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Master Winemakers Top 100: Jairo Fernández

Jairo Fernández, winemaker at Pagos del Rey, features as one of our top winemakers in this year’s Master Winemaker 100 guide. He tells db about blending varieties, the limits of sustainability and mixing Calimotxo.

Born in the Rioja town of Logroño, Jairo Fernández studied oenology and viticulture before taking his first professional winemaking role as a laboratory assistant for the El Coto co-operative. Since 2006, he has worked at the Pagos del Rey brand’s Rioja winery in Fuenmayor. Part of the Félix Solís Avantis group, this winery now handles around 7m kg of grapes each year. Fernández likes to spend his spare time organising tastings on various themes with other wine professionals.

His Arnegui Tempranillo 2022 won a Master medal at the Rioja Masters 2023.

Describe your winemaking approach in no more than three words.

Passion. Technology. Quality.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Working with a mix of varieties and wines to make the blend.

Which aspect of the job keeps you awake at night?

During the harvest season, what keeps you awake is concern that the grapes enter the winery in the best condition. It is important to have grapes of the best possible quality.

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

A wine with lots of fruit and a little wood. Sometimes I also drink Calimotxo, a mixture of young red wine with ice and Coca-Cola: a very refreshing drink.

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

Be yourself and always believe in what you do.

What was your greatest winemaking mistake?

To try to do things very fast. All wines require time, and things must be done at the right moment.

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

At certain moments you have to be patient and make decisions without a lot of stress.

Which figure outside the world of wine inspires you?

On a sporting level, Rafael Nadal inspires me because of his sacrifice and humility. On a musical level, the Vetusta Morla group inspires me because of the large number of sounds they use and their lyrics full of poetry.

Which type of wine do you drink most regularly?

The wine I drink is usually a joven or crianza red wine, mainly from the DOCa Rioja, but no brand in particular – I like to try different ones.

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

Sustainability is important, although not all wines can be 100% sustainable.

Where would your fantasy vineyard be?

In the Sonsierra region of Rioja, or Rioja Alavesa.

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

Something related to the agricultural sector.

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

Entrecôte of Galician blonde veal with our Arnegui Reserva 2018.

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

I don’t keep wine; I normally drink it.

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Yes, take me to the Asia edition No