Pau Gasol 16th Prestigio Rioja Prize winner
The Control Board presented the “Rioja Wine in solidarity with Pau’s Project” campaign
Pau Gasol received the sixteenth Prestigio Rioja Prize in Logroño. It was unanimously awarded by the Prize jury panel because they consider him an example of a vocation dedicated to excellence on the basketball court and also because he has won matches beyond these courts thanks to his commendable altruistic spirit towards the needy. He has become a great ambassador of the values of our country in the world, the same way that Rioja wine is the ambassador of Spanish wines.
“For me it is a true source of pride and an honour to receive such a prestigious award,” said Pau Gasol at the prize-giving ceremony. "When I saw the list of prize winners, who are a reference not only in Spain but in the world, I felt even more delighted to have had the opportunity to spend some days in this region which has so much to offer. I have been able to enjoy great experiences, not just the wine, and I am amazed at the hospitality and the treatment they have given me. I’m leaving but looking forward to returning.”
Gasol is not only one of the most awarded and international Spanish athletes. He is also an ambassador for Unicef Spain since 2003. This has made him a role model for thousands of young people around the world, particularly at this time that is so in need of references in the field of human values, according to the scholar and Prize panellist Carmen Iglesias. His selfless work has materialised into the launching of an initiative called ‘El Proyecto de Pau’ (‘Pau’s Project’), whose main goals are to ensure that more and more children can go to school and to fight against malnutrition in Africa. In 2011, given the grave situation faced by children affected by the humanitarian crisis in the four countries that make up the so-called ‘Horn of Africa’, Pau Gasol decided to focus his initiative on garnering increased support in the fight against famine. As he stated last 22 August during the presentation of this new action, "we cannot sit idly by in the face of this situation."
On the occasion of the award ceremony and in response to the request for solidarity launched by Pau, the President of the Control Board, Victor Pascual, announced the launching of the campaign ‘Rioja Wine in solidarity with Pau’s Project’. The campaign’s goal is for the D.O.Ca. Rioja to raise funds for this project on behalf of the people in these four countries in Africa in a humanitarian emergency. The Control Board has opened a bank account so that all members of Riojan society can show once again the generosity that characterizes the people of this region by contributing before 31 December to this charity dedicated to contributing to UNICEF’s work combating famine in the Horn of Africa.
"Although it is a difficult task, we will try to ‘measure up’ and reach your level, at least in generosity," said the Control Board President to Pau, congratulating him both for his sporting achievements and for his humanitarian spirit and thanking him for accepting the Prize, “that aims to help foster our society’s perception of wine as a healthy food within a pattern of moderate and responsible consumption —making it advisable even in sports.” "In this sense, elite athletes like you, Pau, are a reference for our youth, whom we must bring closer to such healthy habits, typical of our lifestyle and our culture, in which wine is an emblematic product," concluded Victor Pascual.
The basketball star considers himself a big (2.15 m tall) fan of gourmet food, which can not be conceived without a good wine. This is what he underscored to the President of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy and Prize Jury Panellist, Rafael Anson, for whom Pau Gasol, while being the youngest winner, is a true ‘Gran Reserva’ —a view shared by the President of La Rioja, in the event’s closing speech. "It’s been wonderful 31 years of evolution in our terroir and around the world,” said Rafael Anson, “proudly displaying all his sporting achievements and accompanying them with a humanitarian character. This fully coincides with the intent of this Prize, which is to display and garner a worldwide reputation for the culture and ways of life of those peoples for whom vineyards and wine are part of their essence and history."
Pau Gasol confirmed his appreciation for fine wines and his incipient interest in their culture, stating his great satisfaction for his experience in Rioja: "I’ve experienced the grape harvest in different wineries, acquiring a first-hand understanding of how hard it actually is to make good wine, from the harvesting in the vineyard to bottling. I was not aware of all the steps involved in turning the grapes into a Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. It was very interesting and enriching to meet different winemakers and to learn, because it is a really exciting world —and I am always attracted by anything that is created with work, patience and technique." Pau expressed his desire to repeat the experience and have more time "to walk through the small towns that are so different from where I usually live, and appreciate the beauty of the churches, castles… There are many interesting things to enjoy in Rioja."
The Prestigio Rioja Prize
The Prestigio Rioja Prize is a pioneering initiative in identifying wine and wine culture that, throughout its 16 editions, has been endorsed by famous figures from the fields of literature, music, art, science, business and sports. Thanks to this, the Prize has contributed to foster our society’s perception of wine as a traditional, exciting, cultured and, particularly, healthy food product.
The fifteen previous prizes have honoured Theresa Zabell, Sara Baras, Ana Patricia Botín, Carlos Sáinz, Antonio Banderas, Alejandro Sanz, Pedro Duque, Cristobal Halffter, Isidoro Álvarez, Valentín Fuster, Plácido Domingo, Eduardo Chillida, Mario Vargas Llosa, Francisco J. Ayala and Federico Mayor Zaragoza.
The Prestigio Rioja Prize also enjoys the selfless collaboration of a jury panel comprised of seven prominent figures: Adrián Piera, Antonio Mingote, Carmen Iglesias, Eduardo Arroyo, Mª Teresa Álvarez, Rafael Ansón and Luis Cabanas, as well as the Control Board President, Víctor Pascual.