Last night saw the 38th Caballeros Investiture Dinner take place with its usual ebullience and flair at a new venue: London’s stylish Landmark Hotel. Hosted by Chairperson of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino, Sarah Jane Evans MW, and in the presence of the Head of the Spanish Economic and Commercial office, Don Álvaro Nadal Belda and the General Director of ICEX, Doña Elisa Carbonell, the members welcomed three new caballeros into their ranks.
Renowned for their unstinting work and commitment to Spanish wine, as winemakers, buyers and communicators, the three new members were elected by their peers to join this influential group which was founded in 1984 by Wines from Spain. This year’s prestigious new recruits are experienced winemaker, consultant and buyer Jo Ahearne MW, previous head sommelier at El Bulli, now a writer and researcher working with the elBullifoundation and with Jancis Robinson, Ferran Centelles; and Jesús Madrazo, a fifth-generation winemaker and previous technical director at the influential Viñedos del Contino group and the founder and winemaker of Jesus Madrazo Wines.
Jo Ahearne MW
Born and raised in London, Jo Ahearne began her career at wine merchant Oddbins, before realising her dream of working at the heart of the winemaking process in Australia with Charles Melton. After studying for a BSc in winemaking, she began a distinguished career as a flying winemaker across many short-term and esteemed projects across Spain in the 1990s, from Extremadura and La Mancha to Navarra and Jumilla and living life as an adopted Spaniard, before returning to Australia for another 11 years. Jo returned to the UK to work as a winemaker and consultant for Marks & Spencer, working across Spanish, South American, French and Italian wines, and also moved to luxury retailer Harrods. A variety of consultancy roles in Spain, France, Italy, Hungary and Macedonia followed, before the allure of Spain’s wines proved too strong to resist and she moved to Boutinot, where she currently works as a buyer for Spain. Jo completed her Master of Wine qualification in 2008.
Ferran Centelles is an influential sommelier, who has been working at the upper echelon of Spanish and international gastronomy for decades. As a teenager, Ferran became interested in food and restaurants, before going on to study hospitality as a young student in Spain, but quickly found his natural place in front-of-house and wine. Soon after, he began to learn his trade at a restaurant of towering influence, ElBulli in Barcelona. Under the tutelage of Eloy and Juli Soler, Ferran began learning about the world of wine at the very top level. Ferran has since gone on to make a career as a wine writer and educator with both the elBullifoundation and Jancis Robinson, and aside from Eloy and Juli, counts both Jancis and Ferran Adrià as the biggest influences on a career that has been spent working closely with Spanish winemakers and importers, and serving and passing on his knowwledge about Spanish wines, inspiring a new generation eager to taste and discover them.
Jesús de Madrazo Mateo
Born into a winemaking dynasty, Jesús is a descendant of one of the founding families of one of Rioja’s most highly acclaimed wineries. Having gained a degree in winemaking and viticulture in Spain in 1992, he held positions as winemaker, senior agricultural engineer and technical director at that same winery. Much of his career has focused on continuing the work of his father, José Angel, who founded Spain’s first single-estate winery. With 30 harvests under his belt, Jesús has been actively involved in exporting high-quality wines to the UK since 1999 and has become a much-loved titan of Spanish-English wine relations. In 2019 he launched his own project, Jesús Madrazo Wines, producing a range of styles of wine in Ribera del Duero and Rioja. The project has involved working tirelessly with UK importers and merchants to showcase the beauty of these regions.
Chairperson Sarah Jane Evans MW, introduced the new recruits: “We are delighted to welcome such esteemed ambassadors of Spanish wine to our ranks. I was surprised to discover that Ferran Centelles is the first person with a sommelier background to become a Caballero del Vino, I am sure he will not be the last. Jesús Madrazo represents another first for me, as he was at Contino, the first winery in Rioja I ever visited as a result of winning the Freixenet scholarship for my WSET Diploma. We hope that both they, and winemaker and buyer Jo Ahearne MW, act as an inspiration to the next generation of professionals passionate about carving new ground in Spanish wines in the UK.”