Mistral are Julie & Sam. A young couple with great experience working within Edinburgh's hospitality panorama who, due to the consequences of lockdown, decided it was time to take a risk & open their own business: Mistral, one of the most vibrant wine merchants in town.
We've been catching up with both of them last Sunday while talking about the vibrancy of Edinburgh’s wine scene, as well as all the excitement behind the new wave of Spanish winemaking!
Mistral opened its doors just on time for last Christmas with a very defined ethos: To sell well made wine.
And what does "properly made wine" mean? Plain & simple put, the way that Sam & Julie select wine is looking for those smaller producers who respect the land in first place, so everything is natural, organic & biodynamic, no matter if they're certified or not (because there are many winegrowers out there that are not seeking that certification as they've always worked that way & they don't feel like needing a label to justify the way they do things on the vineyard).
To make sure that they don't include any wine out of that ethos, they analytically taste wine together choosing each reference based on the excitement each wine transmit to them when drinking it. Wine needs to have soul and transmit you things, otherwise, doesn't mind how well technically it has been made, it'll be just another glass of wine.
If you dive through their website, you won't see any personal statement declaring themselves as advocates of a certain style of wine. They do not like to label themselves, in this way they do not create preconceptions in the mind of the consumer. Do they then sell natural wines? Affirmative, but they understand that the term "natural wine" is very broadly applied, so they prefer to identify themselves as purveyors of well made wine with some identity to it.
Reason why it is because is well known that within natural viticulture defects that should not be in the wine are sometimes overlooked by their drinkers. Doesn't matter how natural a wine is it cannot be faulty, and that is what they look for on their list when they taste. Their main goal is for people to discover new wines and have a good time drinking things filled with identity.
Spanish wines here are very present, having a good representation of regions, styles and indigenous varietals. In fact, Julie & Sam love our wines, especially the freshest & brightest expressions without too much extraction, but with a great varietal concentration. And it is not only them who like Spanish wine, but their customers too. Fortunately, the Scottish consumer still sees us as a country that produces amazing wines in terms of value for money. Moreover, it is quite common that, if a customer is not sure what to order, they end up opting for a Spanish wine. This comes in handy when it comes to attracting their attention and exposing them to grapes and regions outside their comfort zone, since our wines, in the collective imagination, are less pretentious and more accessible.
The only negative thing with Spanish wines and people getting exposed to them is that Scotland is yet a step behind London. Places tend to be more traditional focused with what they’re offering. Scotland is classier, hence at Mistral people is invited to approach our wines due to its richness in styles & varieties.
Although they already rotate the references they have on their list, they would like to be able to do it much more, so as not to get boring. They can't wait for the industry to return to normal because that would mean being able to go back to trade tastings, which is the best way to get exposed to their future listings. For now they have a core range of wines, play around rotating the rest of the references. They do not like to have many products from a single winemaker, but having a good representation of many different wine regions and styles instead. However, this doesn't mean that if you fall in love with one of the winemakers, and you want to taste something else from his work, they cannot help you. On the contrary, Sam and Julie are here for that, they will happily source new wines for you. So do not be afraid to talk to them, telling them what is that you like to drink and let yourself be carried away by their recommendations.
As could not be otherwise, here are their most personal recommendations among the Spanish wines that they have on their list right now:
- Juanjo Tellaetxe, Tantaka, Hondarribi Zuri, Arabako Txakolina DOP, 2019: Juanjo Tellaetxe has a main job and which is that of priest. Making wine comes later. Juanjo works his wines superbly well, since he tries to make them as his family did more than 80 years ago using native varieties.
- Celler Escoda Sanahuja, Les Paradetes, Samsó-Sumoll-Garnacha blend, DO Conca del Barberà, 2018: Joan Ramon Escoda is the owner of this very tiny family winery. He is one of the pioneers of the natural winemaking movement in Spain.
What about the future for this bright couple?
They want to be a wine bar, but not the typical wine bar where you only get your sharing boards and stereotypical bites. What they want is to have a small menu, a bit "nibbley" but gastro-oriented at the same time: more elaborated, balancing the fact that the heroes have to be their wines. They’re also open for pop-ups! Sounds like we have fun times ahead, worth to keep a close eye on their progress.
In the meantime, Mistral (10-12 Bonnington Rd) opens Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm.
We wish them all the best,
President of the Spanish Sommelier Association