M. Carmen Martinez

And it could not be otherwise … wine and I have traveled parallel paths during all this time – meeting one another occasionally along the way – since I was a child until today.

First, through the people around me who, in one way or another, have been linked to this world of wine; and then in a more direct way, eventually becoming more than just “friend”. I was lucky to be born in Jerez de la Frontera which, without realizing it, has linked me during the past few years into a close relationship with the world of wine.

My grandfather Paco, my mother’s father, was a chemist at a famous winery in Jerez until his retirement, and each day had his inevitable and timely appointment with his glass of wine at the cocktail hour; I remember it like it was yesterday. We now speak of pairing wine and food, but at that time my grandfather did it intuitively. I remember the day that my brother and I came home with a packet of wheat snacks or “BOCABITS” … and my grandfather asked me; “What’s that, so modern?” He went to the packet and he took one, tried it and after taking a sip from his glass of wine, he said: “That’s actually good !!!”.

Chefs are now using Jerez wine, or sherry, to marinate their dishes, although my grandmother added various dashes to meat, toast and so on … and was yummy !!! My parents also have an important place in these memories. They had for many years a small and charming restaurant in Jerez, called “El Zaguán”. At the time it was very innovative because it introduced European food which meant having to delve deeper into the world of wine, eventually lovingly caring for and guarding the different crops and vintages. The two of them very much appreciated wine; my father from the side of enjoyment – a facet that I share. He loved to open a bottle of wine and drink it at family meals – treating it as the best of the guests. My mother, from a professional perspective, created the wine menu and advised clients. I remember her sampling a wine and saying … “Hint of pepper, scent of vanilla and spices… caramel”. Curiously, I’m the one who now does it!

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“I’ve been fortunate to inherit from my parents the skills that were always, unwittingly, going to lead me to where I am now” …

Each time I believe more in genetics. I’ve been fortunate to inherit from my parents the skills that were always, unwittingly, going to lead me to where I am now: how to recognize the qualities of wine, how to enjoy it, and how to find the words to reach out to pass it on to others. I have always had the support and advice of a part of my family who is still linked to a large winery as well as firm support and a lot of help from the rest. They have all supported this initiative unconditionally, giving me a helping hand where they could and encouragement when desperately needed. Thank you, everyone, I couldn’t have done it without you!!

I had a happy childhood in contact with nature and then a restless, creative period as a youth which motivated me to work during the college years. It was in those early years when I started to enjoy a glass of wine amongst friends. I had a roommate – my best friend now – and after leaving class on a Friday we would always go shopping together. What we never forgot to do, however, was to choose a wine to take back and enjoy – within the small and limited student budget, of course. Even today we continue to enjoy the taste of a good wine together and to surprise each other with our choice. Maybe my parents having a restaurant and me participating in various celebrations was what led me to work in the world of hospitality during my last year of college.

Recalling all this now, I realize that it has been my experiences in life that have helped me, bit by bit, to see this project through to maturity – an idea of which my father would certainly have unconditionally and enthusiastically shared with me. Everyone who knows me a little, knows this passion I have, but it was my husband who I converted to my world of wine first, primarily due to my enthusiasm and dedication and he now enjoys unconditionally supporting me … Miss Catas.