Bodegas Manzanos: two brothers, pioneers of Rioja
Brothers Víctor and David Fernández de Manzanos have transformed their small family business into a successful operation capable of producing 10 million bottles of wine a year.
“We have come from small wineries with little production capacity, to a new purpose built winery and renovated facilities together with 950 hectares of vineyards, all exclusively in the appellation Rioja.”
This is the story of two extremely focused, charming and disgracefully young wine professionals, Víctor and David Fernández de Manzanos, who single-handedly transformed their family business in Rioja from a winery in Azagra with 12 employees to a (still family run) business with five wineries, employing 160 people and producing over 10 million bottles each year. Victor, supported not only by his brother David but also by his wife Laura, has created an extensive global distribution network exporting nowadays to over 60 countries – all of this within the short space of a decade following the sudden death of his father.The Manzanos family, while very proud of its history over several generations in Rioja and its championing of native grape varieties also embraces a very modern interpretation of Rioja’s great heritage. The transformation Bodegas Manzanos’ history dates back to 1890 in Azagra. The Fernández de Manzanos family has been cultivating vineyards and producing wines for more than a century.
From very early on Victor’s vision was to expand his family’s business to the international market. He moved to Ramsgate to
improve his English during his secondary education, then went on to study at the London School of Economics. Victor cut his teeth in the UK wine trade by working as an intern at Alliance Wine, who have been Manzanos’ UK agent and distributor for the last 28 years. During this time Victor’s father passed away unexpectedly and as his eldest son, Victor assumed the role as
head of the family and owner of the Estate. He was a mere 20 years old.
With a commitment to keep his family estate together, Victor stepped up to the challenge and took charge, expanding the business with an incredible tenacity, transforming it into an international enterprise.
In the spring of 2016 Manzanos Wines acquired Bodegas Luis Gurpegui Muga and Bodegas Berceo, one of the most emblematic
wineries in Rioja Alta. By this time Victor had already expanded into Navarra with the purchase of Castillo de Enériz. In 2018
Victor and David purchased Vinícola Navarra and its brands Las Campanas and Castillo de Olite. Victor, with the support of his family, built a major Rioja business in a very short space of time, and at the age of 32 there’s no sign of letting up. As business slowed in parts of the world during the pandemic, Victor turned his attention to the US market, opening headquarters in Miami. He completed renovations on the oldest winery in Haro, opening its doors to tourists this year.
Have you tried?
Manzanos, Vochê Selección Graciano 2017 Voché
“Vines between 20 and 80 years old, planted at 400 m asl. Barrel aged in new French and Romanian oak for 18 months. Very, very spicy sweet; like pot-pourri rolled into a cigar; candied-violet chocolate. White pepper fragrance and a cosset of sweet truffle tucked in under the chin of the praline-creamy fruit. A super-smooth, sumptuous rioja with modern panache. Long, cashmere finish. Quite a cavalier.” – Jancisrobinson.com, Tamlyn Currin, 17 points
Single vineyard wines that get special attention, the Manzanos Voche range is born from higher altitude sites in Rioja Oriental. This range is concentrated, fruit forward and well defined.
Finca Manzanos, Tempranillo 2021
This extremely good value Tempranillo is a seasonal UK favourite. It is made in a fruity style, a versatile wine with intense cherry red colour, ripe black and red fruits, spices, liquorice and chocolate aromas and lively acidity. Round and well-balanced with fruit notes.
Climate and Varieties
Azagra is a town in the province of Navarra. Sitting on the left bank of the Ebro River, the climate is continental with an Atlantic and Mediterranean influence. Manzanos vineyard sites around this area vary. La Ladera with its steep slopes and big Rhone-like pebbles gives home to Viura vines of over 65-year-old, Los Caballos is planted with Tempranillo bush vines of the same age. Their El Barranco site is said to have the oldest Graciano vines in Spain, if not the world, planted in 1940. Six hectares are located on a 400m hill next to the Ega River facing south. Soils are poor, sandy, with rounded pebbles. The roots of the vines are very deep allowing for amazing concentration in the wines. Graciano, a variety that originates from Rioja, currently has just 1500 hectares of plantings in the world.
Victor Manzanos weighs in…
What was your biggest challenge with regard to taking over the winery?
At 20 years old, and in the middle of exams in London, I received the bad news about my father passing away. I needed time to accept the death of my father and, at the same time, the business needed me the following day: it was payroll day. I did not have information, my father used to have everything in a handwritten book and I needed not only to understand the business but be mature at the same time and the head of my family, taking care of my mother and brother – who was just starting university. I managed to study at night for the last year of my degree from Spain so I could finish my studies in London and be there for my family as well.
What are your thoughts on diversifying a wine business? Lessons learnt?
If by diversifying you are referring to buying wineries and brands with their own identity, history and goodwill, then I think it is very interesting to enrich your portfolio and be able to better serve your clients. When you are providing a good service and they are happy to work with you clients may ask you to find suppliers of other products that you do not have. That is why we wanted to grow and be able to supply them with some of the most representative wines from Spain.
How did you adapt your business model when Covid hit?
We definitely had to focus more on off trade, big supermarket chains that remained open while the majority of our clients such as restaurants and hotels were not operating. People could not go out, at least in Spain, we had to stay in for many months, and the only way one could buy wine was in a supermarket or online wine clubs. Also, we saw a big opportunity in the US, which is why we decided to open a sales office in Miami to expand our business in America. Europe and Asia were suffering a lot, cities and countries were closed and the market in the US was still running, so we saw an opportunity to try to expand the Rioja and Spanish category there.
You’ve worked in the UK wine trade, tell us about your experience?
I think the UK has a good knowledge of wine and consumers appreciate and love Rioja. I think the competition amongst traders is very competitive. Saying that, we’re delighted that UK consumers continue to enjoy our wines.
What is the future of Tempranillo in Rioja?
Tempranillo is what Rioja is known for abroad. Graciano and Garnacha are also two varieties that we work with a lot and that we cannot live without. The blend makes the wine more complex, but Tempranillo is a base that delivers an easy drinking style of wine that is very appealing to most people around the world. Ordering a Rioja is always a safe and elegant option.
What is the next step for the Manzanos enterprise?
We recently opened Bodegas Manzanos Haro to the public and this is our first year making wines in this winery, the oldest winery in the Rioja appellation. We would love for people to come and visit us in Haro so they can learn and appreciate the wines we will be making here. I hope everyone will love them.
Alliance Wine is the sole UK distributor of the Bodegas Manzanos range. For the complete range, click here.