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Andalusian Ambrosia

As Brandy Consumption Declines at Home, Spanish Producers Look for New Connoisseurs
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Gene Hackman, Sep/Oct 00

(continued from page 3)

Nevertheless, Osborne is sanguine about the future. A month after his New York visit, I find him sitting on the patio of his home in El Puerto de Santa María, looking over the rooftops to the sea. He's holding a glass of Osborne sherry, but he wants to talk about brandy. He believes the U.S. market is ready to embrace Brandy de Jerez, and not necessarily by spending $150 on a bottle.

As his wife, Flavia, prepares a classic gazpacho in the kitchen, Osborne talks about the changes in Spain since he left for Norway in 1979, only a few years after the end of Franco's rule. At that time, there were few jobs, and the country's isolation seemed permanent. Now tapas bars are the rage from New York to Tokyo, and Spain lures more tourists each year than anywhere but France. Socialists have come to power and departed, each time peacefully, and the remnants of the Franco era have all but vanished. Catalans and Basques speak their once-outlawed languages in the streets, and the standard of living is equal to or better than most of Europe's.

Spain has matured in the eyes of the world, yet the romantic image remains. As Osborne talks, I realize that this nontraditional Spaniard is selling not just wine and sherry and brandy to Americans, but Spain.

After dinner, he opens a bottle of Conde de Osborne. He pours some over a single ice cube, which is heretical to purists but the way I like it, and within a moment Spain is a palpable presence. I put my nose to the glass, and smell the hour before a bullfight. I sip, and remember how the Andalusian sun feels on my neck when I step into the street on a hot afternoon. At once I understand that the secret to selling Spanish brandy is not hidden somewhere in a marketing plan, but there in Osborne's bottle. "Olé," I tell him softly.

Bruce Schoenfeld, a regular contributor to Cigar Aficionado, writesfrequently on Spain.

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