Felipe Ferreiro was born in 1976 in the German city of Mönchengladbach, where his Asturian parents had emigrated. However, he did not go to school there, since the family returned to the land to, in 1985, open a cider house: Las Rías Bajas, in the El Llano neighborhood of Gijon. Almost 40 years later, that winch suburb, which continues to receive countrymen and women on a daily basis, has also become the best place in Asturias to discover wines from anywhere in the world. And probably one of the best in Spain to do it by the glass, without having to pay for a bottle.

Normally, Las Rías has between 30 and 40 brands for chatting, with prices ranging between three and 20 euros. The owner also explains each one wonderfully, increasing the customer’s comfort and without making you feel small, as happens in many specialized establishments or with some stale sommeliers. Not here. Here you can arrive, say what you like and what you don’t, what you have never tried or what you want to spend, and sit down to have your enjoyment uncorked without needing to know what a Orange Wine or aging on lees. The waiter will detail it with simple words and the familiarity of a chigrero veteran.

Felipe Ferreiro distributing wine and knowledge
Felipe Ferreiro distributing wine and knowledgeDavid Remartinez None

An unexpected combination

With this mixture, Felipe has achieved something unusual: that in his establishment two cultures and two landscapes coexist as different as that of cider, popular, collective and talkative, with that of wine, which normally brings together specialists in tannins speaking a jargon incomprehensible to the layman Las Rías seems, and is, a bar of the neighborhood: the metal bar, the stools, the humble tables, its portions of sausage, cheese, octopus or torreznos with fried eggs, its Sporting shield carved in wood, the football club sign, four different clubs (brands) of cider, people of all ages, the lottery and the calendar hanging on the wall.

They have wines, but it is a cider house
They have wines, but it is a cider houseDavid Remartinez None

But he also stacks boxes of champagne, digs, riesling, sherries, burgundies or Austrian wines, whose bottles are equally distributed on shelves, corners, warehouses and cellars like disordered branches. Two businesses in amalgamation. Two audiences, one of vasu and another for a drink, gathered together without anyone being oblivious to the guy next door. One and the other are indistinguishable, except for the command.

To dip the potato in the yolk in 3, 2, 1
To dip the potato in the yolk in 3, 2, 1David Remartinez None

The first thing that catches your attention when you order a wine is, precisely, the exceptional quality of the glasses. Felipe laughs when he tells it: “Normal, they cost 15 euros each. But if you give good wine, you have to give it in the best glasses,” even if they don’t fit in at all with the rest of the place. To make things even more surprising, almost all vintners entrust themselves to the owner with absolute confidence, ready to be surprised: “Give me something you have open.” Because his secret is that he has a lot open, or that he is willing to open. “I always say that my father had 700 bottles of the same wine, and that I have a bottle of more than 700 wines,” he adds, with another smile. “I am very cautious with people who come for the first time. Acquaintances already trust you, because you know what they usually like and what they try.”

From tasting to title

Felipe has scaffolded his unique winery around that trust. He began by taking a sommelier course and “tasting compulsively, like a crazy person: for five or six years I was tasting between 3,000 and 4,000 wines a year, and I continue.” Then he added the WSET3 certification, a qualification that provides in-depth knowledge of vineyard cultivation and wine making. Little by little, he built a winery with his tastes, looking for the different, the varied and what different types of wine lovers could afford: German and Austrian wines – his native area, which he knows inside out – and also Spanish, Italian or French wines. . However, he does not provide a menu: you ask him, and he informs you, with prices included. “I didn’t want to put a letter because it scares away.” Only a simple sign informs about an offer for drinks “very difficult to find anywhere else.”

Manuel Sánchez, the drinks and a portion of lomito
Manuel Sánchez, the drinks and a portion of lomitoDavid Remartinez None

Why is so difficult? First, because the scandal of the bottle leaves more benefit. A hotelier can double the cost of a bottle without the customer being bothered; by the glass is different: apart from the risk of not selling the entire wine before it spoils, raising the price exponentially to the cost alienates the customer. If you put a 100 euro champagne at 35 euros a glass, nobody orders it. Felipe tries to ensure that “each bottle leaves you at least six euros in profit,” and he prefers to sell many glasses with a low margin than the other way around. The more expensive the wine is, the more careful that its percentage does not make it unattainable.

They give less benefit, but a lot of life
They give less benefit, but a lot of lifeDavid Remartinez None

That’s where trust lies: making the expensive thing accessible, something for which you wouldn’t risk paying for a bottle without having tried it. “In addition, today, the customer is informed and knows what any wine costs. Not because you can look at it on the internet, which sometimes you find incorrect prices, but because almost everyone uses an application, has a network of contacts or simply drinks and shops regularly.”

Escape from speculation

Felipe’s approach is totally contrary to that of the wine market, “which has entered into a terrible dynamic of speculation.” As with housing, or other sectors that imitate its springs, the current purchase and sale of bottles understands the product as an investment from which to get the maximum return in the shortest possible time. “That’s why no one keeps wines anymore, not even the wineries themselves. And whoever saves them, then sells them at exorbitant prices,” which can quintuple in a period of just three or four years because each buyer plans, in turn, to resell them at a juicy profit.

Distributors, for example, withdraw the brands awarded by the guides or gurus that year, and then offer them again a few months later at a substantial extra cost. Ninety or one hundred Parker points cause inflation typical of interwar Germany. “All this makes it even more difficult to sell by the glass,” obviously. The market plays for those who have a lot of money, those who can speculate.

With this panorama, Felipe and his brother, who have been traveling the world for a long time, discovering wineries and organizing tastings at their home for all types of audiences, have started a parallel adventure: their own distributor, Ferreiro Selection, born from the cider house cellar. The philosophy is the same: distribute bottles of different prices, be they ten, one hundred or one thousand euros, with their honest way of understanding that trade.

There are drinks for all tastes
There are drinks for all tastesDavid Remartinez None

A gem – still – hidden

The curious thing is that Las Rías, as a winery, remains unknown in Asturias. “We have clients from outside who come periodically and who recommend us to people from here.” Manuel Sánchez, friend of Felipe and chef at the Oviedo restaurant Thatseventwenty, is one of those ambassadors: “It has a lot of merit because, apart from the offer and prices, it is in a neighborhood of Gijón, in an area where you don’t have any other hospitality businesses, so you have to come specifically. It is not like going out for wines in a specific area: whoever comes here, comes here.”

The truth is that, once inside, you don’t feel like leaving: during this report, in successive rounds we tried a manzanilla, a sherry, a Portuguese white, a Galician red and a champagne. And our faces widened: with each explanation, Felipe manages to interest you, using a friendly language and attitude, which even encourages you to ask questions from ignorance. May you feel free, enjoyed and a student. Suddenly, he removes one of the bottles as soon as he smells the cork, because it is not in good condition, but he still does it without fuss, with the same naturalness that he would remove a cider whose bottle costs like a standard glass of wine.

“Since the pandemic we have given even more impetus to wine, because in addition the cider business is doomed to disappear: it is becoming unviable, because people no longer come to eat or dine, only to drink cider, and that doesn’t bother you. He maintains, because the costs of energy, food, and also taxation have risen.” But that is another story. Meanwhile, Las Rías remains an unusual paradise, equal parts cider and vintner, twinning what are nothing but two ways to enjoy the best bottled craftsmanship.

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