Indie Interview: L’Altre Vi Wine

 In Indie Oxford Interviews

Liz Wilding interviews Rachel Everett, one half of the mother-son duo running L’Altre Vi wine based in Abingdon, to find out more about their passion for Catalan wines, their connection to the area, and how the next generation of wine makers is fighting back against the big Cava houses. >>

 Tell us about your business, L’Altre Vi

We (my son Rubén and I) started L’Altre Vi in 2016 to import wines from the Catalonia region in Spain. The name means  ‘the other wine’ in Catalan, and the idea is that the wine is familiar to us, but perhaps not to people in the UK.  We wanted a business where we could link up our English and Catalan heritage, work with friends, family, and contacts in Spain, introduce new wines to the UK, and hopefully have a lot of fun. And I think we’ve achieved that aim.

Before starting L’Altre Vi, we hadn’t imported wine before. Rubén is an architect and my background is in teaching. The connection was that I’m half Catalan and Rubén had partly grown up in Catalonia. Apart from that my grandfather and uncle were wine makers, so I grew up in and out of wineries and with tales of winemaking. It’s something I’ve always been fascinated by: the smell of the cellars, the buzz of seeing the tanks and barrels.

We started small – working with Catalan producers from my mother’s home region – but with quite a broad range of wines. We are not a standard importer. We are a purposeful business, trying to do something positive at every stage of the chain from grape to client.

The irony is that the region is a wine-growing capital, but the market for grapes is dominated by large Cava houses pushing the grape prices down. People can’t make a living and farmers are an aging demographic as people leave to work elsewhere. One solution has come from some younger farmers going off to wine school and coming back to experiment and restart the wine business making high quality wines.

All our producers are small family farms, all sustainably farmed, and engaged in a project to keep the winemaking heritage alive.  Our clients get a high quality product that they know has been ethically produced and is better for them. I always encourage people to think about wine, which you put in your body,  in the same way as food. Where does it come from, how was it made, what was involved? The wines we select are the equivalent of sourdough vs sliced white on the supermarket bottom shelf.

L'altre Vi Oxford

Tell me more about Catalan wine

The white is probably more famous and the sparkling white (such as Cava) is the most distinctive.  Traditional sparkling wines with a two-fermentation process are aged so they are quite complex. They are persistently bubbly, with layers of fruit and then secondary flavours of toast or brioche. A lot of producers also make ‘ancestral method’ wines that have a single fermentation and a short aging. They are much more delicate, fruity and more gently bubbly. Among these, the best-known Catalan grape is Xarel.lo, which is the core of the Cava production. The ‘l.l’ in the name is a separate letter known as the ‘flying full stop.’

Producers are also experimenting with red grapes. One signature red is Sumoll, a traditional grape that people are replanting because its better adapted to the climate. It produces a light red wine with a pinot noir vibe. It’s becoming very popular.

Now the producers are so experimental, including by aging wines in different woods or even in the traditional clay pots. All the wines are distinctive, sustainable and delicious.

L'Altre Vi Oxford

Where can people find your wines?

Online and at some local markets. I’m at the East Oxford Market every other week and at Wolvercote on the last Sunday of the month. We deliver in and around Oxford and we ship nationwide by courier. You can also find our wines at some restaurants, pop-ups, and festivals around Oxfordshire.

laltrevi oxford market

What do you like most about running your own business?

The creativity! And I like the fact that there are challenges to work out: lots of solving problems. There’s also the decision making, though Rubén’s better at it than I am.  We are very much team, each with different strengths. Rubén is better at vision and strategy; I like to quietly get things done behind the scenes. Although the pair of us make an entertaining double act at tasting events.

L'Altre Vi Oxford

What are the greatest challenges?

Having to be good at so many different things, e.g. book-keeping. If you are a tiny business you have to do everything, like it or not.

What are your future plans?

I’d like to expand the business and to have a broader range of Catalan wines, including from French Catalonia in the South of France. It would be good fun to have wines from both sides of the border.

L'altre Vi Oxford

What are your favourite indie businesses around Oxford?

It’s a bit difficult to answer because I buy from so many indie businesses, and they are my go-to for presents. Last Christmas, I basically went through the Indie Oxford directory, and my friends and family were very impressed.  Soaps from Gaia Botanics, and Neve’s Bees products always go down really well, to pick just a few examples. I buy from Fair Trade St Michaels and at the markets. You can get much more interesting things at markets: JamPuppy tea towels, Herberowe candles; Crudges cheese. I want to buy from actual people and have that connection with the maker or seller. The quality is better, you know it’s made with love, and you are supporting a local business.

Neve's Bees Oxfordshire
Fairtrade St Michaels Oxford
Jam Puppy Prints
Herberowe Oxford candles

If you live within 10 miles of Oxford, order 3 bottles of wine and get free delivery. Head to the L’Altre Vi website to place your order.

Liz Wilding Food Writer Oxford

About the interviewer: Liz Wilding

Liz is an Oxford-based food anthropologist foraging across town for new culinary experiences. Hearing the stories of the chefs and producers is just as important as the eating: tales of toasties to tahini to tempura.

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