A newcomer in the city who walks into any Barcelona supermarket may think that wine pours out of the Catalonian hills like spring water. Walls of wine bottles fill shelves from floor to ceiling, with prices ranging from the 2 euro bottles at the bottom to pricier (for Barcelona) 8 euros and up options at the top. Abundance has its downsides though. The sheer volume can overwhelm and leave even the experienced wine drinker wondering where to begin. One can either become an expert or turn to Barcelona’s specialized wine shops to navigate the maze and help you choose the right wine for your special event, holiday dinner, or (let’s be real) Netflix and chill.
As a local wine community mainstay, Bodega Maestrazgo is a must-stop for anyone looking for a little gracious help. Third generation owner Jose Moliner is the latest in the family to run the bodega, which has been in business on Sant Pere Mes Baix for almost 70 years. Tradition greets you at the doorstep. Large barrels that store local vermut and table wines from the surrounding regions are a nod to the history of the bodega. Wander a little further into the shop, though, and a decidedly modern twist presents itself in the bottles lining the shelves. Maestrazgo’s bottle selection focuses on wines that tell a story — those made from lesser known grapes, long-ignored regions, or smaller bodegas experimenting with interesting projects and wine-making techniques.
Maestrazgo excels in pairing wine to consumer, a matchmaking ability that can only be honed through experience and relationships. “We want to show our customers new wines; wines that excite them; wines that make them want to enjoy them again and again,” explains Misty, Jose’s counterpart at the bodega.
Every bottle of wine should be an experience to drink – regardless of how much it costs.
Being a part of the Spanish wine community for years has produced the kind of relationships with wine-makers, distributors and bodegas that lets Bodega Maestrazgo continually find these exciting wines. A visit to Maestrazgo is always an adventure that starts with a conversation and ends with a wine suited to my needs. Sometimes this is an old favorite and sometimes it’s something I would never have thought to pick up on my own.
This inevitably leads to the question of how a bodega stocks its inventory given the fickle and varied tastes of wine drinkers. As Misty explains,
Every wine drinker is different and each of their wine styles is something very personal. Every wine store owner obviously loves wines! But just like our customers; we have our favorite styles. It is very important when buying wines that you try to take your own personal preferences out of the equation.
This consumer-focused philosophy is why shops like Bodega Maestrazgo have become a bodega staple for me. That and their lovely tasting room where customers can have a chat with Misty and Jose over a glass of something delicious and then take a couple of bottles to go.
The Eco-Conscious Newcomer
The modern wine enthusiast looking for a pour that’s as good for the body (and soul) as the planet may find their wine home at Melissa Leighty’s Salut Wine Studio. As Melissa explains,
My philosophy is choosing wine that is made with care. For me, that means being a good farmer and producing wines that are at least ecological if not organic.
Salut’s inventory includes about 70% Catalan wines, 20% Spanish wines, and 10% international wines and an expanding portfolio of natural wines. Melissa based this selection partly on consumer demand, but also to cater to the “intentional, thoughtful consumer” looking to buy local. According to her,
I always prefer to carry something zero km than flying in a wine from across Europe, not just for the [carbon] footprint alone, but because I think it’s important that visitors to Barcelona learn about Catalunya while they’re here. I may have fewer wines than other shops, but anything you find on the shelves in Salut is conscientious wine.
For any Barcelona bodega trending toward an inventory of ecological and natural wines, the type of careful curation shown by Salut is the gold standard.
Salut is all modern in both its aesthetic and approach to producers. The brightly lit and inviting space in El Born gives the impression of being a dining room, rather than a traditional store. The large community table and regular tasting events encourage conversations about what you’re drinking and the wines you are buying. Those who take the time will find Melissa eager to share her latest find, a winemaker, or the stories at the heart of the bottle.
I hope for customers to come in with an open mind and leave with something new, whether that’s a new wine that they’ve never tried before or knowledge about a grape, an aspect of wine-making, or simply something they’ve learned about their own taste in wine.
My visits have certainly expanded my palate to wines I would have otherwise overlooked.
Selecting the right wine bottle need not be either a chore or a haphazard guess (or both). Seek out knowledgeable staff at a friendly bodega; take the time to chat about their wines. The bottle you end up with will be more meaningful and tailored to your tastes, plus you may just find your new home away from home.
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