Sunday, June 29, 2014

the modernist

2012 Legaris Roble | DO Ribera del Duero

Really enjoying my summer. Weather's beautiful, sun is shining, birds are chirping ... working on that tan. I've also started working on that business case. Can't reveal all (yet), but it will focus on marketing, branding, and distribution/sales channels. And it's about a winery here in Catalunya. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working on this for the first half of summer. Building knowledge, seeing new things, as they say. And from just our first meeting, some things are already readily apparent.

Spanish wine producers are in a bit of a rough spot. Growth, even locally, is hard to come by. The industry's defining feature is its fragmentation (500 brands producing over 15,000 references), with rebranding and the continual expansion of the product lineup the only way for producers to differentiate. Distributors have enormous power - no surprise - but what's a bit frightening is this sense that there is no urgency to actually present interesting wines to people. If the business is built on what levels of margin are acceptable or not, who is looking out for the small, artisanal producers who make tiny qualities of true, authentic wines, however high (or low) their appellation's prestige is? Am I so green in this industry, so naive, that this is all a bit shocking? Maybe. After all, like in NBA trades, it's all about matching the financials of each player's contracts, and not so much about the actual players themselves. Does there remain a place for idealism in wine, a belief that there is more meaning beyond what margins each tier can receive?!

Legaris is a favourite. I don't drink much Ribera del Duero - something about being a student and heavily in debt. But this is a good introduction to the region, or rather, the more modern side of the region. Still in balance, still with focus ... but nonetheless a modernist. Of course, made with 100% tempranillo grown in alluvial, gravelly, and sandy-loamy soils near the Duero River. For once, let's talk specifics. 2012 was a drought year, but the vintage was saved by rainfalls during two vital periods - shoot elongation, and at the onset of ripening. Harvest took place throughout October, with primary and malolactic fermentation in steel tanks. Further aged for 3 months in American oak, it was then fined with egg whites, filtered, and bottled. For lack of a better term, this is the entry wine of Legaris, to introduce drinkers to the bodega. It's round, it's plushy, with ripe jammy fruit. Well balanced, with slight tannins on the finish to give it precision and texture. Altogether a very well-made, representative wine of Ribera, at a very reasonable price.

Is there a place in the industry for young, hungry people, who still believe they can do something different and positive? Is there room for idealists and dreamers? 


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bobal? Bobal!!

2012 Bruno Murciano La Malkerida Phinca Bobal

We talk a lot about opportunity here. Seizing the moment, as they say. How many times do we really get to see it played out, in real life though? Not that many. Today was one of those days, when things round out, when the viewfinder comes in focus. My summer is finally in place. I will work for IESE for the first half, helping a professor write a business case and teaching note about his winery. In the second half, I will be moving to a town called Zaragoza, to work with a wine exporter. Exciting projects all around.

I'm reminded that sometimes wine, like opportunities, isn't so much about what's obvious, what seems to be the most impressive. Whatever that means. It took me since January to really figure this internship out - what I really wanted out of this summer, what project (and company) would be my best fit. And I suppose it's a little unfair that I can afford to be a little picky at this stage, what with not having any real responsibility. But with patience, perseverance, and really, a lot of providence, sometimes things just work themselves out. So many jobs came up, that seemed interesting at first, but simply weren't right for me. Didn't feel right, and as much as we're taught to be analytical in business school, my intuition, my gut feel, is still a bit part of my decision making process. And so we make those decisions, and plow forward with hope and confidence, and as always, with an eagerness for the unknown and unexpected.

Wine. Let's get back to wine. Have you ever heard of this Spanish varietal called bobal? Did you know that it was the second most planted grape, after tempranillo? Surprises, always surprises and something new to learn. Jancis Robinson does a great job profiling this wine and the people behind it, so I won't repeat it, but I picked up this bottle after tasting the most amazing bottle of bobal, made naturally, from Valencia. This one was fabulous. Lithe and tensile, but with great juicy fruit, some herbal notes to keep it interesting. Gains in depth, broadness with air. At once pure yet seemingly profoundly grounded in the earth. An interesting, interesting wine.

We try to capture these opportunities that speak to us, that touch our heart ... the ones that bring out our idealism and motivate us to change how things are. Same with wine. There should be no status quo. Wine should constantly seek to surprise, to teach, to inspire. Too much to ask for? Not if we give back as much as we take, to contribute to this wonderful, beautiful industry. Here's to a summer of wine.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

on the cheap

Top: Bodegas Argüeso San León Manzanilla | Sanlucar de Barrameda
Bottom: Barbadillo Solear Manzanilla | Sanlucar de Barrameda

In honour of the just wrapped-up Sherryfest in San Francisco, a pair of manzanillas that punch above their weight. Great bang-for-back. Or above average price-quality ratio, whatever way you want to say it. Sherry is fairly inexpensive here, although in Barcelona, selection can be a bit wanting. El Corte Inglés does a good job of rotating the brands they carry, so always something new to try. Both, a great example of the difference between fino and manzanilla - just a little bit drier, a little tighter, a bit more focused. Great salinity and precision, both fresh bottles. And freshness counts in manzanilla.

Cheap kinds of fun. But those are always the best. Last night was the Hogueras de San Juan or in Catalan, Fogueres de Sant Joan. The Bonfires of Saint John. Supposedly to celebrate the summer solstice by prolonging the night with bonfires, but in Barcelona at least, it's a free-for-all on the beach with people shooting fireworks into crowds, loud music, and copious amounts of drinking. We ended up having to take a break and take a walk along the water. Shoes wet, feet sandy, but lots of fun.

One last free day today before we start getting serious. Back to work.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

a little bit of sun, a little bit of sand

2010 Portal del Montsant Brunus | DO Montsant

Back to wine. Always go back to wine when feeling lost. Back to those things that give us comfort and safety, joy and happiness. Back to wine.

Catalunya - what a discovery (for this wino). At once rich and supple, yet focused and true wines. Unabashedly of that sunshine, that clay and sand and slate. A Spanish wine through and through, politics notwithstanding. Wine is meant to bring us together, not divide us - that most beautiful spirit of friendship and generosity. While these bottles of Montsant may not be overly complex nor sophisticated, they do offer immense pleasure. And that's the only real point of wine.

After nearly 10 months of a rigorous, packed schedule, there's suddenly ... nothing to do. For the next few days at least. Still working out what my summer will look like, but for now, enjoying the sun. Officially moved into my summer flat this Wednesday, a painful and overly laborious affair ... but I'm in, we have the most amazing terrace looking out onto Tibidabo, and yes, I'm going to have the best tan after this summer. Tan all over, man all over as they say. Now that I have some time to myself, will work on the fitness and nutrition. Can't be a winner if you don't fuel like a winner, no? Big things in store this summer guys.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

a little artisanal

Top: Cerveza Torquemada 25 | Palencia | Castilla y León | Spain
Bottom: La Zaragozana Ambar Pale Ale 1900 | Zaragoza | Spain

What a day. Settling into life without classes, a short break from academics, but it's the Intensive Spanish course this week. I had forgotten how rough the schedule was, but of course, the last time I did it was last September. Ages. I arrived exactly 10 months ago, and I'm running out of wild expressions to describe how amazing this time has been. Simply spectacular. It took 4 tries today, in a downpour of biblical proportions, but finally moved into my summer flat. New roommates, big terrace looking out onto Tibidabo ... man, this summer is going to be amazing. Missing my best friend already, but as she said, it's only going to be 2 months. Only. 

I need a beer. Is there such thing as Spanish pale ale? Evidently so. Good stuff, all unfiltered, dense and complex. Hoppy without being insistent. We all need a bit of bitterness in our lives, no? Otherwise, where's the joy in the occasional moments of sweet?


Friday, June 13, 2014

La familia

DSC_1879DSC_1877 - Version 2DSC_1862
I'm an excitable, emotional person. But I'll try to hold it together. We finished our finals today, and with that last Economics exam, our first year of the MBA. What an adventure, these last 10 months. But more than what we've done personally, it's what we've accomplished as a team. As a family. I've gained 7 brothers and sisters, the people who mean the most to me. We started as complete strangers - a little awkward, a little shy. And look how far we've come. 

That last team assignment we had yesterday, our final exam for Entrepreneurship - it was a culmination of our development as a unit. We had 3 hours to complete a business plan, a concept statement for a startup. From breaking down the report, to assigning tasks, to executing ... we've become such a well-oiled machine. Look how far we've come. So here's to us, to Team B5. So many thanks for the friendship, for the hard work, for the commitment. We party tonight.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My Section B

Prone to sentimentality. That's what I am. What we all are, apparently. Today was our final day of first year classes. Two more days of final exams, and the curtain officially drops. Sad? No, how can it be - we've accomplished so much in our 10 months here. Bittersweet because this part of our MBA is over. And definitely a bit teary now that we won't be in the same class anymore, that I won't get to sit with my best friend up front anymore, that this is the end of 8:15 am weekdays. I'm proud of myself, my team, the special friends I made ... we've worked so hard, sacrificed so much to be here. And although this is an unofficial milestone, this is still definitely something to celebrate. To bed now, where I'll sleep on the incredible memories we've made, and think of something more eloquent to write.

We're Section B forever. All love.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

a bright star

Estrella Damm Inedit

A glimmer of light is in sight. The wonders of a good night's sleep and strong antibiotics. But I still can't smell/taste anything and I'm suffering. Nightmare. I really don't think I've ever been this bad with a cold, to the point of olfactory failure. And I'm now reminded that appreciation for the little things, like the smell of soap, or tea as you stir in the cream, or even the taste of those cheap muffins I buy for breakfast ... those little things that mean the world.

And let's not even mention the drink. Our operations management class went out to tour the Estrella Damm factory a few months ago. Not much going on inside that day, but they did give us each a bottle of the Inedit, the brew created in collaboration with the Ferran Adrià. The wheat really comes through, the soft texture, some slight herbal notes, something like coriander. Pleasant.

Man, this congestion needs to get over itself. I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SMELL AGAIN!!


Friday, June 6, 2014

in need of a drink

Maeloc Cosecha De Galicia Sidra Extra Ecologica | Galicia

Man, I've got it bad. Been fighting a cold for a bit over a week now, and the chest congestion is just getting out of hand. Ridiculous, really, and I can't remember ever feeling so physically miserable. But when you can't hear anything out of one ear, can't smell jackshit, and coughing uncontrollably, you suck it up and see the campus doctor. Antibiotics and something called Flumil, to clear up the phlegm.

At this point, I think alcohol would do me some good. But for the first time, my sense of smell and taste are completely shot. You could fart in my face (not an invitation) and I wouldn't flinch. This, I still remember though. I love this cider producer. Clean, fresh, yet with all that pickled, bright character of cider. Delicious. Had a long week, lots going on. Summer plans slowly rounding out, finally. One more week remaining in first year. For once, hoping that summer didn't come so soon. Man, lots of firsts this week.

Going to sleep now. Not the long one. Not yet.