The big news in the Spanish wine scene at the moment is the announced closure of Lavinia’s “flagship” wine shop in Madrid.
Located at C/ de José Ortega y Gasset 16 in the upscale Salamanca neighborhood, since 1999, it’s been viewed as “the” reference wine shop in Madrid. At 1,000 square meters in size, holding 4,500 references of wines, and employing 20 people, it was always a fair if not terribly insightful statement.
The claim is that they were unable to renegotiate their rent to favorable conditions in Madrid’s swanky “Golden Mile” of upscale designer shops and will officially close on 31 January, 2024. What’s interesting is that for the last decade, the shop has apparently not been profitable for the group, Lavinia España Selección SL, with nearly 700,000€ in losses just in the last year, which is definitely a bit “curious”.
Despite this closure, they will maintain their website for online sales as well as their two smaller stores at Alcobendas and Pozuelo de Alarcón.
It doesn’t really come as a shock and more the reverse that it’s managed to stay open for so long given that wine sales have moved in three directions in Spain: direct from the wineries, online, or to more specialized cavistes with a much smaller, but infinitely more curated selection. I can speak to this directly as having been to this Lavinia shop several times, during a visit in 2018 I was severely unimpressed by the selection that, beyond the wines from Spain, was awash in less-than-stellar vintages of foreign wines at uninspiring prices.
On top of that, a box of six wines that I bought held two that were corked. When contacting the store about the issue, they said I would need to bring the wines back into the shop and they would send them back to the winery for analytical evaluation. In other words, they did everything they could to avoid refunded flawed bottles and I never went back.
Another ridiculous item is that all the shelves for regions of Spain had a name above them in the shop, but those from Catalunya simply had “Mediterraneos” as shown in the lead photo. Lavinia has definitely a microcosm of the issues in Spanish wine. I just hope its closure will make way for additional dynamic and interesting shops that have opened recently in the city.
A sad farewell, Oddbins
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the wine people have been mourning the official closure of Oddbins in the UK and you can count me amongst them as this was a fantastic store that largely lived up to its name throughout its four-decade history of providing a much different and welcome exploration of wines from around the world.
Whenever up in London, I’d always stop in to any Oddbins I could find (at its height there were 278 shops across the UK) and buy something new and exciting to bring back to Spain and its decidedly more limited selection of wines.
It seems that nearly everyone currently established in the UK wine trade got their start at an Oddbins and so it’s quite a bittersweet moment for many.
Much like Lavinia however, it’s been the victim of a changing landscape and most knew that its closing was inevitable, especially as there’s been such a massive rise in the quantity of wine bought in supermarkets in the country.