Wines From Spain recently spoke with Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor of FOOD & WINE Magazine. In this interview, Ray discusses his journey in journalism and discovery with Spanish wines. Ray also talks about the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, where Wines From Spain will again be featured at several seminars and as the wine region in the Spain tent in the center of the Grand Tasting.
Read our full interview below.
1. You’re the Executive Wine Editor of FOOD & WINE magazine. How did you get your start in wine journalism and when did you first discover Spanish wines?
I started as a freelance journalist in wine while I was working as a cellar rat in California in the Santa Cruz mountains and teaching creative writing at Stanford, then I moved to New York and worked as a supplier rep for Dow’s and Graham’s and kept freelancing. Finally, Joshua Greene at Wine & Spirits offered me a full-time editorial job. I don’t honestly recall when I first “discovered” Spanish wines, but I do recall buying a bottle of Pesquera when I was first getting into wine (while in grad school) and thinking, well, hell, this is really good. While I was at Wine & Spirits, though, I ended up being the critic for Spanish wines, so I became better acquainted with them in the interim.
2. In your opinion, what are some of the best things Spanish wines offer to wine drinkers?
A sense of place, a tradition that extends back centuries, varieties such as Tempranillo that find their greatest expression in Spain, other varieties such as Mencía that don’t really seem to exist anywhere else but Spain, and an extraordinary cuisine to pair with these wines.
3. Last year, FOOD & WINE dedicated a complete issue to Spain, guest edited by iconic chef Jose Andres. In the up-front, Nilou Motamed wrote:
Everything is better when we travel. We reaffirm that beautiful, inextricable connection between people and place, between culture and cuisine, between food and its landscape of origin. We transport ourselves by eating, and we happily transport ourselves to eat. For me—and I’m guessing you, too—food is a central part of why I travel, and where I find maximum joy. Farmers’ markets, wineries, vermuterías, tapas bars, seafood shacks, temples of modernist gastronomy and nameless holes-in-the-wall alike…these experiences nourish me in every sense.
This passage has stuck with us all year, and it’s one we couldn’t agree with more. From your last few visits to Spain, what are some of your must-see spots in Spain?
Well, not too long ago I did a sort of arc through the vineyard regions (and restaurants) of Catalunya. There was remarkable food to be had everywhere, and great wine. I was particularly struck by the landscape of Conca de Barberà, where I’d never been before.
4. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen is almost upon us! As a sponsor for 26 consecutive years, Wines From Spain has a longstanding and deep affinity for Aspen Food & Wine. For our readers who have never had been, how would you describe it?
It’s the single greatest food and wine event on the planet. But hey, I’m biased.