Puerta Del Sol & Botart de Amberes, 2013

Founded in 1998, Puerta Del Sol is my wine shop of choice here in the city of Antwerp. The quality of their wine leaves you knowing they really care about wine. They visit each of their suppliers, check-in during the harvest to see what techniques are used and, over the years, have developed the ability to know immediately if the wine has been enhanced in ways that fail to meet their quality control standards.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Puerta Del Sol was born out of a passion for wine and Spain shared by owners – Guy, Frank and Jules. They host wine-tasting weekends several times a year, an open-door day, where people are welcome to come along and taste what they have in stock.

Something I find relatively common here in this Flemish city is modesty… a failure to beat the drum loudly. And so one day, in a conversation where I asked the right questions somehow, English-speaker that I am, I learned about a rather exciting art initiative organised by Puerta Del Sol. 

BOTART is an art project that began in Mallorca, with Araceli Servera, oenologist and member of a  family that has been creating Ribas wines since 1711.

The Ribas website explains that BOTART is all about 'uniting the world of wine with the world of creativity'. The central ideas is about raising the profile of artists living and working in their respective regions in Spain. That said, over the years, the Spanish version has extended its reach and in amongst those Mallorcan artists already featured are German and Egyptian-born artists. The Antwerp version, known as Botart de Amberes, is still all about artists here in Antwerp.

BOTART acknowledges and celebrates the creativity that goes into both painting and the art of wine-making. Honoring the fact that passion and imagination are required in both disciplines.

As retailers of the Ribas line of wines in Antwerp, Puerta Del Sol decided to answer the Spanish BOTART with their own version here and so Botart de Amberes was born. Heading the project are Guy Voet from Puerta Del Sol, Ernest Van Buynder of Mukha, and Adriaan Raemdonck from De Zwarte Panter Gallery. Together these three invite artists to take part in Botart de Amberes.

The 2013 event was not just about celebrating the two new artists - Guy Leclercq and Leonard Leenders - but it was also about the fact this is their third year running the project.  Previous barrel artworks have come from Frieda Van Dun, Carolien Huber and Nick Andrews, with each barrel  painted in a style that is representative of the artists usual work. 

And just in case you're thinking these guys sound like people you might want to buy wine from, English and other languages  are absolutely no problem.  They're Belgians from Flanders.  They do languages ...

You can find them and their divine wines at their shop here in Antwerp - Puerta Del Sol, Ter Rivierenlaan 118, 2100 Deurne.

The shot that follows was taken during speeches made at this years Botart de Amberes, on the evening when the two new artists were announced.  I love looking for shots that are a little unusual and this was taken without flash in the offices of acerta, hosts of the event.

Life as a Cascade ...

Last Thursday Peter and Julie arrived. 

Actually, I should write ... the fantastically talented Tenor, Mr Peter Furlong, and the exquisitely talented  Julie Wyma, Soprano, arrived last Thursday.

They were here for a private performance.  Hosted by lovely friends, Ruth and Marc, all reports tell me that it was very very well-received.

But back to the beginning of this cascade, this avalanche of people and events ... on Saturday, the incorrigible Baritone and Pianist, Chas Elliot arrived to stay too.  Meanwhile, Gert's parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and there I was, on Saturday night, abandoning our guests to eat my first-ever Thai meal, at the Sombat Restaurant here in Antwerp.

Without exaggerating (I may say that often in this post), I can tell you that it was the most exquisite meal ...

Sunday.  I wandered off to Brussels to capture a First Communion celebration for Irish/English friends. It was just lovely.  The people were some the of nicest people you could hope to spend time with and the weather was perfect.

Sunday evening, a small nap on the train home before meeting up with Gert and heading over to Marc and Ruth's house for dinner ... where we caught up with the 3 opera stars, who had managed to impress their Antwerp audience.  We were all exhausted but very happy.

And suddenly, NYC was in the building.  Stefano and Shannon would surely have loved it.  'Dawg' and 'cawfee', and other 'w' words, flew round the table.  And then came the stories.  No one can tell stories like those three.  It was hilarious.

All of this AND Marc was sharing his quietly spectacular supply of red wine from Puerta Del Sol.  Las Ocho 2009, from Bodegas Chozas Carrascal would have to be the most divine red wine I have tasted ...  Ever.  It was that good.   I'm not exaggerating.  Not at all. 

Actually, when a wine is really good there is no hangover and it's true, on Monday we were all fine.  Exhausted because we had pushed ourselves as artists but no hangover. 

Monday.  We talked but lacked the will to attempt much.  Chas managed to leave after expressing a desire to stay but I'm sure he'll be back.  Peter and Julie had a round of meetings with various people in the afternoon and then we had the good fortune to end our day at Puerta del Sol

Well yes, that is the wine shop I love best in the world.  They import Spanish wine to Belgium but only after rigorously checking the quality.  Guy, Frank, and Jules really love Spanish wine, and Spain too.  It shows in the quality of what they sell.  (No, they really don't pay me to  write things like this.)

Today it's sunshine and laundry for me, and quite some work to catch up on...still.  I've sent Julie and Peter out to the park to relax before they return to their Berlin world tomorrow.  I think we're just all really pleased with how this week has unfolded.  The ongoing nature of good people, fine wine, and experiences that were kind of divine.

They will be back.  And maybe I can organise my next party around them and their remarkable voices. 

Meet Peter ...