Discovering Delfí Sanahuja, technical director and winemaker in Perelada
For 30 vintages now, Delfí Sanahuja has been the esteemed winemaker in Perelada, a renowned winery in Empordà that celebrates its 100th anniversary this year and premiers their spectacular facilities, becoming the first winery in Europe with LEED GOLD certificate of sustainability. The Perelada vineyards have flourished under the guidance of Delfí Sanahuja, giving rise to wines that are a testament to craftsmanship and perfection.
Beyond his exceptional skill as a winemaker, Delfí Sanahuja is a person with a calm gaze who puts the grape and the vine in the spotlight through his unwavering commitment to quality while drawing hardly any attention to himself. This creates wines where passion and precision converge; wines that not only delight the palate, but also touch the soul.
Let's learn a little more about Delfí Sanahuja, winemaker and technical director of Bodega Perelada.
- Do you have a special wine-related memory that has stuck with you that you would like to share with us?
There are three important moments that have marked my professional career: the first, when we released Finca Garbet in 2005, a very high-end wine from Perelada that we started in 2001 whose objective was to reflect the fantastic landscape of the estate. The second iconic moment was in May 2022, when we inaugurated the new winery that we had been working on for 20 years. And finally, the celebration of the centenary of Perelada, a tribute to the winery’s 100 years of history, during which we aimed to get invite the public closer with original activities and immersive tastings.
- You come from Tarragona, an area with a deep-rooted winemaking tradition. Have you always wanted to work with wine? Or when did this passion for wine and the vineyard awaken in you?
At the age of 17, I was already harvesting grapes, and this awakened my interest in this versatile world. What I liked most about this job is that you don't fall into a routine. In the same day, you touch on disciplines as diverse as oenology, biology and communications. You can be alone in the vineyard in the morning or you can be presenting a wine in society in the afternoon. By combining so many disciplines at the same time, it keeps me from falling into monotony. The truth is that I am curious by nature and I like to learn new things every day.
- We know that you feel deep admiration for Josep Lluís Pérez (Mas Martinet), who was your teacher and mentor, and who is also one of the main drivers of the Priorat revolution. What influence has he had on your career and which of his teachings do you continue to put into practice?
Josep Lluís Pérez was a consultant at Perelada and I learned a lot from him. A curious, restless and investigative person, what influenced me the most from his teachings is the whole research part. As he always told me: ‘in order to prove if something works, it must first be tested.’ All my work is based on experience and practical observation and, to this end, I rely heavily on R&D (Research and Development), which allows me to acquire new knowledge and develop new technologies or products.
- And then came Perelada... Love at first sight? What did you find in Perelada that has led you to stay for around 30 harvests with them?
I feel very much at home in Perelada. If there is one reason why I am doing well, it is thanks to the trust placed in me by Javier Suqué, president of the Perelada Group. He always gives me freedom of movement to experiment and has never stood in my way. As I say, ‘there is no creativity if there is no freedom.’ And I have that here.
- Perelada is experiencing a golden age. It is celebrating its 100 years by opening a spectacular winery, the only one in Europe recognised with the LEED GOLD sustainability certificate. Have you contributed in any way to the design of the winery? What are the advantages of having such an important certification, and what influence will it have on the wines produced there?
We have been working on the creation and construction of the new winery since 2003. As part of this, we visited many wineries and went back and forth over the matter many times in order to find the best fusion between oenology and architecture. I was primarily in charge of the functional side, so that each of the spaces in the winery, in addition to being sustainable, would be fully functional for the benefit of winemaking.
We are the first winery in Europe with LEED GOLD certification, an internationally recognised certification system that evaluates and recognises the sustainability and efficiency of buildings and projects across various categories, such as energy efficiency, water management, indoor air quality, material selection and innovative design. This adoption of innovative practices and technologies in winemaking is transmitted positively in the quality and production of the wines, and is in line with our way of working and our outlook on life.
- Perelada not only makes very good wine, it is also a driving force behind art, gastronomy and wine tourism. From your point of view, what influence do all these areas have on introducing more people to wine in the most accessible way possible? Do we know how to communicate wine or do we still have a long way to go?
Although small, Peralada is a very complex town where you can enjoy art, culture and gastronomy. Empordà presents a wide range of possibilities where wine is the driving force and allows us to have a broader vision of the world of wine.
However, although it is true that, thanks to festivals, restaurants, museums or sports, we are more accessible to consumers, the truth is that we still have a long way to go to reach the end consumer. Wine is still seen as elitist and there are still many people who are afraid of not knowing enough or making a fool of themselves. Wine is to be enjoyed and we have to make it easy for people to lose their fear of tasting and giving their opinion. A good way to reach our consumers is to focus less on technicalities and more on the vineyard and the landscape.
- And, speaking of wine tourism and viticulture, how would you define the richness that Empordà offers? What distinguishes your wines from the rest of Catalonia and Spain?
Empordà is a landscape. An appellation of origin that, although small, is very diverse. The beach, the mountains, the vineyard... With a wide variety of different soils and 20 different grape varieties, we can offer intense, balanced wines with personality that stand out from the rest.
- With all this deployment of resources and with the importance and reputation of Perelada, which produces around 100 wines in different appellations, how do you do it? In Empordà alone you make around 30 wines, it's crazy!
To avoid going crazy, first of all, you have to be very clear about what you want to do and set a direction. You must understand that I have been working in Perelada for 30 years and, the truth is, I know each of the wines we make here very well. Although it's complicated, I have it all in my head. Experience is a degree.
- Every wine has a great deal of work behind it, from the simplest to the exceptional. What qualities does a great wine need? What is the difficulty in making entry-level wines, so that they turn out to be enjoyable wines without sacrificing quality?
To produce a great wine, it has to be intense, it has to have everything. Balanced, with nothing sticking out. With personality that makes it unique. And, finally, with great aging capacity, to enjoy its evolution over time.
When it comes to creating an entry-level wine, the important thing is to achieve a wine that is flavoursome, round, balanced and easy to drink. A wine that when you describe it does not have any negative adjectives, but is agreeable.
- Among all the wines of Perelada, there is one that is ‘the apple of your eye.’ Can you tell us a little about it?
Centenari Perelada 2020 has just been released to commemorate the winery's 100th anniversary and, to be honest, it took a lot of work and effort. This is a very high-end wine of which there are only 1070 bottles and in which I wanted to reflect the character and personality of Javier Suqué, alma mater of Perelada. Something that I had never done before and that, although it has been very difficult, at the same time, has been very rewarding.
- You are a masterful maker of great wines. Is there anything else that you want to do? Do you have a potential signature wine in mind?
I feel very satisfied with Centenari Perelada. I was able to produce what I had in mind. However, there is no limit. You can never say you have made the best wine. We must always believe we can improve.
- To be a great winemaker you also have to be a great taster. Would you share with us the last wine you tasted that got you excited and why?
I have many friends in the world of wine who make very good wines, so I will not name any to avoid leaving any out. From Perelada, the truth is that I am very happy with the first vintage in the new winery. 2020 has been a great year and we are very proud of the wines we have achieved.