When she first arrived in Malaga, Linda Mcintosh, 37, did not imagine that she would end up hosting wine tastings surrounded by headstones and tombs. However, she has taken the paradox of drinking Spanish wines in the English Cemetery and made it a marketing hook for her business, Winederlust, which she founded with her wife, Phoebe, after leaving the UK six months ago.
"We had always planned on coming to Spain," Linda told SUR in English. "Then Covid hit, and I ended up on furlough [...] It was kind of a stupid time to move country and the best."
Linda had spent the last 20 years working in hospitality, mostly in her hometown of Manchester. After moving into restaurant management, she worked at a few top-end restaurants with excellent wine lists, whetting her palate for oenology.
"Then I ended up working at a really nice Spanish restaurant in Manchester that had an amazing Spanish wine list, and that kind of tipped me over the edge with my interests."
Linda subsequently studied with the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust), before becoming the general manager of a wine shop and bar. However, Linda and Phoebe had always adored Spain, and it was the combination of Brexit and the pandemic that finally encouraged them to move abroad.
"My wife had lived in Barcelona before we met. Then throughout our relationship we had been travelling back and forth from Spain, falling in love with it even more and travelling round Spain and trying to decide where our favourite area was. And we kept coming back to Andalucía."
Linda says she felt immediately at home in Malaga. She soon joined a social group for expatriates, which is how she met Father Louis, the Anglican priest of St George's Church. He suggested she use the English Cemetery, where the church is located, as a venue for her wine tastings. For Linda, it was an unexpected but ideal solution.
"What I had always intended to do, as part of my business plan, was to donate a portion of ticket sales to charity. It was then a natural progression to say, 'Well, rather than me donating to charity, let me donate to your charity for letting me use the space'." So now Linda donates two euros per ticket to church fundraising.
Echoing with the cathartic buzzing of cicadas and adorned by amber evening light that spills between the trees, throwing dappled shadows over the tables, the English Cemetery is certainly a delightful location for wine tastings. Linda markets Winederlust as "wine for the people", underlining her ethos of inclusivity; one guest at the tasting likened it to "dinner with friends".
"I don't want people to be scared of wine tastings," Linda said. "I think sometimes they can be quite high brow and pretentious and I try to steer away from that as much as I can. I grew up in the world of wine, around men in suits [...] who would speak to me like I was stupid.
"I never want to make anyone feel stupid when it comes to wine. It's for everyone."
Three from Andalucía
Among the six wines for tasting were a natural white, which was many people's favourite, a fruity rosé that had been voted the best rosé in Spain for the twelfth year running by Spanish journalists, and a Mencía from Castilla y León that Linda described as "everything you don't expect from a Spanish wine."
Three of the wines were from Andalucía, at the request of clients who had attended previous tastings. Linda had been expecting this, though limiting herself to Andalusian wines is not her intention.
"One of the things I love about Spanish wine is, from all the corners of Spain, you can get everything you want that you could get anywhere else around the globe, because it has all these different microclimates, all these different styles of wine making, and you can get these really fresh, crisp Ruedas and you can get these really heavy Priorats and these toasty Riojas. You can get everything."
Arriving in Malaga without having hosted a tasting for almost two years due to the various lockdowns was initially "daunting", said Linda, but revising and sharing her knowledge on wine has helped her to settle into her new life.
She has various plans for Winederlust, which include running themed tastings and collaborating with other businesses, but her priority will always be her passion - travelling through Spain in search of the best grapes, getting to know the country, one wine at a time.