JORDI: I always wanted to stay in the Priorat, a rural area that has historically been one of the poorest in Catalunya. Coming from a family of vintners and wine merchants, the wine industry was the most practical choice.
WINE X: What exactly is it that you do? Give us the glamour, the romance.
MIQUEL: It’s a job with a lot of facets. You follow the evolution of the wine through the summer, the intensity of harvest in the fall, the joy of tasting. And on the other side, there’s the technical aspect that rounds it all out. It’s fantastic because you’re doing something different each season, which is so invigorating.
JORDI: There’s not much glamour in our work. That comes later, when the wine is tasted. On the other hand, there’s a big dose of romanticism, emotion and passion tied up with working surrounded by vineyards and seeing the vines change with the seasons — how the clusters emerge, grow, mature and change in color. And finally experiencing harvest at the peak of the cycle. For me, wine is a way of life. I can’t consider it just work.
WINE X: Are young adults in Spain drinking as much wine as their parents and grandparents did when they were young adults? If not, why?
MIQUEL: Not really. Our society has changed a lot, and so have our habits. My life doesn’t bear much resemblance to my grandfather’s. It used to be that wine was consumed more than water, sometimes that’s all that was drunk because there was nothing else. In my generation, wine is still consumed... less perhaps, but better quality.
JORDI: I agree. We’re drinking less, but better quality.
WINE X: I got into a discussion a couple days ago with some Spanish wine industry professionals who wanted my opinion on what your industry needed to do to gain more ground against the “new world” producers. I think the laws governing the Reserva and Gran Reserva designations are choking your industry. The vast majority of people who drink wine world-wide want something fresh and fruity, not earthy and exhibiting the characteristics of an “aged” wine. There’s really only a small number of wine drinkers outside your country that appreciate those qualities. What are your feelings about this? Should Rioja and other districts rethink
their laws to help compete against the new-world producers?
MIQUEL: It’s true. At times, the regulatory agencies can be roadblocks, in both production and marketing. I believe if they focused their efforts, they could give a united image and become catalysts for information in the face of domestic and international competition for the good of all. It seems that each “Consejo Regulador” agency has a unique philosophy; some are dynamic, some strict. Regarding the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva designations, many leading wineries are actually now leaving them off their wines and promoting their brands simply with the DO (Denominacion de Origen) on the back label. I agree with them! With the recent barrel renovations in Ribera del Duero and changing consumer tastes, these designations have lost some of their original importance. However, there are classic Rioja Reservas and Grandes Reservas that will always have a passionate following and a fixed market share. The classics never die; that’s why they’re classics.
JORDI: I believe wine should express itself and, more than anything, the land it comes from — the varietal, the character of those who made it, from the grower to the winemaker. The DOs must maintain the character of the different regions. The denominations are formed by the growers and wineries in each zone, so they’re the ones who should be responsible for making changes. I believe they should be open to change and improvement, whether imposed by the market or not, while always maintaining the character of each region. More and more, people are gaining better understanding of wine, and are consuming better and more expensive wines. Everyday wines will always have a lot of price competition because there are so many of them, but there will always be a market for, and a value placed on, quality wines. In the end, it’s the wine that speaks for itself — and it should be sold as such, always within the context of its DO. If you belong to a DO, your wines should fall within the parameters of that DO. You can always break away and make a non-DO wine.
WINE X: If you could make changes to the image of wine, what would they be? Remember, we have an American audience that doesn’t grow up with wine on the table.
MIQUEL: We need to introduce younger people to the world of wine, which entails more than the simple act of drinking.
JORDI: The only way to change an image is to promote a new one. If we want to get away from the image of alcoholism and drunkenness that wine has in certain segments of the population, we need to communicate the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into a bottle of wine and the quality of the product. Wine isn’t made for drowning sorrows, it’s for enhancing pleasures.
WINE X: What do you guys drink when not drinking wine?
MIQUEL: It depends on the moment. Anything, really.
JORDI: Water, or gin and tonic.
WINE X: What music do you like listening to while working in the cellar?
MIQUEL: It really doesn’t matter to me. Whatever my mood is.
JORDI: Yeah, depending on the work I’m doing, any music is good, from Springsteen to Loreena McKennit.
WINE X: If you had only one wine to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be? And why?
MIQUEL: That’s a difficult question. I like a lot of wines, from German riesling to Australian shiraz. There are different wines for different moments, and I hope to never find myself in that situation! I like variety, which is a great advantage that wine has over other beverages.
JORDI: Whatever evokes a memory or feeling. The ‘why’ doesn’t really matter.
WINE X: You’re familiar with Wine X and what we’re trying to do. There’s an advantage here to reaching young adult consumers because you basically grow up drinking wine from the day you’re born. So you have a huge head start over us in the States in getting young adults to try and accept your product. Do you think 21-year-olds (in the States or anywhere) are ready for wine?
MIQUEL: Their purchasing power is somewhat limited, and perhaps they gravitate toward other forms of entertainment. I think it’s a matter of education.
JORDI: Even in a wine-dominated zone like the Priorat, it’s unusual for people under 18 to be interested in wine. From 18 on, that’s the best time to get into wine and learn, to experiment with the senses and try to understand what’s hidden in the glass — the history, tradition, dreams, emotions, sadness and joy. Little by little it draws you in, and you’re captivated before you even know it.
WINE X: What mark do you want to leave in your profession?
MIQUEL: I just try to meet my objectives, basically to make good wine... and to get along with those around me.
JORDI: Passion and the desire to work with the land I come from and its history. Wine is remarkable. It makes you feel something far beyond what’s in the glass. Everyone has dreams, passions, memories... wine is a means to be in touch with them, even if only for a short while.