Interviews • November 9, 2016

Mark Oldman Talks Spanish Wine In His New Book, “How To Drink Like A Billionaire”

Wines from Spain took the opportunity to speak with Mark Oldman, one of the country’s leading and most celebrated wine personalities. His dedication to “winespeak without the geek” has led to numerous television appearances and him being the wine expert at Pottery Barn and wine correspondent for the Food Network. Among many other accolades, he is also the author of several awarded wine books.

Wines From Spain sat down to discuss his new book, How to Drink Like A Billionaire” and find out what it really takes to drink like a (Spanish) billionaire!

Your always fantastic Aspen Food & Wine seminar has inspired the book How To Drink Like A Billionaire? So tell us, how do you drink like a billionaire?

Drinking like a billionaire means to embrace the geekiness that surrounds so much of wine and knowing which rules to dismiss and which to keep. Yes, you can add ice to wine, you can drink reds with fish, you can overlook certain wine flaws, and, in the right restaurant, you should feel comfortable ordering the least expensive wine on the list. Drinking like a billionaire also means drinking with unapologetic joy – that is, defying wine’s “vinously correct” prigs and poseurs and reclaiming wine for forces of pleasure and generosity.  And thus we have the art of sabering bubbly, the pleasures of day drinking, and, as we’ll get into below, the delights of using a porron.

In 2016, the richest man in the world is, depending on the whims of the stock market, Amancio Ortega, the Spanish founder of Zara. It begs the question, how does one drink like a Spanish billionaire like Mr. Ortega? 

Contrary to prevailing belief, even billionaires do not want to spend recklessly on wine, and I doubt that Mr. Oretga wants to torch his cash, either. Spending wisely is how billionaires stay billionaires. They will, of course, spend for special occasion wines, but they rarely order from a restaurant’s reserve list. They are often happiest with moderately priced bottles that drink above their cost. So I bet Mr. Ortega likes Rioja, and since he is the founder of Zara and thus has an eye for style, he probably enjoys the Rioja bottles that are glamorously wrapped in gold fishnet mesh, which was historically a feature to prevent counterfeiting.

What are some Spanish varietals that people who want to live like a billionaire should be consuming and why? Favorite pairings?

Let’s start with Albariño, which in my book chapter on “Oldman’s 10 Best Rankings” is named the number one alternative to Chardonnay. I once introduced this fragrant and zesty white to a good friend who happens to be one of America’s greatest wine collectors.  Before trying Albariño, he confined his purchases to grand cru Burgundy and tête de cuvée Champagne. To his surprise and delight, he loved Albariño’s fragrant and zesty personality, and Albariño has since become his “gateway wine” for exploring less familiar wines.

And speaking of other wine types, so many other Spanish wine types rate highly in How to Drink Like a Billionaire. I extol the virtues of Cava, Txakoli, Dry Sherry, Godello, Bierzo, Monastrell, Rioja (including Rioja Blanco), Ribera del Duero, Priorat, all types of Spanish rosado, and even that rediscovered district of northwestern Spain, Ribeira Sacra.

With this spectrum of wine styles, I point out that the pairing opportunities with Spanish wine are endless. One of my favorites – and one that is true to the spirit of the book – is drizzling Pedro Ximénez Sherry on chocolate ice cream.

Tell us more about your fun with the porron?  

The porron represents perfectly the spirit of drinking like a billionaire. Never has such an inexpensive piece of glassware had the ability to engender such unrestrained mirth. My appreciation for the porron reached new heights two years ago on my way to teach at my 10th Aspen Food & Wine Classic, when I found myself on a private jet with legendary chef Jacques Pépin and former Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin. In my carry-on bag, I happened to have a porron that I planned to show my audiences that weekend, but decided, in the moment, to pull it out along with a magnum of 1982 Dom Pérignon. Next thing you know, Dana, Jacques, and I were passing the porron around like mischievous teenagers, Jacques splashing the bubbly into his mouth like a conquering hero.  We have a photo of it, and my publisher loved it so much she included it on the book’s back cover.

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Since that time, I have tried to introduce as many people as possible to the exhilarations of the porron at my festival appearances and parties. Everyone is duly intrigued by this little tankard of joy.

Make your tapas count this November when Wines From Spain returns to the Bay Area for the first time in ten years. We hope to see you at Spain’s Great Match San Francisco. 

Salud!