Tony Barrero sold me my first really big-seller wine. Then he introduced me to Carinena and El Bombero. Then to some new guys called Martinez-Bujanda. Then helped me put a Flying Winemaker into the cellar at Murchante where he - the young Nick Butler - made a palate-stunning, fruit-driven, crisp white wine; something never seen before in Rioja or Navarra. Then.... Lots of other stuff; without Tony I would not have known where to go in Spain. I owe the Big Basque.
We first met in 1973 when I came to Spain to buy for the first time. Big smiley lad. Sense humour. Learnt English in Peebles. Export manager for 'SAVIN'. Sold me a wine called Monte Alegré; Ah! Dear old Monty.
Today, Savin is no longer here but Tony is. Larger than ever. Meet up with him, Itziar and their twins in a Tapas bar on the Calle 31 Agosto. Twin Maitena is a flying winemaker and coming to work at the Chai this year. Her partner; Hector is Jean-Marc's winemaker at his Rioja Bodega in Labastida. He's there too.
More Txacholi (or 'Chacoli' in Spanish; the sharp white wine from the steep, rain-lashed vineyards on this exposed Biscay coast). Maitena and Hector have just acquired a patch of these vines and this year are going to make their own take on what Txacholi might be. I say I'd love to have some. Bound to be good with their joint talents.
Another bar, another bottle. Then some fresh grilled anchovies, with squid to follow, by the old harbour. With a Rias Baixas. They have life well sussed here, I tell you.
Then, to recover, go to a see a few games of Pelota or 'Remonté' which is the version of the Basque national game they play with long curved basket structures laced to the serving arm so they look a bit like one-armed lobsters. This appendage accelerates an already fast game - think Squash, Fives, Real Tennis combined - into a Lethally fast game.
The court looks about 80 metres long, the ball is small and very hard. Sounds like a pistol shot when it hits the wall at well over 100 mph. Players now wear helmets and spectators sit behind steel mesh. It is Thrilling. Tennis combined with War.
Unlikely to catch on in Wimbledon.
More bars, txacholi, pinxtos and fireworks. This time from hotel balcony. The climax pins you to the wall, empties your lungs. The vast mass of Basques packed everywhere in the bay on the sand, in the water applaud like crazy.