The festivities continued Monday night at Vinexpo as Spanish winemakers poured for a throng of 1,500 at Wine Spectator's "Taste of Spain" party, held in Bordeaux's magnificent Palais de la Bourse on the city's historic waterfront.
It was an unprecedented showcasing of Spain's distinctive wines and cuisine, gathering more than 100 of Spain's leading bodegas selected by Wine Spectator and chosen to reflect regional diversity, historical leadership and extraordinary quality. "Wine Spectator has been closely following Spain's impressive progress for decades," said executive editor Thomas Matthews, who is also the magazine's lead taster for the wines of Spain. "We are pleased to give the country the showcase it deserves."
"This is a sample of what Spain is," announced chef and culinary co-chair José Andrés, "and the best is still around the corner. This is true for wine and for food. This is where we come from, who we are and where we are going."
Also making the journey north were 12 chefs from acclaimed Spanish restaurants, selected by Andrés and his fellow culinary co-chair, legendary chef Ferran Adrià. Andrés and Adrià chose to focus their invitations on younger chefs and chefs from lesser-known regions.
They served up small plates of specialties like Cava-marinated red prawns with green pepper almonds from Andreu Genestra of Hotel Son Jaumell de Capdepera in Mallorca, Canarian black pudding and sugared almond turrón from Juan Carlos Padrón at El Rincon de Juan Carlos in Los Gigantes and spicy suckling pig's ear from Aurelio Morales of Cebo in Madrid.
The crowd was a lively, international mix of winemakers, grapegrowers, merchants, brokers, journalists and importers.
"This was a wonderful refresher, a reacquaintance with Spanish wine," said Raymond Reyes, owner of Sunset Vineyards and director of winegrowing for LVMH's Napa estates Chandon and Newton Vineyard. "I saw varietal characteristics that were similar, but then there were the differences in house styles, the freshness—it was really neat to see."
Despite a heatwave that saw temperatures rise to 97° F earlier in the day, the crowd swelled beyond expectations. "The number of people is a complete surprise," said Antonio Hidalgo of Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana. Hidalgo's family has been making Sherry since 1782. "We are a small company and we don't normally attend wine fairs. But it's our 225th anniversary and I thought this was a great way to celebrate."
"No one expected the event to be like this. It's a surprise to everyone," said Imma Llopart, export manager for Vinexpo exhibitor Roqueta Origen, who poured their Lafou Cellar wines. "But to show the French what we can do, and here in the most emblematic place in Bordeaux—we are so proud to be here."
"Bordeaux is an important platform. This is a beautiful opportunity for Spaniards to show the Bordelais what they can do," said export agent Stephane Rebollo of Diva Espagne in Madrid "Attention, we exist too!"
The magical evening of extraordinary wines and food was made all the more special by the effort Spain's chefs and winemakers took to share their stories.
"We have a song in Spain," explained Andrés. "'Si Tú Me Dices Ven' ('If You Tell Me to Come'). 'If you tell me to come, I will leave everything, if you tell me to come …'" After Monday night's "Taste of Spain," there will be many hoping he returns.