The Spanish Bodega/cellar tradition
The tradition of buying wine “loose” (en granel), from specialist wine cellars is familiar to us from our travels in Andalusia, where from time to time you come across a simple cellar/bar (usually in a sherry producing town), with 6/9 barrels where you can buy locally produced wine to take away, or sometimes drink in.
Our favourite example being Bodega El Castilito in Chipiona, where you can have an excellent ice cold sherry/manzanilla and some simple seafood tapas in a bustling old cavern of a place (the volume, noisewise is intense!!) You can also take a suitable receptacle (an empty water bottle will suffice), to buy wine, sherry, vermouth to take away. The quality and prices are both excellent (as is the location, one street back from the beach – perfect for sundodgers like us!!!)
Since coming to Catalonia, we have realised they’re doing things on a whole other level here! The locations where you can buy “loose wine”(!) are numerous; from the smallest village shop, to your local branch of the Carrefour supermarket. I guess it should probably come as no surprise, because we are in the heart of the bountiful Emporda wine producing region, where the quality is fantastic. Luckily for us, great wine is literally “on tap” everywhere!
Recently we came across a very fine example of a bodega/cellar; Bodega Miquel, in Sant Antoni de Calonge, a coastal town, here in Costa Brava.
The sheer range of wines, vermouths, ports, sherries on offer is incredible. There is also a wide range of bottles, including some real vintage stuff. We were really surprised to see rum, brandy and liqueurs on tap too – that’s a first…. To top it off, not only can you enjoy a glass of something cold, standing at a barrel, they also have a full menu and dining space. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to eat here, but we will surely be back, as this is just the kind of atmospheric place we like.
I’m not sure whether this tradition of selling wine has ever existed in the UK? I like the romantic notion of people in Shakespearian times supping on a flagon of sherry ( or Sack, as I believe it was called then). However, I do remember reading recently that a branch of Waitrose was trialling wine “on tap” as part of its new weigh and go range. Certainly, it makes a lot of sense from an environmental perspective. I would be really interested to know if anyone is aware of any similar schemes/outlets?
I guess we are more of a beer drinking nation (historically) and we have some pretty archaic licensing laws. However, I’m heartened to see that there are still real ale pubs and newbies to the beer market (such as Beerfly on St Cuthberts Street, Bedford) who are selling beer in flagons, or polypins.
I suspect because we are not (yet) producing wine in great enough volume and the import duty, taxes etc are prohibitive, but who knows maybe one day – you gotta have a dream (“If you build it, they will come…”)