pitch: “Bag-in-box, for all your botellóns, large, small or indignant, especially indignant”.

Photo by Vinologue