An interview with Spanish Wine Lover Amaya Cervera

The Spanish Wine Lover website was set up in September 2014 to help wine lovers around the world learn more about the regions, wineries, landscapes and people that make Spain one of the most innovative and exciting wine-producing countries in the world right now. The international, multilingual team have just won their third consecutive IWC award for Best Online Platform in recognition of their contribution to raising the profile of the Spanish wine sector internationally. We caught up with Spanish Wine Lover’s founder, Amaya Cervera, to find out more.

Photos courtesy of Abel Valdenebro & Miquel Martín.

Amaya, lovely to see you again and many congratulations on the award. What is it about Spanish Wine Lover that particularly grabbed the judges attention?

Thank you – we are over the moon with our third IWC award! The jury has always highlighted the fact that Spanish Wine Lover, as a bilingual site, has an impact on international markets and contributes to the promotion of Spanish wine culture. They also highlight aspects like usability, the online design and our more in-depth analytical pieces.

I have to say that from a personal perspective, the most challenging feature is working in two languages both in terms of time spent and higher costs.

Tell us a little bit about the genesis of the project – what made you set up SWL?

I’ve always been a wine journalist, and what I love about wine is not just tasting it and sharing it, but writing about it. I’ve been using my skills in writing to communicate and promote wine culture, thus bringing my two passions together.

When recession hit Spain in the late 2000s I lost my job and was looking for new ways to go on doing what I loved best. With more and more Spanish wineries selling their wines abroad and wine journalism dominated by English and American writers, specializing in Spanish wines and trying to reach a wider audience through a bilingual website seemed a feasible, interesting idea to put into practice. I was very lucky to meet Yolanda Ortiz de Arri at that time. She does a wonderful job as Spanish Wine Lover’s English editor and is also a brilliant contributor to the site.

These are exciting times for the Spanish wine sector. What three aspects would you highlight for someone new to the Spanish wine scene?

There are three simple ideas which will help any wine lover to have a better understanding of Spanish wine.

The first one is geography. Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe. We also have the influence of the sea (the Mediterranean and the Atlantic). This results in an amazing wealth of climates, soils, elevation, exposures… Spanish wine is all about diversity.

The second one is heritage. Vines have been grown in Spain since the Romans and even before. Some recent studies suggest that the Iberian Peninsula could have been a second important area of grape domestication (after the Near East). Over the last decades we have been rediscovering many forgotten grape varieties and terroirs. Our wealth of old vines is also impressive (although perhaps we have not communicated that as well as we could have!).

Then there are the people. While a new generation of terroir-driven producers is on a mission to fulfil this potential, traditional wineries are doing their homework to keep their styles alive and kicking.

But the true excitement is in the glass. Where else can you go from an evocative, delicate Brancellao from Ribeira Sacra to an ultra classic Viña Tondonia rosé Gran Reserva from Rioja?

Of course, it’s not all plain sailing and keeping pace with France and Italy – not to mention the New World – remains a challenge. What do you think the Spanish wine sector could or should be doing differently to raise its profile internationally?

Sorry if this sounds like an ad: Learn, work hard, find your own voice. Be brave, be confident, explore. Communicate more; communicate better. Sell better.

So which Spanish region should UK buyers be keeping an eye on?

There are many exciting spots (Canary Islands, Bierzo, the southeast, Gredos, Mallorca…). Perhaps my favourite wine region is Rioja because it keeps reinventing itself; the best wines are full of finesse and age beautifully. But I believe that the next big thing is Galicia. The area is a source of a really different profile of Spanish wines – think of fresh, vibrant Atlantic whites and reds, particularly in coastal areas. It also has a wealthy heritage of indigenous grapes. Albariño, Godello, Treixadura and Mencía have already made a name for themselves, but there are some more in the pipeline: Brancellao, Espadeiro, Sousón, Ferrón, Merenzao, the various Caíños (reds) and Loureira, Caíño Blanco, Branco Lexítimo (whites). Galician producers have just started to scratch the surface; the best is yet to come.

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