Rioja pioneer José Madrazo dies

José Madrazo, a driving force in Rioja and co-founder of single estate bodega Contino in Rioja Alavesa, has died aged 79.

Spanish wine company Cune, owners of Contino, announced the news of Madrazo’s death this week.

Born in 1935, Jose Madrazo Real de Asua worked on oil tankers until the late ‘60s, though left the profession after the birth of his third child.

Soon after, Madrazo started working for Cune as its technical director under the guidance of his cousin Luis Vallejo, Cune’s chief executive, and went on to become general manager of the company.

Keen to produce a single vineyard wine, in 1974 Madrazo founded the 62-hectare Contino in the town of Lagurdia in Rioja Alavesa with other members of the Cune group.

One of the first single estate bodegas in Rioja, adopting the château model, Contino went against the grain of Rioja’s cross-regional blending tradition.

Madrazo remained general manager of Contino until 1999 and retired from the company in 2001.

“José was one of the founding fathers of Contino and was its driving force for many years. He worked hand in hand with our uncle Luis Vallejo at Cune for decades and will be much missed,” said Cune’s chief executive, Victor Urrutia.

Madrazo’s son Jesus is chief winemaker at Contino. Working predominantly with Tempranillo, Madrazo has also championed Graciano, creating Rioja’s first 100% Graciano in 1994.

Sharing his father’s ethos, Madrazo believes the future for Rioja lies in the new generation of terroir-focused winemakers and that the concept of terroir will become increasingly important in the region.

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