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Abel Mendoza, the word of a winemaker.

12/01/2017 Wineries

Abel mendoza

Last Thursday, 5th January, we visited Abel Mendoza, a small but great wine producer located in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, La Rioja. It was not the best day to see him; there was a lot of work to be done in the winery since the Jarrarte 2016 had to be ready to be bottled. But even so, he squeezed us in to explain his vision for wine and the environment that surrounds it, La Rioja.

Abel Mendoza is a man of the vineyard. His wines are honest, just as they claim to be, marked by his many years of experience. Abel is a genuine wine-maker in La Rioja and a great defender of the land.

He owns 17 hectares, which are worked ecologically and located in the surroundings of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. He cultivates native varieties in different plots: Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano among the red varieties, and Tempranillo Blanco, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca, Viura and Torrontés among the white. The majority of the vineyard is planted on goblet-trained vines. This year, he planted a plot on trellises as an experiment, although he will not do so again as he didn’t like the results. As he said, if you don’t try it, you can’t have an opinion. A key principle in his philosophy.

The winery, built in 1988, has several typical concrete tanks where they make their carbonic maceration wine, Jarrarte. They also have stainless steel tanks for conventional fermentations and a few French oak barrels to make white wines and to age reds.

With these two components, the vineyard and the winery, Abel starts to create. There are no established rules in the vineyard and, like a good wine-maker, he wanders around the vineyard, observing, analysing the climate and then acting: pruning, fertilising and applying (ecological) treatments etc., whatever will give the character of the vintage to each and every wine. In the winery, they do not use interventionist processes, although this doesn’t mean that they don’t investigate different vinifications and blends.

Abel is a defender of traditional production methods, and carbonic maceration was the first in the area, a long time before French teachings arrived. The Jarrarte Maceración Carbónica is his favourite wine, with which he identifies the most, a wine to enjoy drinking. We were able to try the new vintage from the tank, and truthfully, this wine is very pleasant, tasty and fruity.

The single-variety native white varieties are another great investment. He has planted them on different soils and vinifies them separately in barrels, where they ferment and are aged for a period of time. This is a reference to his passion for Burgundy, but with a very good result. Each variety is expressed wonderfully, Tempranillo Blanco = body, Malvasía = aromas, Garnacha Blanca = body and bitterness, Viura = integrity, Torrontés = salinity. All of these wines possess an enormous depth.

Grano a Grano is another special range (the care with which they treat the grapes when they enter the winery is impressive). Relatives and friends meet to peel the grapes by hand and the berry stays intact so it can begin intracellular fermentation. It is the same as carbonic maceration, but without the stems, which lends it very good refinement. After fermentation, the wine is aged for a few months in barrels which gives it good complexity.

All in all, this was a short visit. It was a true pleasure to listen to Abel and the way in which he defends things, with the facts. This is a model that can coexist in the large wineries as well as the small ones, in an environment where more and more wineries have greater production and less affinity for the different landscapes that exist in the territory. He is a dreamer with his feet planted firmly on the ground, concerned about the future surrounding him.

Thank you very much for the visit, Abel, Grano a Grano will achieve great things.