A new era for Spanish wine
There is a new generation of young Spanish winemakers emerging, all of them looking to do one thing: make wines that showcase the uniqueness of their vineyards and, most importantly, the landscape they grow in.
Image courtesy of Mario Rovira, of his Alella (Tiana) vineyards.
The wine world is no different to any other industry, there are trends that come and go with every generation. Young winemakers are shaping the present and future of Spanish wines and directly reacting to the social, climatic and cultural changes that the country and the world in general are going through. This new generation has brought creativity, freshness and authenticity and, without doubt, an incentive that has boosted wine consumption and added value to the industry. The truth is that these youngsters are very well prepared, and that is clear to see both in the vineyard and in the winery. Winemakers, biologists, chemists, agronomists… the new generation of Spanish winegrowers know what they are doing and this is evident in their wines.
A passion for the terroir
This new generation has grown up with the understanding that terroir is about much more than just the soil. It is a set of factors that define a particular wine region, and give wines a unique personality.
In Spain there is a great variety of terroirs and climates. Small plots that have been closely studied with respect and patience to try and interpret and understand what each of them needs. The composition of the soil, hours of sunlight, temperature contrast between day and night, surface slope, average annual rainfall, type of wind… Taking into account each of these factors, you can work out the resulting character of the wine. This hard work has allowed the recovery of old forgotten plots and has given value to unique vineyards, eventually resulting in wines with their own personality and a distinctive character.
In search of forgotten varieties
Alongside this passion for the terroir, there has been an effort to recover native varieties, many of them in danger of extinction. An intensive work that has not been at all easy in a market dominated by the usual noble grapes. In Galicia there is Caiño and Sousón, in Valencia Mandó, in Catalonia Trepat and Sumoll, in Andalucía Tintilla de Rota, in Mallorca Callet and Giró, in the Canary Islands Vijariego… The list is long and still growing.
However, this commitment to authenticity often clashes with the regulations set out by a Designation of Origin. When these varieties have been recovered, they are not listed in the regulations so they are not permitted. And this is why some wines made by this new generation of winegrowers are not part of a D.O.
If there is one thing these new Spanish winemakers really care about, it is the global problem of climate change and how it affects their vineyards. In response to the rising temperatures, they look for varieties that can cope with different temperatures as well as using techniques and treatments that can manage the vegetation in the vineyard and control new pests and diseases that are a result of climate change.
In reality, more and more young people are working under the principles of sustainable agriculture, without the use of chemical products and are caring for the environment by using organic, ecological and biodynamic practices. They use many techniques and treatments that were used in the past, and that encourage the natural balance of the soil and enhance the specific characteristics of the terroir. And this is something that is greatly appreciated in a globalised world where wines tend to be very similar to one another.
The concept of a super-technological winery is a thing of the past. These new winemakers understand that the way wines are made determines the expression of the variety, the soil, the climate and the work in the vineyard. They are true craftsmen in the winery who use minimal oenological products which can alter the final wine. Instead, they work in generally small, simple and fully functional facilities that are perfectly suited to limited and sustainable productions.
Likewise, there is a tendency to keep experimenting with vats made of different materials and textures that are good for making wines with minimal intervention and help achieve maximum expression of the terroir.
Easy wines with a fresh image
Another characteristic that defines the new generation in the Spanish wine sector and is a direct consequence of all the above, is the type of wine they make. In general, they make more natural, less sweet and less alcoholic wines. These are enjoyable, accessible wines for any occasion.
And, aware of the great competition in the market, they are well aware that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The new winemakers place particular emphasis on the bottles they put their wines in, both on the look and on the name. Fresh, young and modern designs that have distanced themselves from the classic labels and really look like they belong on the modern shelf.
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some young winemakers who, through their hard work, are beginning to mark a new era for Spanish wine:
5 new generation Spanish winemakers
Verónica Ortega (Bierzo)
After learning from great wineries with international prestige, this restless winemaker from Cádiz fell in love with Bierzo and decided to set up her own project in the town of Valtuille de Abajo (Castilla-León). A meticulous work that stands out for the recovery of forgotten plots, a commitment to local varieties and completely artisan winemaking.
Having settled in Valencia, this young winegrower began his project by recovering a vineyard planted by his great-grandfather. A wild area of untouched landscapes where he began to explore. This project stands out for the manual work in the vineyards, the use of local varieties and the minimal intervention winemaking process.
Alvar de Dios (Toro)
Coming from a family of winegrowers and located in the D.O. Toro, this young viticulturist ecologically cultivates the vineyards that his grandfather left him in Zamora (Castilla-León). This is precise and artisan work that results in wines with a modern profile but that hold onto the characteristics of this area’s wines.
Mario Rovira (Bierzo, Alella and Cádiz)
A tireless Catalan winegrower, he runs three projects in different parts of Spain. One in Alella (Catalonia), another in Bierzo (Castilla-León) and the third in Cádiz (Andalusia). A curious triangle where he has sought out the same things: quality soils and old vines in mountainous areas.
Julia Casado (Jumilla)
Julia is a true Monastrell ninja. Neither short nor lazy, she settled in Bullas, Murcia to bring out the best of this variety, known to locals as “la del terreno”, a grape that she has cultivated with craftsmanship and respect to produce honest, authentic wines with their own personality.
Now that you know a bit more about the new generation of Spanish winemakers, all that is left to do is see what they are capable of. And for that, all you have to do is try their wines ;).