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36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


Rioja Resident and Ex-Pat Americano Tom Perry on WineFuture-Rioja 2009 & Spanish Wine Crisis Observations (Nine)

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Tom Perry, American-born, long-time Rioja resident, wine industry veteran and expert on wine marketing.
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2009.

Don Geraldo,

Yes, I was able to attend, thanks to a complimentary invitation from Marqués de Riscal, whose finace director Fernando Salamero was my boss for 15 years while I was the director of the Rioja Exporters' Association.

I'd be glad to answer your questions, but first my views on the conference.

I especially enjoyed the presentations about social media (Ryan Opaz, Gary Vaynerchuck and Jeremy Benson), Miguel Torres' talk about climate change and what Torres is doing about it, Tim Hanni's presentation about taste perceptions and Nicola Jenkin's talk about packaging.

However, as I mentioned in a comment to Catavino, a lot was left unsaid.
I personally feel that an important issue for the future of wine is overcoming the major hurdles small and many medium-sized wineries have to overcome just to find a route to market.  We can talk about empowering consumers all day but if consumers can't buy certain products because of
  • the increasing concentration of distributors (USA)
  • the increased power of supermarkets and the demise of traditional retailers (UK)
  • the impossibility to sell wine through the internet between countries in the European Union
  • the difficulties small US wineries face to sell directly to consumers in different states (although this is improving)
these brands are handicapped.

In Europe, traditional wine producing countries face decreasing per capita consumption of wine and a lack of interest on the part of young consumers. There was a lot of talk about being able to connect with consumers but nothing was said about strategies to interest young consumers from Spain, France and Italy to wine.

I think there should have been more emphasis on these real issues facing our industry.

Parker tasting:

I attended it and also helped Alberto Gil with his interview with RP on the 13th.  There were 20 wines in the tasting (18 garnachas and two Riojas) as you know, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the 7 Châteauneuf-du-Papes.  All of them were really elegant, not overoaked and overripe and showed both the place they were from and the characteristics of the variety.(BTW, the châteauneufs in the RP tasting were all unoaked.)

The 1945 Riscal was superb.  I also liked the Clos Erasmus from Priorat (not at all inky and inscrutable), Espectacle from Montsant,the Clarendon Hills Old Vines and the Killakanoon from Australia.  I thought the Contador wasn't ready to drink yet and the Aquilón and Atteca Armas (both from Jorge Ordóñez) were too "fruit-bomby" for my taste.

In the interview (I'll try to send you a link from LA RIOJA), RP defended himself from his detractors by saying that he had an eclectic palate and that he was displeased with two of the wines in the tasting because they were overoaked!

He said that his strategy up to now was to invite the most representative importers of Spanish wines for lunch.  RP paid for the lunch and the importers did a tasting of their products.  He mentioned that Jay Miller would be visiting Spain frequently in the future.

He came across as a passionate, sincere guy.

Spanish Wine Crisis observations:

With regard to the wine crisis in Spain, most of the problem has to do with young people's lack of interest in wine.  I think the trade has made it too complicated for most people.  

We have to educate young people about wine in an easy, non-technical way; get them to appreciate it for its taste and accompaniment to a good meal with friends, and if they're interested in learning more, they can (once the trade makes it possible to learn about it - in Logroño there's only one serious tasting a month - and there's only room for 50 people!)

One of the great failings of the Spanish wine trade is allowing lambrusco to be the wine of choice of young people.  It's cheap, uncomplicated and women love it (it's an easy choice for a guy to make when he invites his girlfriend out to dinner).  Why haven't we come up with a Spanish product?  Kalimotxo and tinto de verano are fine, but hard to brand. It shows you what poor marketers we are!

The second problem, at least for Rioja, is the economic crisis in general, which is hurting restaurants, Rioja's main sales channel here.

Un abrazo,


About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009.

Mr. Dawes is currently working on a reality television
series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.

Experience Spain With Gerry Dawes: Culinary Trips to Spain & Travel Consulting on Spain

Gerry Dawes can be reached at; Alternate e-mail (use only if your e-mail to AOL is rejected):


  1. Gerry, I forgot to mention liking Robert Joseph's thought-provoking presentation. It can be downloaded at

  2. Gerry Dawes10:00 AM

    Mil Gracias, Tom. Robert Joseph's presentation certainly did provoke thought, some four typed pages worth this morning. I will post it today on this blog.

    Abrazos muy fuertes, Gerry


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