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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


The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections Mission Statement

* * * * *

The Philosophy of
The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group  
Gerry Dawes Selections™

“Wines the Way They Ought to Taste”

What makes the world of wine so interesting, compelling and even romantic is the diversity of vineyards, grapes, producers and wines, not homogeneity or sameness.”

Eugenio Merino of Bodegas Crescencia Merino in the family vineyards in Corcos del Valle (Valladolid) 
that he works so hard to tend, allowing him to produce one of the truly great rosados of Cigales.  
Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011 /

We prefer family-owned bodegas with their own vineyards (preferably un-irrigated or minimally irrigated) or those who work with controlled growers under long-term associations.  We are looking for winemakers with a dedication to producing wines that reflect their own unique tastes and the uniqueness of their vineyard sites, grapes, soil, climate and individual tastes, not preconceived tastes "that the market is asking for."  We represent unique wines that taste the way the people who make them think the product of their years-long labor in the vineyards ought to taste. 

Gerry Dawes with members of La Asociación de Bodegas Artesanas (Artesan Bodegas) of Rías Baixas, some of the more than a dozen small grower-producers who use native yeasts to ferment their Albariño wines. These Galician bodegueros make Albariños the way they think the wines ought to taste and each of their wines is as distinct from the other as they are as individuals.  At the end of July, these artisan producers hold their Feria del Vino de Autor, to show their wines, with an "author" behind each one.  They only bottle their wines of the previous vintage in time to have them for the Feria, while most producers bottle theirs just 2-3 months after the harvest.  Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 / /

We do not represent wines that conform to the conventional canon, i.e., wines so dark that you can't see the bottom of the glass; wines with jammy, overripe fruit; wines low in acid; "dry" red or white wines with pronounced residual sugar; wines that taste more of oak than wine; or wines with levels of alcohol higher that 13.5%.   We prefer 13% and lower, but will consider wines of 14% on rare occasions, but only if they seem particularly well balanced, which is a sleight-of-hand performed by very few maestros.

A No-Can-See-Bottom-of-Glass Wine of the Inky Monster School.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2011 /

We see no virtue in wines so extracted and concentrated in color that you can't see the bottom of the glass. Depth of color is no indicator of a great wine in the glass, it merely a very dark wine, which often means it has very high alcohol and is a very extracted wine made from overripe grapes.  Such wines are usually made to please reviewers during the two minutes they may have to evaluate one wine among the 30-100 wines they will taste that day.  We don't believe that is the criteria by which really good wines should be judged. 

We don't mind if the wines are lightly filtered, since we don't put much stock in the unfined, unfiltered wisdom, nor do we believe in exaggerated concentration of flavors as a virtue. 

We do not seek wines that rely on harvesting overripe grapes and submitting them to long macerations to achieve dark color, high alcohol and so-called "flavor."  We discourage the abuse of battonage, the popular stirring of dead lees back into the wine, a practice that effectively breaks and often obliterates the seamless marriage of great minerality with the taste from great grapes, putting an artificial volume-appearance enhancing element in wines that misses the point of what a great wine should be about.   

And we discourage barrel fermentation in new oak and aging wines in improperly prepared new oak, either French or American, all of which tend to obscure both the taste of the grape variety and any terruño (terroir), or unique sense of place, that a wine may possess.  

We believe that wines subjected to the harshness of too much improperly conditioned new oak 
taste more like a the product of a saw mill than of a vineyard.  Photo: Gerry Dawes©2009 /

We prefer to work with wineries that use only hand-harvested fruit.  In the case that we may begin to work with a producer who machine harvests, we will urge that producer to begin hand harvesting the fruit as soon as possible for the wines we import.

Harvester monument, Cacabelos, Bierzo.
Photo: Gerry Dawes©2009 /

We do not represent wines with artificial closures, i.e.,  screw caps, plastic "corks," and composite corks with chemical binders.  We will be working with a major Portuguese cork supplier, Amorim, who will guarantee our producers’ wines against cork taint and we will say so on our labels. (To be implemented by all our suppliers by the second year of their Spanish Artisan Wine Group association.)

Carlos de Jesus of Amorim in Portugal explains the process of preparing cork that will be made 
into natural cork wine stoppers.   Photo by Gerry Dawes©2010 /

We recognize that some vintage years are better than others, but we put our stock in small producers who make every effort to get the best of any vintage, even if it means throwing out half their grapes.  From long experience, we believe true wine lovers should follow producers, not vintage years.  When a great producer harvests an exceptional vintage truly great wines can be made.  In a so-called great vintages, many mediocre producers make as much wine as possible to take advantage of the fame of that vintage year.  Such wines are seldom as good as those that conscientious producers make, even in an off year. 

We believe that there is a substantial market for wines that express our philosophy. 

 - - Gerry Dawes©2013.
  About Gerry Dawes

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

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.

 In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

 ". . .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.

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