Thoughts on: Wine and Personal Economy

No money to spend on wine? You should have thought of that before visiting my hotels on Las Ramblas.. does Monopoly Barcelona exist? It should.

Wine is an interesting commodity. It is one of the few products in the world that can be considered a staple in day to day life by some, whilst also maintaining a seemingly elite and snobbish aura about it, try as it might to shed this unwelcome stereotype. If you search the internet, there are hundreds of articles suggesting an amount to spend on a bottle of wine, the sweet spot as it were, ‘can you really tell the difference between a 10 euro bottle and a 20 euro bottle’and ‘what your wine spending says about you.’ All nonsense of course, what you spend on wine is nearly always down to a combination of personal economy and what importance wine plays in your life; in Spain at least, the concept of expensive wine being some sort of desirable lifestyle of the rich and famous doesn’t exist in the same way it does in America, for example. Having said that, I do believe that anyone paying under 6 euros a bottle is missing a trick and with only a few euros more can tap into a very big reservoir of good quality wine in this country.

The most important thing, rather than the amount you spend, is what style of wine you spend it on. If you like big, oaky, rich wines then spending 50 euros on a bottle of unoaked, mineral and terroir driven Mencia by Raul Perez is likely to be an exercise in disappointment, conversely, spending 10 euros on a bottle of Ribera del Duero is likely to be a good purchase. Does this mean that the 10 euro bottle is better than the 50 euro bottle? Of course not; the importance of finding your style is paramount simply because wine is so subjective. Once you find a style or styles that you enjoy, you can find your own ‘sweet spot’ by playing around, trying different wines from different places in this style and so on. That’s not to say don’t be adventurous and try new things but when purchasing wine for regular, casual drinking — stick with what you know you will enjoy.

If you’re a fan of oak-aged wines like our friend here, consider Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Catalan reds.

Now, with that being said there is a big difference between buying wine cheaply and looking for bargains. I often have conversations where people are claiming to be drinking excellent wine for under 5 euros and if you really enjoy it, please carry on, but the difference between a 5 euro bottle and an 8–10 euro bottle is often vast and well worth the extra 3–5 euros, even for casual drinking. After the costs of production, marketing, taxation and mark-up have been included, buying wine for less than 5 euros is akin to actually purchasing 20–30 cents of actual wine. As the taxation of wine is roughly the same across the board, what you often get for that extra 2–3 euros is an extra 1–2 euros worth of wine; a huge difference. I always find it odd that people will spend huge amounts on olive oil, ham, anchovies and so on but balk at spending a little more on wine which is often a far greater source of enjoyment!

Almost as important as style is where you buy your wine. Supermarkets are very cynical with their pricing, often using some wines as loss leaders or putting wines on sale that were never worth the original price in the first place. Having a wine shop that you can trust is invaluable and actually a very pleasurable part of the experience; I am still buying my wine from the same shop I have been for the past two years and the owner is now a personal friend. Once your shop knows you and your style, it is in their best interest to retain your custom and offer you wines that they genuinely believe you will enjoy, not just try and flog you whatever it is they need to sell.

Ah the serenity of buying wine in the supermarket… experienced by no-one, ever.

Finally, and quite hypocritically if you have seen my previous post, less is more. If you have a wine budget of 20 euros a month, try buying two wines from a local shop in your preferred style rather than 4 bottles of whatever is available at the supermarket. If you have ever had this experience with your food shopping, where you stop buying in bulk and pay more attention to quality products from local producers, you will know that it is a worthwhile investment. With some time you may even notice your shop starts to stock wines they think you will like, alert you to new productions and help you expand your horizons without taking blind risks that often lead to buyers-remorse. My own personal philosophy is partly engineered using a horribly morbid calculation: If I live another 50 years and drink a different wine every single day, I will still not try all the different wines available in Spain alone. Therefore, I’m going to make the wines I do drink count and make sure I share them with friends as often as possible.

A morbid paragraph needs an equally disturbing picture. This is the best I could find.. wine drinkers are quite happy people, it turns out!

In the future I intend to do a series of articles around some good quality, affordable Spanish wines but for now, here is a suggestion of wine bars and shops to visit for high quality wines and honest advice across Barcelona:

  1. Bodega Maestrazgo, 90 Carrer San Pere Mes Baix, 08003, Barcelona. I am slightly biased here as this is my local wine store but I recommend it heartily nonetheless. Jose, the owner, has been in the industry since he could walk and has a big selection of wines from all across Spain as well as the time to talk and offer truly honest advice on what to drink. Sit and drink a glass, a bottle or just come to look around. There is a dedicated tasting room next door where we organise wine tastings on a regular basis.
  2. Alaparra, Carrer de Pujades, 177, 08005 Barcelona. A wine bar/shop in central Poblenou, serving wine by the glass, bottle and also some excellent tapas style food. A real eclectic mix of wines from Spain and Italy have been gathered by Marc, the owner here. Very knowledgeable about wine and with a real charm to boot. Highly recommended.
  3. Alava de la Cruz, Carrer de Còrsega, 544, 08025, Barcelona. A small shop near the Sagrada Familia ran by a husband and wife team. No-where to sit and drink a glass but a knowledgeable and friendly shop with a good selection of both Spanish and lower-end international wines.
  4. Vila Viniteca, Carrer dels Agullers, 7, 08003 Barcelona. One of Spains largest internal distributors and the only shop I have found to reliably find good quality international wines to purchase. A huge local and international selection, along with improved customer service make this a no-brainer if you are in Borne and looking for a bottle.
  5. Monvinic, Carrer de la Diputació, 249, 08007 Barcelona. A modern and hugely well stocked wine bar, serving a variety of wines by the glass and bottle with restaurant attached. Truly a temple for the wine lover, although more of a bar than a shop (Their store is growing and improving regularly, watch this space!). Headed by the talented and experienced Isabelle, every wine lover in Barcelona should visit here at least once.

Wine Cuentista: The literal translation is ‘Wine story-teller’. We run high quality wine tastings in central Barcelona, Borne area, with the intention of tasting and learning about high quality Spanish and Catalan wines in a relaxed atmosphere — perfect for a fun evening out in Barcelona! If you would like to get in touch or see our services, check out the website here: Thanks!

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