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Gold medals justify bold ambitions at Rioja’s Bodegas Faustino

Bodegas Faustino won Gold medals at the Rioja Masters 2023. Its sustainability plan and new facilities aim to ensure that quality for decades.

How do you underscore a commitment to continued progress? A bold building project is a well-practised method. Yet for Bodegas Faustino, part of the Familia Martínez Zabala group, a major facilities upgrade is only the emblem of a wider approach. The fourth-generation producer’s commitments to sustainability, innovation and quality go much further, and are showcased in Gold medal wins at the Rioja Masters 2023.

The architectural development, due to open in 2024, is the group’s second collaboration with internationally renowned architects Foster + Partners. Incorporating expert work in sustainability, efficiency and visitor experience, it is a once-in-a-generation investment for Bodegas Faustino. The new work will bind the estate to its land more seamlessly than ever.

The centrepiece is a brand new visitor centre. The building, envisioned in local wood and a palette of earthy tones, will blend into the natural landscape and offer spectacular vineyard views. Accessed by paths that wind through the estate’s mature vineyards, Norman Foster describes the enhanced visitor experience as “truly unique and immersive.”

Of course respect for the landscape is not solely for aesthetic reasons. Sustainability is quite literally built into the new building. The spacious design maximises natural light and minimises energy use. Meanwhile, the arched roof will contain sets of photovoltaic panels capable of providing six times the building’s energy needs. The remainder will reroute to the estate’s other buildings, achieving 100% energy-sustainability for Faustino.

The investment also includes vital, if less visible, work in the winery. Again, a thread of sustainability runs through the work. The winery’s existing building will gain a layer of vegetative cover, an eco-friendly covering that improves energy efficiency. The new facilities will minimise noise pollution. Even the grounds are being reinvigorated with native plants that promote biodiversity.

However, resources, innovation and research are also going into winemaking. Innovative facilities are finding their place among decades of tradition. A new winemaking hall, filled with hi-spec tanks, means the producer can work more flexibly and process any amount of grapes. Other technologies safeguard against potential issues: nitrogen generators prevent unwanted oxidation and yeast multipliers inculcate the ideal cultures for fermentation. Yet traditional techniques are not neglected. A large annual investment in new French and American oak barrels is supplementing the more modern changes.

Faustino’s holistic approach to sustainability and quality has not gone unnoticed. In June 2023, it became the joint-first Rioja winery to achieve Sustainable Wineries for Climate Protection (SWfCP) certification from the Spanish Wine Federation trade group. The award, specifically designed for the wine industry, recognises wide-ranging work in four areas: social, environmental and economic impact, and company governance.

In addition to plans for its facilities, the company has proved a commitment to environmental sustainability in its vineyards. Organic pesticides, rather than chemical options, are now the norm, while biodiversity is supported by providing nesting boxes, hedgerows and burrows. The human impact of its work, including activities such as funding residencies for young artists and donating protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, has also been recognised.

Perhaps it is the holistic approach which is ensuring the producer’s continued success. Faustino’s wines regularly win industry awards, and recently added several to the collection at the Rioja Masters 2023. Two Gold medallists from its top Martínez Zabala Gallery collection feature below. Tasting notes are by Patricia Stefanowicz MW and Siobhan Turner MW respectively.

Faustino Icon Edition Especial Selección

  • Producer: Bodegas Faustino
  • Region: Rioja
  • Country: Spain
  • Grape varieties: 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano
  • ABV: 14%
  • Vintage: 2018
  • Approx. retail price: £30
  • Medal: Gold

An open, juicy, fruity nose, with inviting raspberry and vanilla aromas. These come through on the palate too, which is dense, sweet and ripe, with additional sweet cherry, pepper, coconut and cinnamon. This is a powerful style and a real crowd pleaser, blending dry but fine tannins, lingering freshness and a fleshy, youthful quality.

Faustino I Gran Reserva

  • Producer: Bodegas Faustino
  • Region: Rioja
  • Country: Spain
  • Grape Varieties: Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo
  • ABV: 13.6%
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Approximate retail price: £17
  • Medal: Gold

A harmonious, rich and mature nose, with subtle cherry, strawberry and a hint of jasmine, together with a touch of liquorice, spice and dried fruits. The palate is complex, with well-integrated tannins, which retain a touch of grip. This is a very stylish wine, with excellent balance and length. It’s an utter classic, and an absolute bargain at £17 a bottle.



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