Getting to know Javier Pagés, President of the Barcelona Wine Week
Javier Pagés isn’t afraid of a challenge. A seasoned sportsman, he has climbed Mont Blanc and goes wild swimming. His whole life has been connected to the world of wine. He was attracted to this industry from an early age because he was part of a family with a long winemaking history.
He began his professional career in the USA, where he lived and worked for several years: first on the West Coast, home to the largest concentration of wineries in the country, and later on the East Coast, where most of the importers and distributors are based. He has run wineries in Spain and abroad and has always had a clear international focus.
As well as being a passionate sportsman, he has a strong passion for sparkling wine running through his veins and is currently the president of the D.O. Cava alongside having a self-confessed love for wine.
He was also president of the Spanish Wine Federation and also Vice President of the Interprofesional del Vino de España and, as if that wasn’t enough, Javier Pagés now faces the colossal task of presiding over Barcelona Wine Week, an exhibition that aims to become the leading Spanish wine show. And he seems to be doing a good job!
Let’s learn a bit more about Javier Pagés, president of the BWW.
- What does wine mean to you?
It’s part of my life. My family has been involved in viticulture for five centuries. In 1872, an ancestor of mine was the first in our country to produce a sparkling wine made through a secondary fermentation in the bottle.
- With so many stories to tell, what is the first wine-related memory that comes to mind?
Wine has always been around my home: at meals, for celebrations... Always contributing to special moments. Glasses and wine bottles are part of the home decor.
- Although your professional career revolves around wines and sparkling wines, what is it that made you move more towards the business side rather than the winemaking side? Where have you found this magic formula that also lets you stay connected to your family’s winemaking history?
As well as wine, the business world has also been part of our family’s everyday life: products, markets, production, finance, innovation... Oenology is very attractive, but at the time I found it less of an adventure than business management, I was really drawn to travelling and learning about other cultures.
- As a man who loves a challenge, you became president of the DO Cava at a time when sparkling wine was not at its best. And pretty much at the same time, you threw yourself into presiding over a project that became a reality, without knowing what was coming: the first Barcelona Wine Week in 2020, an event that was held just in time to avoid being cancelled, like so many other shows, because of COVID-19 lockdowns. That’s a lot of adrenaline and a lot of responsibility. How did you manage?
I was very excited and motivated. Both projects are exciting, with significant challenges, but they also have the best management and team with a great deal of knowledge, experience and commitment to achieving our objectives and adding value. This makes it much easier.
- But the hard work brought great reward. The first BWW was very well received. With the adrenaline still pumping and just over a month after that first event, the world came to a standstill because of COVID-19. How has the pandemic affected the wine and sparkling wine sector?
Like almost every other industry, the pandemic broke every rhythm and we had to adapt very quickly to the situation and incorporate changes in production and distribution. We were particularly affected by the slowdown in the restaurant and tourism sectors, but in recent months we have seen that the wine market is showing signs of recovery (both in terms of consumption and domestic and international sales). This improvement is also clear to see in the excellent commercial reception of the BWW in the industry, with the speed of contracting reaching pre-pandemic levels.
- One of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic was the restaurant industry, an essential showcase and partner for the wine and sparkling wine sector, while online wine selling provided a haven for wine and sparkling wine consumers to buy the products they could no longer enjoy in bars and restaurants. The pandemic has undoubtedly forced us to change the way we do things. How do you think the online wine and sparkling wine business can help strengthen the wine sector in the wake of COVID-19?
The online world allows us to be very close to consumers, to know immediately what we like and what we want. It facilitates direct, fast and continuous communication, as well as the ability to adapt the order to the consumer’s available time. This is an avenue that perfectly complements the traditional one.
- Until very recently, the term ‘enoturismo’ (wine tourism) wasn’t in the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary, however, this is an industry that generates millions of euros in Spain. Are we beginning to give it the status it deserves? What role can it play in strengthening the wine sector? Is there a place for wine tourism within the BWW?
Wine tourism is undoubtedly on the rise in Spain, with a varied, attractive and high quality offering. This asset is becoming more important because it is positioning itself as an ideal partner to wine production and winemaking. Not only does it allow us to bring the product closer to the consumer first hand, but it also highlights and conveys the inherent attributes of wine at a cultural, social, sustainability and experiential level. If Spain is a world power in both tourism and wine, it can also be a world power in wine tourism.
So, as part of the second BWW we will dedicate some sessions to how to promote wine tourism focussed on sharing the wine culture in our country and promoting its links with art, history and gastronomy. We will also talk about the new wine tourism trends coming out of the Covid era and the best digital tools for communication and marketing.
- Revitalising and reactivating the sector that has been particularly affected by the pandemic, is one of the priorities we will address at the second BWW. What other important points would you highlight from the plans for this event?
Barcelona Wine Week is a meeting place for professionals in the sector, where they can do business and network, but also learn something new and enjoy wine in a fun way. So, there will be various presentations on research, innovation and digitisation, national and international markets, from viticultural, winemaking and commercial angles. We will also emphasise sustainable agriculture and the fight against climate change. And of course, there will be some magnificent tasting sessions by renowned national and international experts.
- There is no doubt that Spain is a world power in the wine industry, but it seems like local consumers and winemakers have not accepted this yet. What do we need to do to believe it, like they do in France and Italy?
I would point to the data: the area of vineyards cultivated in Spain represents about 13% of the world total. Spanish wines are sold in 189 countries and our country is already the world’s second largest exporter in volume and the third largest in value. The international prestige of our wines continues to grow, because we are producing and exporting higher quality products. So we have every reason to believe that the reputation of our wines is growing in markets around the world.
- As well as becoming the leading Spanish wine show, what does BWW do to differentiate itself from other major wine fairs?
Barcelona Wine Week is an independent and innovative platform that brings together business, innovation and unique experiences, with wine as the absolute star. It is a project run by the sector and for the sector, a unique characteristic in the current trade fair market, which aims to give visibility to the international potential of Spanish wine. So, we invite professionals from all over the world to learn about the value and enormous richness of our wines and offer our wineries an excellent opportunity to improve their exports.
Another of BWW’s unique features is that we don’t following the traditional division of space, organising brands by quality labels, which allows the companies to express themselves better. We also highlight the strengths of each area with an innovative design and great visual impact.
- With as many responsibilities as you have, do you have any free time left? What do you usually spend it doing?
With my family, playing sports, and reading. The important thing is to enjoy and cherish that free time consciously knowing that it’s a precious commodity.
- And finally, could you share with us the most recent wine you’ve tried that excited you?
It’s got to be a Cava de Paraje, from a vineyard and a corner of our territory that is uniquely beautiful. This is a long aging cava, with a broad aroma and flavour that you never want to go away. A defining and wonderful moment!