At the age of 21, Gaby Mangeri left her home of Manhattan with plans to teach English to an Italian family in the Spanish Balearic Islands. This experience in Spain would impart the drive and creative inspiration for her and her husband’s natural wine shop in Córdoba, called JUGO Vinos Vivos.
While traveling in and out of Barcelona, something just clicked--Spain felt right. After spending time in Formentera, she began a new journey in Barcelona. Fueled by her passions, she capitalized on her love for photography, taking as many pictures as she could, and supported herself by working in bars for 2 years. When working until 6am every day started to get old, she returned to New York to study fashion design. “But Barcelona was in me. The seed had been planted, and I came back at every chance,” she recalled.
At every chance she got, she snuck back to Spain and stayed as long as she could. The constant back and forth finally pushed her to move back to Barcelona in 2004. She met her future husband, Javi, and they moved back to New York together. She studied at the International Center of Photography while he did his Masters at NYU. The motive this time to move back to Spain? A grant from the Andalucian government for Javi.
The foundation for JUGO really began with the couple’s first project, La Fragua, an artist residency program in the countryside of Spain, 100 kilometers from Córdoba. For seven years in Belalcázar, the couple converted the land next to a convent into a garden paradise and hosted over 200 artists. “I had been introduced to natural wine back in New York by a friend who was a sommelier. I read about Bodegas Morenas, the only natural winemaker in Córdoba, and we began introducing their wine into our art space and selling it at openings,” said Gaby.
So, the idea for JUGO came together very naturally. “It was very magical, like little pieces of inspiration coming together. Our time at La Fragua was ending, we were moving to the city, and we were like ‘how are we going to make our lives meaningful here after so much time in the countryside?’” she recalled. They needed to bring in an income--fast—so Javi, a Córdoba native, traversed the city on bike, looking for spaces to rent. When he stumbled upon the current spot, he and Gaby immediately fell in love. Situated in a cute, small neighborhood behind a beautiful plaza full of orange trees, it was perfect. In May 2018, they sealed the deal.
The summer was spent traveling all over Spain, meeting with different natural wine producers. In September, JUGO opened. The meaning behind the name? The initials of their family. J (Javi), U (Uma, daughter #1), G (Gaby), O (Olympia, daughter #2). Córdoba’s wine culture isn’t as developed and pronounced as the rest of Spain, but since Javi was from the area, it was easier to get the awareness ball rolling.
Fast forward a year, and JUGO is absolutely killing it. The shop’s intimate and inviting atmosphere draws in regulars, newbies, and tourists every day. If you pass the area on a Friday night, you’ll hear roars of laughter coming from the glowing shop, with a spill out of customers enjoying wine and cheese under the canopy of trees in the Plaza de San Andrés. And let’s talk about the cheese for a second...it’s all local, and I can honestly say it’s some of the best cheese I’ve ever had. Especially the mini goat cheese rounds topped with varnishes like roasted red pepper, oregano, and sundried tomatoes. I swear I still dream about that cheese every day.
Gaby and Javi are understandably super knowledgeable about their wines. You walk in, you tell them what you like (or what you don’t like), and they know exactly what to give you. And JUGO has evolved into way more than just a wine shop. It’s their space to showcase everything they find creative. One day, there was a beautiful new art exposition sprawled against the walls. The next day, Gaby felt like introducing Córdoba to the famous American BLT sandwich and ran across the street to buy a toaster (when the Spaniards first heard on Instagram that JUGO would have BLT’s, they unknowingly assumed it was a new dance, not a mouthwatering sandwich).
There’s no telling what JUGO could grow to be. Gaby says one day maybe they’ll start providing home-cooked meals on the weekends. Natural wine shop/art gallery/pop-up restaurant? That’s something I could definitely get behind. And although Gaby doesn’t think about anything in terms of forever, there’s one thing that’s certain—her love for adventure and natural wine will always remain constant.