Every Friday the Spanish financial newspaper Expansión publishes a glossy full-color supplement devoted to luxury lifestyle goods. This might seem strange in a country where 20 per cent of the working age population is unemployed and the economy is in a permanent state of stagnation. Since Expansión is owned by a group that represents the center-right in Spanish politics, the home of the banking and industrial sector I guess that writing about $10,000 watches, vacations in luxury resorts in the South Pacific and $500 cell phones is sound advertising.
Even their blogs cater to the rich. I laugh every time I recall reading that one of Spain’s best-known gastronomic gurus bought a Rolex with his first paycheck as a young man. Need I say more about the drift of this magazine?
I read it because they often write about wine. A couple of weeks ago there was a feature about wines reviewed by some of Spain’s best-known actors and actresses. I thought it was a novel approach because in the wine business we’re tired of reading what wine writers have to say.
One word caught my eye, however: riojitis. This word is used all the time, defined as an ailment affecting wine drinkers who ask for a Rioja when they go to a bar or restaurant. A similar ailment is called riberitis.
Sadly, I know why riojitis is so popular. Envy, pure and simple.
One of the first books I read when I came here to live was Spain and the Seven Capital Sins by Fernando Díaz-Plaja. I read it in Spanish but it was available in English too. It’s probably out of print today but I’ll bet you can buy it from Amazon. In any case, it’s a good read for anyone who wishes to understand this sometimes perplexing country.
Envy is the number one capital sin inSpain, but everyone practices it, making it the national pastime. I don’t think that too many people talk about it in the confession booth.
Twenty five years ago, Rioja was the only game in town here. Of today’s wine media darlings, Ribera del Duero was just getting started, Rueda was known for sherry-style whites aged outdoors in big glass jars, Toro and Jumilla were places to buy heavy reds from cooperatives and Priorato was the home of a company that made altar wine. The hottest wine in Galicia was Ribeiro, then mainly known as a very acidic red wine served in white ceramic bowls with dishes of spicy octopus. La Mancha was La Mancha (and still is).
Of course, times have changed (for the better) and consumers have a wider range of choices than ever but Rioja is still Spain’s most popular wine district, both here and abroad. Why? Because we’ve been working longer and harder to promote it than anyone else.
I have some grammatical suggestions for wine writers who are jealous of Rioja’s success. If you insist on adding Greek and Latin suffixes to Rioja, be honest and call yourselves riojaphobes, because we riojaphiles will keep on trying to riojafy you. Call me a riojamaniac if you wish but I’m filled with riojapassion. So there.