We are very excited to announce the identity of our new writer about Spanish wines. Ferran Centelles (pictured) worked as a sommelier at the world-famous elBulli in north-east Spain for 13 years until it closed last year. He won Ruinart's competition to become Spain's best sommelier in 2006 and won a National Gastronomy Award in 2011. He has been in charge of selling the contents of elBulli's cellar at Sotheby's sales in Hong Kong and New York recently in order to raise funds for Ferran Adria's forthcoming elBulli Foundation on the site of the old restaurant on the Costa Brava. He is in demand as a taster in international wine competitions, including the Spanish panel of the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Nick and I have admired Ferran (Centelles) ever since first encountering him and his pure enthusiasm for wine when dining at elBulli. We were lucky enough to spend time with him in Empordà last June when, inter alia, we tasted a very competent full-bodied local white wine he made in very small quantity in 2011. Last September we saw him in impressive action on the stage of the Torres-inspired food and wine conference in Barcelona. He belongs to the Gérard Basset school of humble sommeliers, by the way.
He is the last person to claim that his English is perfect, but we feel that his tasting ability and wine sensibilities are much more important. We hope that when you read his dispatches from Spain, both tasting articles and general news, you will agree. His first two articles will be a brief account of how he feels about his new responsibilities and then an overview of where he thinks Spanish wine is today. In the meantime, Spanish wine enthusiasts may enjoy Richard's tasting article published today.
Here's what Ferran has to say about himself:
'I was born in Barcelona in 1981 but I did not get interested in wine until I was 17. Nobody in my family had any serious connection with wine (grapes from one hectare of vines cultivated by my grandfather some time ago went to a local co-operative in Castellón). I discovered wine through restaurants, and still remember the first aroma I was able to recognise in a glass of wine (rose-petal aromas in a Muscat from Penedès).
'My first academic steps were made in cookery schools (Joviat and Cett) and a winemaking school (Escola Mercè Rossell i Domènech). At that time I started as a summer stagier at elBulli restaurant. The fact that elBulli was always closed for six months per year allowed me to travel around and educate myself, mainly in London (where I completed the WSET Diploma) and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
'I started to teach wine at the age of 23, and although I realise that was probably too early, I gained a lot of experience that I continue to use now as part of the Outlook Wine team at The Barcelona Wine School. I am still closely involved with the exciting elBulli Foundation project and, while it develops, I am also part of the selection panel for www.wineissocial.com, a Spanish retail site where each month an educational selection of wines is chosen strictly on the basis of blind tasting and/or personal taste and is offered to those who want to learn about wine. I plan not to rate any wine on JancisRobinson.com that has already been offered on wineissocial.'
We feel confident that you will be as impressed by this young man, widely admired and liked in Spain, as we are. By complete coincidence, we saw Ferran Adria of elBulli in London last week and he thoroughly approves of this new appointment.