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Master Winemakers Top 100: Jesús Mendoza

Jesús Mendoza, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza’s head oenologist and technical director, features as one of our top 100 winemakers and winner of the Best Rioja award. He tells db of Renaissance heroes, vintage challenges and his dream Rioja site.

Founded in 1989 and located in the centre of Samaniego, Álava, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza makes contemporary Rioja wines. The winery has 80 hectares of its own vineyards, spread over 240 plots in prime locations in the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria mountains. Jesús Mendoza joined the winemaking team here in 1994 and was promoted to his current leading role in 2001. 

His María Remírez de Ganuza 2007 and Remírez de Ganuza Gran Reserva 2009 both won Master medals at the Rioja Masters 2023.

Describe your winemaking approach in no more than three words. 

Place, culture, precision.

What’s your favourite part of the job? 

What I like most is that every year is different, that both in viticulture and in the oenological part there are no recipes, and every year you have to interpret the new vintage in a different way. 

Which aspect of the job keeps you awake at night? 

I am very worried about not being able to get the full potential out of the new vintage. 

What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day? 

It depends on the day. After a long and intense tasting day, I like a glass of Champagne. If I haven’t tasted that day, then any good bottle of wine is what I go for. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

I have been given a lot of very good advice, but I’ll stick with the fact that in this world you have to be very constant and never give up even if things get complicated. 

What was your greatest winemaking mistake? 

To be impatient. 

What’s the most important winemaking lesson you’ve learned so far? 

So far, throughout my years of experience, I have learned many things about oenology; but, without a doubt, the most important thing is that without good grapes you cannot hope to make the best wines. Magic alone does not exist. 

Which figure outside the world of wine inspires you? 

Leonardo da Vinci, a visionary who was treated as crazy. 

Where would your fantasy vineyard be? 

Without a doubt in the upper area of the Sonsierra Rioja. 

If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be doing and why? 

I’d most probably be doing something in the wine world; I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. 

What’s the most memorable food match you’ve had with one of your wines? 

To be clear, it was not just the pairing, it was also the place and the company. A meal in Akelarre in September 2010 with a Remírez de Ganuza Gran Reserva 1995 with my wife Cristina and some friends. 

What role does sustainability have to play in a Master-winning wine? 

At Remírez de Ganuza wineries, sustainability plays an important role in all areas of the different processes. From agriculture to wine tourism, it is important to us that those who come after us can enjoy our landscapes, flora, fauna and traditions. 

Which type of wine do you drink most regularly? 

What I drink most are Spanish wines, both white and red. 

Your home is on fire: which bottle do you save?

A Remírez de Ganuza Reserva 2001. I only have one bottle and I keep it with special affection since it was my first vintage. 

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