Spain took the world wine stage last week. The first-ever Barcelona Wine Week (BWW) debuted in the lively city's central Plaça d'Espanya, drawing exhibitors and trade professionals from Spain and around the world.
The sense of community was strong. "For people interested in Spanish wine, this is a meeting point," said Joan Cusiné of Parés Baltà, who poured the full range of his Penedès winery's latest releases at BWW.
The three-day fair, held Feb. 3 to 5, showcased 550 wineries—the vast majority of them Spanish—from 40 appellations. Spain's diversity was on full display, though some major producers were absent. More than 15,000 attendees took advantage of the winery stands, seminars, speakers and other exhibits.
"I am floored by BWW. It's a Spanish wine lover's dream," said wine educator Rick Fisher, who came to Barcelona from San Diego for the event. "It was worth it for me to come here and to taste wines we don't get in the United States."
Unlike other wine trade fairs, where wineries construct elaborate booths to showcase their wines, BWW offered a more stripped-down approach, with mostly modest, uniform tasting booths that grouped together wineries based on their appellations.
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"We are not a classic trade fair," said BWW president Javier Pagés. "Before, it was sort of a competition [for wineries] on how big your booth was. We wanted to eliminate part of the cost and therefore allow wineries with different levels of resources to participate, so that at the end, the winners are the wines."
Dan Barrett, director of DB Wine & Spirits in Mississauga, Ontario, regularly attends major trade wine fairs and was impressed. "I've had a great time here. It's smaller, more relaxed and easier to get around," he said. "I've found some very interesting wines."
Winery staffers saw an impressive range of wine buyers. "It was a good first effort with plenty of space, not too crowded, and with some substantial efforts from the organizers to make the event interesting for both trade visitors and the producers," said Christopher Cannan, owner of Priorat's Clos Figueras. "I think there will be a bright future for the event."
Apart from the tasting, attendees took advantage of 50 seminars and events that focused on topics ranging from climate change and ancestral grape varieties to the balance of a restaurant wine list. At BWW's Speaker's Corner, presenters included Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews, whose remarks focused on American perspectives of Spanish wine.
Another highlight was the Fabulous 50 by Women exhibit, a free walk-around tasting of 50 Spanish wines produced or marketed by women. Innovative gastronomy and cocktail presentations were on display as well.
While the future of the fair has not been officially announced, the odds are good for an annual event. "If you wait two years, a lot of the momentum is lost. And our vision in the end is to make BWW a very serious and important wine trade event that's for business professionals," said Pagés. "There is one vintage every year, there are innovations every year, new products every year, new things to talk about."