Photo by Lee Woolcock
Joan Calvet Mercè
Barcelona wine-maker Joan Calvet talks to Nicola Thornton about his passion for his job.
I got into winemaking by accident really. I started studying mathematics, but then I changed to engineering. Then one of my teachers at university suggested I go to a job interview in a local winemaking company and that was it.
I’ve been in the job for 12 years and I love it. It’s one of those professions that once you are in, you never want to leave.
My father was the last dairy farmer in Gràcia. He had a little shop in Calle Torrijos where he sold fresh milk, which came directly from the cows he kept at the back of the shop. I suppose that’s the reason I have always been a country boy.
The job is about the love of what you do and the glamour. It’s very satisfying to produce a wine and know you have been involved from the grape to the bottle.
Wine does have a snobby image, but I always maintain people who don’t like wine haven’t tried enough of them! I had a friend who always used to order beer whenever we went out for a dinner, while the rest of us had wine. He said he just didn’t like the taste. Then one year, he ordered wine. When I asked him what had changed, he said he’d started experimenting. That was it.
The winemaking process is different for red and white wines. The main difference is the grape varieties used and that the colour of red wine comes from the skin of the fruit. It’s all quite hi-tech now: nobody stomps around barefoot in presses any more.
The Spanish tend to be loyal to Spanish wines. Preference is usually a generational thing—for example, my parent’s generation prefer fuller-bodied wines while younger people usually like something lighter. England is a great wine consumer—the people there are very demanding.
My own tastes have evolved. I’ve tried a lot of wines, and of course my day-to-day life trains me for my job. When tasting a wine, first it’s about the colour, then the smell and then the taste. I’m especially fond of reds.
Wine should never dominate the flavour of the main dish. You serve white with fish and red with meat, but you can get white wines that are very rich and mature that fit perfectly with chicken and white meat. It’s all about developing a taste that you like.
Red wine and cheese go together really well for chemical reasons. The mix of cheese proteins with the tannins from the red wine make the wine more delicate and tone down the bitter taste.
To unwind, I love walking my dog, Xispa. I love animals and also think I would liked to have become a vet, even though I love my job.
I also like cooking and preparing dinners for friends. My favourites are paellas and I’m a fan of barbecues because of the ambience. My perfect dinner party guests would be Peter Sellers, as he would make me laugh, Princess Leia, who was my icon as a teenager, and the lead singer of the group Russian Red.