While studying abroad in Madrid, Andrew Yandell (Madrid, 2009-10) fell in love with Spanish wine. A year later, Andrew completed his senior thesis on protecting farmers in Champagne with weather derivatives and was hired by a wine merchant in Bordeaux. Soon after, he returned to San Francisco and launched his own wine import and distribution company, Trumpet Wine, showcasing natural, sustainably-farmed wines from small producers in northern Spain.
Read on to learn how Andrew’s study abroad experience helped inspire his start-up and how he is bringing a new generation of Spanish winemakers to the table.
IES Abroad: What led you to study abroad in Madrid?
Andrew Yandell: Madrid has some of the best art, food, and wine in the world. I’d lived in Barcelona six years before and wanted see the country as an adult. Studying art history at the Prado and Reina Sofia sounded like a great way to spend a year and an excellent excuse to dive into the Spanish culinary scene.
IES Abroad: How did studying abroad influence you, both professionally and personally?
AY: I learned more about life in my year abroad than the rest of my college experience combined. I put myself out there, away from my American friends, English, and familiarity, and Madrid gave back. I saw my daily experience through a different lens and a world of opportunity opened before me. I suppose it taught me to trust myself.
IES Abroad: What were some of your most memorable study abroad experiences?
AY: Discovering the birthplace of Cabrales cheese in Picos de Europa. Churros. Harvesting chestnuts. Slaughtering pigs in Extremadura. Singing songs till sunrise in the park. Sundays at el Prado. Terrazas at midnight. Impromptu flamenco. Semana Santa in Sevilla. Loving Aurora Nicolás Rivera; that was the greatest adventure of all.
IES Abroad: Tell us about your undergraduate studies. What career path did you take immediately after college?
AY: I wrote my senior finance thesis on protecting farmers in Champagne with weather derivatives and got hired by a négociant (a wine merchant who assembles the produce of smaller growers and winemakers and sells the result under its own name) in Bordeaux. I didn’t like the snobbery of the place and wound up back in San Francisco learning the wine scene, getting ready for Trumpet.
IES Abroad: What inspired you to found your own wine import and distribution company, Trumpet Wine?
AY: My experience in Madrid. Spain has incredible wine from small producers but, unlike similar wine from France and Italy, not many make it to the states. Spanish wine is on the come-up. The values are incredible! I started saving to start Trumpet that spring.
IES Abroad: What makes the wines you import unique?
AY: I import natural wine from small producers in northern Spain: Catalunya, Rioja, and Galicia. They're all organically farmed (or better) and made without additives, beyond a touch of SO2.
IES Abroad: Walk us through the process of selecting producers.
AY: Unlike the import game in France, you can’t just walk into a dope wine bar and look through the list for producers you don’t recognize. Spaniards have been more of a bulk-wine-and-beer-drinking people, but that’s changing. I get in the car and drive to places I suspect I might find something based on terroir and historical winemaking practices, and start talking to people. I look for good vineyard practices and minimal manipulation. I’m after expression of a place, a culture, terruño as they call it. There’s a new generation of winemakers looking to make a name for themselves and their homeland out there.
IES Abroad: Do you use your Spanish skills today?
AY: I speak and write Spanish every day for business, I use it often around town in San Francisco as well. I’m in Spain for a couple months every year.
IES Abroad: What do you love most about your job?
AY: Creation. I get to work with the greatest minds in Spanish wine and participate in the awakening of Europe’s sleeping vinous giant. We’re rediscovering lost traditions and shaping the world’s understanding of them together.
IES Abroad: What’s next for Trumpet Wine?
AY: Galicia [a region in the northwest corner of Spain, bordering Portugal]. The first shipments will arrive this fall. There’s a small band of farmers working biodynamically with native varietals in a region that’s been fraught with heavy chemical use and non-native grapes since the industrial revolution. It’s not easy, but they’re pushing the limits of what people thought possible in the region.
IES Abroad: What advice would you give to current students who are thinking of studying or interning abroad?
AY: If you go, really go. Leave the safety of familiarity. Speak the language, read it, write it, truly live it. You’ll never regret that you did.