Trade rallies in defence of Spanish terroir

Over 150 winemakers, merchants and wine writers have signed a manifesto in defence of Spanish terroir amid rising opposition towards the governing bodies in the country’s top DOs.

It’s time to talk terroir in Spain

Led by outspoken Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez, the manifesto seeks to combat the close-minded nature of a lot of the regulations enforced by the governing bodies in regions like Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

A longtime champion of the quality of Spain’s terroir and the need to tell the terroir story to consumers, Rodriguez runs his family estate Remelluri in Rioja and other boutique projects across Spain.

Last July, Rodriguez admitted Rioja had become “a victim of its own success“. “The way the big wineries are working today is unsustainable – you can’t make a quality crianza for €3 – it’s a dangerous route to take.

Winemaker Telmo Rodriguez is leading the terroir charge

Winemaker Telmo Rodriguez is leading the terroir charge

“There are two Riojas: industrial and artisanal. The region’s future lies with the latter. There are beautiful villages in Rioja and we need to be showing the place not the process, which is so boring,” he said.

“There’s too much talk about oak and ageing in Rioja – we’ve lost our sense of place. We have to be serious and talk terroir – even the trade doesn’t know about the different villages in Rioja,” he added.

The manifesto aims to highlight the potential of Spain’s top terroirs and shift the focus in Spain towards its rich winemaking heritage and away cheap, mass-produced wine with no sense of place. Enclosed is an excerpt from the text.

“The Spanish appellation system has been oblivious to soil differentiation and levels of quality. Efforts have been aimed at turning our vineyards into the world’s biggest, not the best. Deep changes are needed to boost our wine heritage.

“The best way to identify wines based on their origin, quality and authenticity is by a pyramid structure, with wines made anywhere in the region at the base; village wines a step above and single-vineyard wines at the top.

“We call upon the Regulatory Boards to be sensitive to the new wine reality that is emerging all over Spain and to approach a classification of the land in terms of quality.”

Among those to have signed the manifesto are Miguel Angel de Gregorio of Finca Allende, Artadi’s Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle, Peter Siseck of Pingus, Jesus Barquin of Equipo Navazos, and wine writers Victor de la Serna.

There has been growing unrest in Rioja in particular between terroir-focused producers who feel that regulations enforced by the Consejo Regulador are not only holding them back but communicating the wrong message.

In late December, Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle of Artadi quit the Rioja DOCa, sending out a strong message about his feelings towards the Conesejo Regualdor. It will be interesting to see if any other producers follow suit.

Among those to sign the manifesto was Tim Akin MW, who questioned the Rioja DO’s refusal to recognise village names and geographic areas on Rioja labels in his recently published Rioja report.

“It is surely
 time for villages and vineyard names to be permitted on labels. The differences between, say, Labastida and Villabuena de Álava, situated a few miles apart, should be as familiar to wine lovers as those between Nuits St Georges and Chambolle-Musigny,” he wrote.

3 Responses to “Trade rallies in defence of Spanish terroir”

  1. Hi Lucy, great story… and well needed. I live and work in the wine world here in Spain as well… in the Gredos, actually… old vine Garnacha country… one of those very old growing regions where there is a huge need of protection as they are still pulling out old amazing vineyards.
    I would like to have the contact info for whomever is driving this initiative that Telmo is speaking about, as an agent here with our own Spanish Wine company, New Spain Wines… we would like to sign it, and use our network to bring more attention to it. We work with many very small producers, who are of exactly the same mind as Telmo is.
    I would like to add though, that funny enough, at a screening of a Spanish Wine Film a few weeks ago in Madrid, Victor de la Serna, one of the names you mentioned of people who have signed onto the initiative… stood up in front of the crowd and told them that what he thinks this countries wine world needs is to make better, cheaper wine. A bit contrary to what he was signing onto, no? : ) however, the irony in this country never ceases to amaze me.
    Thanks for writing about this : )
    Wendy Vallaster
    Managing Partner – New Spain Wines
    Founder – The Ocea Mae European Sommelier Institute

  2. Andrea Lonardi says:

    Dear all
    Very nice article and very nice subject…. And I really liked the phrase: we lost the sens of place !!!
    Many other region have this problem today … Like Valpolicella.
    I am strongly interested in developing a manifesto like that also in the Valpolicella area.
    I am ANDREA Lonardi Chief winemaker in Bertani Domains.
    My best regards

  3. I’m not sure the issue is to put the name of a village..I think the difference is made by the values and work of each winery

    Wines Inform Assessors, Barcelona

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