Sarah Jane Evans MW: first female Chair of the Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino at speaking at the 2021 Investiture Dinner

For those who could not make it to the 36th Investiture dinner we are publishing Sarah Jane Evans MW speech to toast and welcome the guests.

Your Excellency, Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, New Caballeros, Caballeros, Ladies and Gentleman. ¡Bienvenidos!

It’s terrific to see you all here. Especial congratulations to those who have travelled from Spain and completed their Passenger Locator Forms!

There are a number of firsts about this evening.

  • It’s the first investiture dinner for no less than 6 Caballeros.
  • This is my first dinner as Chairman. I’m the first female Chairman of the Caballeros.  I’m sure I won’t be the last.
  • It’s the first dinner with the Ambassador, who has only recently arrived in London. Welcome.
  • It’s the first dinner for our Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, and for the Director of Foods and Wines.  
  • It’s the first time for the Caballeros to have dinner at this time of the year – I’m really grateful for those who took themselves away from the harvest. 
  • And if not a first, it’s one of the very early events to unite us in the wine world since last year.

It is wonderful to be in this glorious room. Does anyone remember the film Notting Hill? It was in this room that Hugh Grant proposed to Julia Roberts? Anyone tempted to propose now? It would be another first for the Caballeros dinner!

For all of you here tonight, it’s a chance to celebrate and for us to congratulate you on what you have managed to achieve, despite everything. It’s show the dynamism of the UK wine world. I also want to personally thank the team at the Spanish Commercial Office who kept everything going despite having to work at home. They also have had to organise not one but two dinners – we planned a 2020 dinner but of course it never happened.  We are all very relieved that this has come to pass.

Now to a word on tonight’s wines: What excites me today is the diversity of Spain’s wines and UK consumers’ interest in experimentation. We therefore chose the wines for the dinner to reflect that diversity – they were tasted blind from a selection that was submitted by importers. We have a lovely Sherry and two Riojas (a classic from one of our Caballeros, and an exceptional white). We also have a fresh red wine from Rías Baixas, And a fascinating white from the Monasterio de Poblet.  Plus of course two lively Cavas, and a delicious Moscatel treat from Caballero Javier Ochoa.

This diverse image of Spanish wines in the UK is reflected in the changing mix of caballeros who were elected: among them we have a Scot who settled in Calatayud; a Dane who settled in Ribera del Duero; and a Spaniard who adopted the UK.

Only one of our new Caballeros could be said to be traditional – a Riojan from Rioja.  We have winemakers, and restaurateurs, a Master of Wine. My message is: look beyond our delightfully colourful robes to the people beneath and the work they do. If I can be serious for a moment, we need to remember Caballeros who have died since we last met for Dinner: Bryan Buckingham, Kevin McAlindon, Carlos Falco Marqués de Griñón, David Balls, and most recently Alejandro Fernandez

Now to the future. Just before the lockdown the Caballeros launched their own website: Visit the site and send us all your relevant news. We are also on Instagram and twitter.  We are @winecaballeros. Don’t forget to use the hashtag.

The future sees the Caballeros returning to actual events, spreading the message about Spain’s fine wines, making connections, encouraging a new generation. In 2024 we celebrate our 40th anniversary. We welcome your ideas for our activities here in the UK and in Spain. Perhaps some guests here tonight would like to set some bottles aside in preparation?

Finally: next year’s dinner.  Our plan is to bring it forward, probably to the month of June.  So leave your diaries clear, for our 2022 Investiture Dinner.

With thanks to Sarah Jane Evans MW.

A first for the Caballeros…