A few days ago, we received sad news from Silvia Puig (winemaker of Creu Celta) that her father Josep (known as Jose to some) had peacefully passed away.
Joseph was a good friend of Direct Wine Shipments. He first met Kevin McAlindon (our Dad) in the 1980s whilst Export Manager of Bodegas Torres. At the time DWS were the biggest market outside of Spain in sales per capita. Josep had been the ‘trailblazer’ who had established Torres’ Chilean operation in Curico. He helped pioneer modern wine making techniques plus was instrumental in the introduction of white wine cold fermentation to South America!
Josep and Dad became firm friends. They had similar senses of humour and a big passion for wine. Josep’s favourite television program was ‘The Simpsons’ and he had an array of t-shirts to prove it!
He set up his own winery Puig & Roca near Tarragona and in little time was making world class Chardonnay. He also introduced a brand of high-class Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar which became ultra successful throughout Spain.
This was a man who met Winston Churchill in England in the 1950s when working as a waiter and by all accounts got a chuckle out of the war time PM.
As well as inventing the ‘Puig Pull’ wine opener, designed for Sommeliers who had to get to grips with old vintages with stubborn and fragile corks, he wrote books, was a great wine educator, wine maker and decent chef.
In the 1990s he even had a double page spread in The Sunday Times as he espoused the techniques of mushroom foraging and published some of his favourite recipes.
His Paella was legendary, and he made one for a tasting in Direct Wine Shipments. On a visit to his winery Puig & Roca, the Northern Ireland Wine & Spirit Institute were treated to a feast and a many glasses of wine and some may re-call a large dog helping himself to Paella from the pan whilst the party ensued!
In 1999 we set on doing research to upgrade our already extensive Spanish range. Lots of new areas were coming to the fore, including Yecla, Ayella, Jumilla, Almansa, Terra Alta, Montsant and finally Priorat.
We sent Kevin to visit certain growers and before he went, he telephoned his good Catalan friend Josep to ask him to accompany him on a visit to the Scala Dei winery in mountains of Priorat.
This phone call changed everything for us and Josep as we all became captivated with the region! Josep sold up Puig and Roca and together with his winemaker daughter Silvia set up a beautiful winery in the village of Gratallops just across the road from Alvaro Palacios.
A few years later in 2003 we with the help of Josep purchased our own Priorat vineyard, situated in the coolest part of the region, ‘Salanques’, just outside the beautiful village of Pobeleda. Silvia who became the fantastic winemaker of Creu Celta moved to the village not long after.
We had many visits to Priorat and Josep had many visits to Belfast. The experiences were always wine business focussed but always great fun. He was a truly wonderful man and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
We send our best wishes and love to Silvia and her family. Salut!
Peter & Neal McAlindon