Uncorked: Rafa Martin

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Rafa Martin wine buyer Barrafina, Parrillan and Bar Daskal

Related tags: Rafa Martin, Barrafina, Harts Group, Bar Daskal, Parrillan, Uncorked, Wine

The group buyer for Harts Group's Barrafina, Parrillan and the recently launched Bar Daskal on championing Spanish wines in the UK.

Tell us about the moment you first became interested in wine

I wasn’t brought up in the wine industry, but we had wine at home. I can’t remember why I did, but I started reading about wine aged 16 or 17, and tried my first wine at 19. It was an Albarino – Gran Bazan from Rias Baixas. I started to work in a brewery aged 23 and then the next year I moved to Gonzalez Byass, so I learned more about sherries and wines. Since then, I moved to Pernod Ricard, working with fine wine companies in Spain (I’ve worked exclusively with Spanish wine my whole career), and eventually moved to London in 2008, joining the Harts Brothers at Fino the following year. I’ve been with Harts Group ever since. 

Tell us about your wine lists at the group

I do all the wine lists for Barrafina, Parrillan and our latest opening, Bar Daskal, working together with Sam Hart, and I’m really excited about this latest one for Bar Daskal. It’s a bit more modern than the Barrafina lists (which do have a few more modern wines but are in general quite classic). At Bar Daskal, the list represents various regions from all over Spain, from the Mediterranean Merseguera grape - which is very location specific and rare – to white old vine Garnachas from Aragon. Sherry will also be served by the glass or bottle and anybody wanting to look at a longer wine list will also be able to order from Parillan’s comprehensive Spanish wine list next door. 

Over the course of your career, have you had any wine-related disasters? 

No disasters thankfully, but it’s always deflating when you try and make a recommendation based on a conversation with a customer and then they don’t like your choice. You can’t get it right 100% of the time though!

Name your top three restaurant wine lists

Hispania, Sabor and Aqua Nueva (all in London). 

Who do you most respect in the wine world? 

Telmo Rodriguez, who helped Spanish winemakers improve and raise the bar for Spanish wine. David Sampedro, a new age winemaker making Riojas, and Javier Revert, who is a magician with Bobal and Monastrel grapes in the Mediterranean region. Also Tony Sarrillon, who has been championing organic principles in the Mediterranean for decades, since a time when everyone thought him crazy. 

What’s the most interesting wine you’ve ever come across? 

We have a new Txakoli on our list, Marko Gure, made with a touch of lees, and somehow manages to have body as well as freshness and acidity. I also want to mention Can Sumol from Penedes, which is Xarel Lo grape. It’s biodynamic and organic, and the winemaking process gives structure to a grape which can often be difficult to work with. 

What are the three most overused tasting notes?

I try to understand wines, getting a feeling for the grapes, terroirs, climate and so on rather than putting it into written tasting notes. Words like ‘spicy,’ ‘balanced’ ‘body’ are helpful to communicate with others but only go so far.  

What’s the best value wine on your list at the moment?

At Bar Daskal I think our entry level red is unbelievable, ‘Las Dos Ces,’ a bobal from the Mediterranean. I don’t often think that the cheapest wine represents best value, but this wine is a steal. 

What is your ultimate food and drink match? 

Fino Lustau and a banderilla. 

Old World or New World?

Old World. They do new things in the Old World too. 

What is your pet hate when it comes to wine service in other restaurants? 

I like to pour my own wine and not have it topped up every two minutes.

Who is your favourite producer at the moment and why? 

I have two. The first is from Priorat, Mas Den Gil, and the second is Victor de la Serna (Javi Revert) in Manchuela. These are both people who completely understand the terroir and the history of their wineries, but are then sensitively adapting and improving their processes and wines using more modern organic and biodynamic methods.

As a group wine buyer for Barrafina, Parillan and Bar Daskal what question do you most get asked by customers? 

I’m not on the floor but the questions I help the managers with the most are things like ‘I normally drink pinot noir, what’s the closest Spanish grape?’ I tend to guide Pinot Noir drinkers to a light Garnacha or light Mencilla from Valdeorras. 

Which wine producing region or country is currently underrated at the moment and why?

In the UK I think the Ribera del Duero and the Mencilla grape from Bierzo are still a bit neglected here in favour of Riojas.

It’s your last meal and you can have a bottle of any wine in the world. What is it and why? 

Some bubbles I think, a Llopart or a Gramona. Corpinat rather than Champagne, obviously.

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