15 May, 2019
Old Vines and New Ideology: The Spanish Wine Industry Has Never Been So Exciting
Ask a Spaniard about the country's wine industry, he will tell you two things. First, this wine is made in all regions of the country. And secondly, this great wine is made in all parts of the country. Outside of Spain, however, this diversity is far from being as well represented.
"Spain suffers from the fact that Rioja, Rias Baixas, Ribera del Duero and Cava are known and appreciated by American drinkers," says sommelier Andy Myers, beverage director of José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup group. "Try to explain to people why they should drink from Mencía to Ribeira Sacra or Treixadura to Monterrei, and things get a little complicated." (Tray-sha-du-rah, in case you're wondering .)
It's a shame, he says, because no other country currently offers "excitement and unbeatable value for money" as Spain does. Industry professionals agree, highlighting the revival of viticulture in Spain. Rediscovered regions, renovated plots of old abandoned vineyards and daring producers turning away from naming rules: these are the keys to wake up the sleeping giant that's the viticultural industry in Spain.
"This is neither an evolution nor a revolution, but rather an involution that goes back to ancient grape varieties," notes Spanish wine critic and author Luis Gutiérrez in a 2017 article, Noble Rot. "The future is in the past."
High in the vineyards of Ribeira Sacra causing vertigo, in Galicia, in northwestern Spain, a handful of young winemakers have spent most of their lives over the past 20 years and have quietly reconverted the old vines of Mencía. They include Laura Lorenzo of Dominio do Bibei; Pedro Rodríguez de Guímaro; Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos and José Martínez, who together form the project Envínate (Wine Yourself).
Why volunteer to make wine in such inhospitable conditions? They produce expressionally expressive reds and blends – wines that sing in the granite, shale, slate and iron soils in which they are grown, and which "live in a place of magical palate, somewhere between Burgundy and Beaujolais Cru, "says Myers.
Known as mago de los vinos (wine magician), Raúl Pérez is a big bearded, less winemaker and more Spanish oenologist. For three centuries, his family worked in the terraced vineyards of the nearby town of Bierzo. To the east of Ribeira Sacra, the mountainous region of northwestern Spain is also renowned for its elegant Mencía wines and its old low yielding vines.
Pérez finished his first vintage in the family vineyard in 1994, when he was only 22 years old. Today, he participates in numerous projects in the Bierzo region, as well as in Ribeira Sacra, Madrid, Ávila, Asturias, Portugal and South Africa.
The winemaker's projects in Bierzo focus on winemaking at a vineyard in Burgundy, in vineyards just outside his hometown, Vatuille de Abajo. Perez shares one of these sites – El Rapolao – with some like-minded pioneers, including Diego Magaña (Dominio de Anza) and César Márquez Pérez (César Márquez Bodegas y Viñedos).
Three of the wines from this plot are donated to the Clay Restaurant in Harlem, New York State. The director of the restaurant's wines, Gabriela Davogustto, defends the Bierzo and its "elegant, structured and balanced wines".
Lawyers like these are priceless. Félix Meana, co-owner and director of Cúrate operations in Asheville, northeast, believes that Mencía wines from northwestern Spain are among the most exciting in the country. And although Galicia is best known for making white wines from Albariño and Godello, the region's lesser-known white grapes, such as Doña Blanca and Treixadura, should be savored for the "beautiful refreshing blends". they produce, he says.
The pioneering producer Envínate is currently preparing some of Spain's most sought-after wines.
Two hundred kilometers south of Galicia, an hour's drive west of Madrid, an equally attractive and high-altitude winemaking takes place in the Sierra de Gredos (Mount Gredos). The red grape Garnacha – Spanish name for Grenache – is king. Although if you are a blind person who tasted it, Meana says you will be convinced to drink Pinot Noir from Burgundy.
The two winemakers Fernando Garcia and Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi founded Comando G in the Gredos Mountains in 2008. They produce delicate grenache-based wines from old, low-yielding vines planted in granite soils. In the rare circles of the United Kingdom and the United States, Comando G wines have an almost cult reputation.
If you wanted a criterion to determine if a region is "going to be without", the best place to start would be to check if Envínate currently produces wine. The pioneering producer manufactures some of Spain's most sought-after wines in a number of areas under Atlantic influence across the country.
In Taganana, on the northeastern coast of Tenerife, one of the volcanic islands of the Canary Islands, Envínate has 300-year-old vineyards alongside Suertes del Marques, one of the island's best producers. .
The old vines grow here without training and the soil must be worked by hand or on horseback. There are no pesticides or fertilizers in sight. The grape juice turns into wine with only the help of wild yeast, which gives fresh aromatic wines giving off a smell of flint and smoked minerals. Volcanic soils and minimal intervention may be buzzwords in wine marketing nowadays, but that's the real deal.
Do not be fooled by the thought that the rebirth of Spain is limited to obscure regions and less known.
"There is currently a revolution in Priorat," says Myers. The winemakers produce less alcoholic wines and prefer the traditional grape varieties Garnacha and Cariñena (Carignan) in comparison with the "international" grape varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah) which put the Priorat on the map. Producers such as Terroir al Límit offer an increasingly balanced range of wines, as opposed to wines of power.
In 2012, in Cava, although the Raventós i Blanc vineyard of his family is inextricably linked to the history of the region, Pepe Raventós had the audacity to separate from the Cava D.O. and create a new one. "He wanted to make a better wine than the law allowed," says Myers.
The situation was reflected in Rioja in 2016, when the famous producer Artadi announced that he did not want to be associated with DOC of the region because his name did not represent the quality of his wines.
The Consejo Regulador, or the governing body of the Rioja DOCa, reacts quickly by announcing that from the 2017 vintage three new, much more precise categories of Rioja will be introduced. It is important to note that those who wish to follow strict rules and strict rules could start producing and labeling single-vineyard wines as Viñedo Singular.
Throughout the country, from the Balearic Islands to Valencia, passing through Aragon and beyond, wine growers try to highlight the terroirs of their regions. But does it matter if, here in the United States and on other international markets, everyone thinks about when it is said that Spanish wine is a ripe red and ready to go. Employment, Rioja and Ribera del Duero?
In March 2019, Hudson Yards – the largest private real estate development project in the United States – opened with great fanfare in New York City. As part of the $ 20 billion development, José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup launched Mercado Little Spain, a 35,000-foot dining hall and the "Andrés genuine love letter in Spain," according to his website.
With its three full restaurants and three separate bars, the Mercado is the perfect place to present the "new" wines of Spain. "We're changing the whole landscape with that," said Myers, who oversees the beverage program for the entire project.
At present, 20 whites and 20 reds are offered by the glass. One of these reds is a Rioja. Ultimately, there will be more than 400 labels sold by the bottle. "With the way we already sell wine here," says Myers. "I think Spain will run out of wine in about six months. It's terrifying. "