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The Proust Q&A: Telmo Rodriguez

Telmo Rodriguez is one of the most influential winemakers in Spain. Passionate about putting Spain’s best terroirs on the map, in addition to his family estate Remelluri in Rioja Alavesa, he makes wine from a number of small plots across the country including Toro, Ribera del Duero, Malaga, Cigales, Rueda and Valdeorras. The jewel in his crown is Las Beatas, a terraced single vineyard between Briñas and Labastida in Rioja from which he makes just 500 bottles of wine a year. He recently released a manifesto in defence of Spanish terroir, which was signed by 150 winemakers, merchants and wine writers. He lives in Madrid.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The sea is one of my great passions, so it would be that moment when you’re about to enter the ocean in a beautiful place on your surfboad. I’d be alone, just me and the ocean.

What is your greatest fear?

To lose my passion and excitement would be a drama for me as it’s what defines me.

Who do you most admire?

Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, Winston Churchill and David Bowie.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Buying fine art. I’d spend my last peseta on a Jackson Pollock painting.

What is your current state of mind?

Excited and fired up. After 22 years of working in wine, I feel like I’m really achieving things. I’m exploding with ideas and things I want to communicate. I recently turned 53, so I suppose I started thinking more about how precious my time here is.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Beauty, intellegence and a sense of humour.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My family.

When and where were you happiest?

When I bought my first vineyard – Las Beatas in Rioja, 20 years ago. It was an amazing feeling of happiness and achievement beacause I’d bought a piece of histroy.

What would you like to change about yourself if you could?

I’d like to be taller!

Las Beatas

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be able to write fluidly. Writers have a wonderful freedom with their pen to create something beautiful.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

To have recuperated 70 amazing hectares of lost vineyards in Spain; some of the most beautiful forgotten vineyards in the world.

Where would you most like to live?

I’m trying to decide that at the moment. I live in Madrid but would like to live in the countryside near to a forest. Perhaps in Scotland or Ireland, defintiely in the country.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My passion for wine, work and travelling, and my sense of fun.

Who are your favourite writers?

Pio Baroja, Joseph Conrad and Jack London.

Who is your hero of fiction?

The Count of Monte Cristo.

What is your biggest dislike?

Close-minded people.

What is your greatest regret?

I try not to have regrets as they don’t do you any good. I’ve got through my life so far without many.

What is your motto?

I’m keen for people to see the beauty in the world, and discover the amazing places and tastes in Spain.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what three wines would you serve?

I’m a big Monty Python fan, so I’d invite Terry Gilliam to keep us entertained, Miguel de Cervantes for his stories, and Jackson Pollock, in the hope that he might paint me something. I’d start the night with Chave Hermitage Blanc from the 19th century and would move on to my single vineyard Rioja, Las Beatas. I’d end the evening with a mountain wine from Malaga from 1850 to show what Spain can do with sweet wine.

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