by Guest Editor Pablo Echenique

Every month of January I like to hop on my car and get away for a couple of days, by myself, to any place where nobody knows me and, ideally, where there is no network for cell phones, Blackberrys and “other irritating gadgets” (according to a brilliant sign I once read in a small and quiet London hotel, asking clients to turn off such gadgets).

Last January I had the chance of visiting a new and cool Spanish architecture landmark, the new Marqués de Riscal cellars in Elciego (Alava’s Rioja), designed by the eccentric Frank O. Gehry clearly following Bilbao Guggenheim Museum’s traces. I was not lucky enough to go for a swim in the “vinotherapie” spa (the place also includes a hotel), but I experienced a cool sensation when I first saw those impossible purplish titanium structures right in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by small hills and wine stocks.

This cellar is a good example of a new trend followed by some wine makers. Just like every city in Spain seems to be willing to have its flashing architecture symbol no matter its cost and final use, certain wine producers (and not just new labels such as Cepa 21 in Ribera del Duero) are spending fortunes in hiring superstars to design impressive buildings. Calatrava´s Ysios cellar (also in Alava’s Rioja) or the quite unknown Jesús Marino’s Darien cellar (in Rioja) are other examples. One feels like going to catch a flight in Madrid’s spectacular new T-4 (designed by Lamela and Rodgers) instead of actually being in a cellar.

I believe Spain is a country that has some extraordinary talented individuals with great personality and that are very good at their jobs (wine makers, architects, doctors, engineers, even lawyers…). These projects are very good news for the critically important tourism sector in this sad times of crisis, credit crunches and some other nasty affairs. Of course, good news must always be celebrated with a good bottle of wine. If yesterday evening I had so much pleasure enjoying a great Australian wine with a great friend of mine, this evening celebrations will continue with one of my beloved Ribera’s, Pago de los Capellanes. A fruity and superb wine. A perfect companion in a rainy October evening!