This post is part of our Inside Devour series. We work with some of the most passionate and talented guides in the country—make that the world!—and we’re thrilled to tell you their stories.
He didn’t become the next James Bond (as was his original plan), but UK native Luke Darracott discovered a whole new adventure in Madrid through food and wine.
Luke Darracott still vividly remembers the exact moment he fell in love with wine. “I was eating arroz con bogavante in Guadalajara and my friend ordered a bottle of Martín Codax Albariño,” he recalls. “I didn’t really drink white, but that explosion and marriage of flavors was like a religious awakening.”
Later that same year—2010—his love of wine transformed from a newfound appreciation to a full-fledged passion on a visit to López de Heredia. Luke originally planned his visit to the idyllic winery in Haro as a way of doing research for a book, but that fateful trip would change the course of his career: “Their aged white Rioja was a life-changing bottle. I haven’t looked back since, much to the complaints of my liver.”
Watch Luke break down the essentials of ordering wine in Spain:
Luke now channels his passion for food and wine into his work as a tour guide with us here at Devour Madrid. However, less than a decade ago, his career outlook was significantly different. After wrapping up his Spanish and Russian with European Studies coursework at the University of Bath, Luke was still pursuing his original plan of being the next 007.
“The original plan was to spend a year in Madrid improving my Spanish and then a year in Moscow to improve my Russian, then get a job in the Foreign Office and become a sort of low-budget James Bond,” he says. “I did the year in Madrid and the year in Moscow but unsurprisingly fell in love with the Spanish capital and have been here ever since.”
Falling in love with Madrid
“I could fill books with that response,” Luke jokes when asked about the differences between life in Spain and life in the UK. He narrows his answer down to the “3 F’s”: food, friends, and family, which he believes hold higher importance here in Spain than they do back home. “People take an hour for lunch, people go for a drink mid-week, people will bring children to the bars,” he observes.
While he’s traveled the country in search of unforgettable food and wine, his adopted hometown of Madrid will always be special to Luke. “Madrid has a special unpretentious energy to it. It hums and throbs and is unequivocally and unashamedly Spanish,” he says. “Also, its sheer multitude of bars and eateries is unparalleled.”
A verified wine guru
Ever since that fateful discovery of excellent wine years ago, Luke has become one of Madrid’s go-to wine experts. When he’s not out and about on the streets of Madrid leading Devour tours, you can often find him hosting his podcast The Spanish Wine Experience. Every week, he opens a bottle from a different denominación de origen and talks about it in an unpretentious way that feels as if you’re listening to a friend.
Having tried dozens—if not hundreds—of excellent Spanish wines, it’s safe to say that Luke knows how to pick the good stuff. He loves the sheer variety of wines from all over the country available here in Madrid. However, his top pick wine hails from the sunny south.
“My go-to is sherry,” he tells us. “I’d probably go for a nutty amontillado or oloroso paired with some cured cheese or meat.”
From Madrid’s backstreets to the small screen
A true man of many talents, Luke spends a lot of time writing in addition to guiding and hosting his podcast. He’s written two books about Spain, runs two blogs, and does his fair share of writing and translation work whenever he can. As if that wasn’t enough, he even claims “TV host” as a line on his resume! His show Finding Little Italy transported viewers through the smaller side of Europe’s boot, and he’s currently working on a new travel show based here in Spain.
Although he’s obviously quite prolific online and on the page, the best way to experience Luke’s wealth of knowledge is by taking a tour with him here in Madrid. His passion for sharing Madrid’s unrivaled food and wine scene with guests means that connections last much longer than the tours themselves. He’s still friends with one group that convinced him to hit the town with them afterwards, ending the night with drinks and laughter at a Madrid jazz bar.
As for his favorite tour to lead, there’s one that leaves him amazed no matter how many times he guides it. “[The Tapas & Flamenco Tour] is my favorite because I get to see an amazing flamenco show along with the clients,” he tells us. “I always end up sweaty and red-faced from the intensity of it.”
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Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.