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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Two new members were invested into Wines from Spain's Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino last week, with both a legendary Spanish producer and a leading English merchant honoured. Ribero del Duero pioneer Alejandro Fernandez, of Pesquera fame, flew the flag for Spain, while John Comyn, founder of the Vinexcel agency in the north-west was the latest British recipient of the red and yellow robes. Comyn - who in 1987, after working for numerous wine companies, set up Vinexcel, an agency specialising in French and Spanish wines - was lauded by Graham Hines, Wines from Spain's director, for his role in introducing lesser-known Spanish areas to the UK . By 1990 his business was well under way, and his wine list included, amongst others, wines from Galicia, Calatayud, Ribera del Duero, Ribeiro, Somontano and Yecla, which were virtually unknown in this country at that time,' said Hines. Later, he added wines from Costers del Segre, Bierzo, Pla de Bages, Rueda, and Toro to his portfolio. Now familiar names to everyone in this room, in many cases he was the pioneer who helped introduce the wines into the UK.' Alejandro Fernandez, who built the world-renowned Pesquera winery from scratch, now owns three other wineries in Spain, with each of his four daughters looking after one of the wineries. Whilst the reputation of a village like Chablis has taken hundreds of years to spread, after less than 30 years, the name of his wine and village [Pesquera] are well known and their fame continues to grow,' said Hines. Also speaking at the event was Jose Manuel Reyero, chief executive of Spain's Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX). More and more of the nation's shelf space is occupied by powerful brands, usually from the New World, coupled with aggressive promotions of increasingly "samey" wines which are often overpriced,' Reyero said. Whilst on one hand Spain lacks many of these hard-hitters, what it does have is the offer of a range of quality wines second to none.'