Use It Or Lose It

Up until a couple of years ago we had the good fortune to have an independent wine merchant in the village. Vinos Don Juan, which was located in a tiny shop at the foot of calle Zacatín, the most photographed street in Frigiliana, was owned and run by an Englishman, John Harwood, who had an amazing knowledge of the small producers across Spain. He was so good at his chosen profession that in the early 2000s he was described in one of Spain’s foodie magazines as “probably the best independent wine merchant south of Madrid”. Sadly, the shop is no more. There were a number of reasons why it closed, including no doubt some that I don’t know of, but two stand out as foremost in my mind, and together they combined to ensure that I and others did not buy more from John than we did. From a simple, location point of view the shop was hard to access with a car. OK for the odd bottle or two to carry home in a bag, but if you preferred to buy in larger quantities then two trips were necessary, the first to select and pay, and then a second visit when you stopped the car at the bottom of the street, switched on the hazard lights and went and collected your purchases. This wasn’t a real problem because everyone who lives in Frigiliana knows that if you drive through the old village you are likely to be held up in this way two or three times before you get to your destination. The second reason was that the local supermarkets all carry a pretty good range of wines from bigger producers sold at highly competitive prices. Put the two together and it was just so much easier to buy most of your wine during your regular supermarket shopping trip, and just pick up the occasional bottle of good stuff for a special occasion from John. So of course, now he has gone. Fortunately I have found a similar shop down the road in Torre del Mar. The difference is that it sits on a wide street and you can park virtually outside the door. That is all the encouragement I need. I no longer look at what’s on the shelves at Eroski. I make a special journey to Vinomar where I can find all kinds of obscure wines at good prices and excellent quality. When I first used to come to Spain, the country was famous for its plonk. Bulk wine at silly prices that was OK as long as you used it to wash down highly flavoured food. Spain has come on by leaps and bounds since then and now produces some very, very good wines indeed. But if I write ‘Spanish red’, you will probably say, “Oh yes, Rioja.” I think maybe I should write a few posts about the alternatives.

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