The Wine Merchant in London versus Manchester
9 October 2007, flying from Reus into Stansted Airport. I spare you cues and control but they don’t spare me before I set foot on British soil.
I meet my friend David Ballesteros, violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra, recording at the studios of Abbey Road. What a better way to start in London. David played on ‘Suite Piazzollana’ of master pianist Emilio Solla in the days I was running for them as a road manager. The ‘Suite’ is definitely Emilio’s most comprehensive work, a beautiful merge between tango and jazz, with virtuous play of all first class jazz musicians from New York and Barcelona.

I’m staying at David’s apartment at Finsbury Park. A luxury compared to the terrible offer on lodging. London Hotels are a disgrace to Londoners. In a world city like this there’s only a decent hotel offer if you dig at least 150 €/night out of your pocket. Under that I came across about anything: very, very small rooms, rooms without windows, curtains hung about 100 years ago, beds that fall apart, bathrooms too small to turn around, and cockroaches even in new furnished three star hotels. They also throw the stars at your head in England, without regulations or rules for the stardom in hotel world! Probably the members of the British tourist board never stay overnight in a room in London. I just read in a newspaper London was chosen the best tourist city of the world?!

10 October 2007, a Virgin train drops me at Piccadilly station of Manchester, or should I say Manchester United?
Just in front of the Cervantes Institute I present 12 Catalan wines at restaurant and Spanish wine importer
“Evuna” for their annual taste during the Manchester Wine & Food Festival. The selection surprised almost everybody. As well the typical Penedès Mas Comtal wines (the rosé Merlot is still a topper) as the more individual wines from Pardas (especially the white Xarello barril fermented and the Cabernet Franc). Heretat Navàs honoured again the reputation of Spain’s youngest wine region D.O. Montsant. Félix Sanz showed with the Viña Cimbrón Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc the ‘flower power’ of fresh aromatic flavours from D.O. Rueda. Evuna’s event hosts about 100 wine lovers showing their interest in New Spanish Wines and eager to learn more about the different wine regions. At the end they all go crazy for Cava Can Festís brut nature bubbles to prepare for an entertaining night out in ‘The Living Room’, second home of Manchester United players.
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11 October 2007, back in London.
The tube seems to be designed for dwarfs or people with back problems, everybody is connected to their Ipod and studying meticulously the floor: don’t listen, don’t look and shut up. You find yourself breathing in someone’s neck, stepping on each other’s toes, and bumping buds without any form of communication. Women are still busy with their make up as if the tube is an extension of their bathroom.

When it comes to Spanish wines England’s taste is still very conservator. Rioja (“Is that not a bodega?”, somebody asked me once) has been the classical red from Spain for ages, Ribera del Duero is the new wine region and La Mancha for big quantities and very low prices.
Big importers are trying to put the market to their hand, not educating people but many times emptying their pockets with very cheap wines and very big margins of profit. Wine for the punters. Does the importer understand the taste of the people or do the people follow the taste of the importer? I suppose there is a big market for the occasional consumer who doesn’t know anything about wine but there are a lot and there’s the market for wine-lovers that are open for suggestion. Walking across an
Oddbins store I noticed the shelves for Spanish wine just were two (exactly 11 wines).
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12 October 2007, London Bridge.
It took me a few travels to London to discover a restaurant to satisfy my greed for fine food. Not to mention the mashed potatoes drown in sauce and a pork chop on top as the authentic British kitchen at the ‘King’s Head’ in Bayswater. In one of my last trips I discovered ‘Arbutus’ in a side street of Soho square. All the wines are available by a third of a bottle carafe to go along with a season menu. This should be a standard treat in many restaurants, everybody talks about the marriage between food and wine but nobody offers it. Arbutus does it with exciting wines and a modern fresh kitchen. I hope many are to follow.
If not, Japanese kitchen always is a delight. London hosts an impressive number of oriental restaurants. An ‘authentic’ Chinese as well as Japanese can make my day. My favourite Japanese ever is ‘Shunka’, next to the cathedral in Barcelona. They can serve a sushi of ‘sardine’ with an art only they understand, accompanied by a Gessamí wine from Gramona you truly believe to be in ‘The Forbidden Palace’.
In London I always end up at Taro, 61 Brewer Street, for a quick lunch. Sitting at the bar, practically in the kitchen creates an enormous appetite. I go for a sushi of toro and salmon, followed by a typical south Japanese noodle dish with ‘xipirones’ (I only know this word in Catalan) and a house wine Sauvignon Blanc from Australia.
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There’s no time left to buy the beautiful winter suit I saw at Muja on Oxford Street. Back in Reus by nightfall the moonlight guides me into the hills of Priorat.