March 4, 2024

Three secrets that any vintner should keep in mind: compared to the widespread topic throughout the world of a pint of lukewarm beer, with hardly any foam, the reality is that the British love wine, they consume it enormously, and they have mind and palate open to any proposal poured into your glass. The second secret: to conquer the world from a cellar, you have to conquer London. The third is more subtle, but just as important. In a terribly competitive sector, in which all the contenders have access to the best technologies and methods, it is necessary to make a good wine to gain a foothold, yes, but, above all, you must be able to tell your own story and attractive.

“London is a market saturated with wine, but not with stories. And in Aragon we have many stories to tell, from the time of the Romans. Cariñena, for example, is one of the oldest wine-producing areas in Spain. It was the third appellation of origin. Calatayud, with its marvelous landscapes, rivers and valleys, is an amazing landscape”, passionately defends Raúl Igual, owner of the Yain restaurant in Teruel, and chosen twice as the best sommelier in Spain. Aragón Exterior, the body of the Government of Aragon devoted to the external promotion of companies in this community, has made use of it to tell all these stories in the British capital. A couple of dozen experts from specialized magazines and the country’s main distributors met at the Hispania restaurant, in the financial heart of the city; Javier Fernández Hidalgo from Asturias and his marvelous premises, which were once the headquarters of the prestigious Lloyd’s bank, have become the platform from which all Spanish communities jump to the British market.

The sommelier Raúl Igual tastes one of the Aragonese wines at the presentation in London.
The sommelier Raúl Igual tastes one of the Aragonese wines at the presentation in London.Rafael De Miguel

There Raúl spoke to them about the denominations of Campo de Borja, Calatayud, Cariñeña or Somontano (Aragonese Piedmont), their climatic conditions, their traditions and their native varieties: Garnacha, red and white; the cariñena, which in other latitudes is called mazuela, or the macabeo. But above all he spoke to them about the Garnacha, because that is the flag with which the Aragonese wineries have begun to sneak in a boring mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz from the era in which the American critic Robert Parker saturated the markets.

“Garnacha is of high quality, easy to drink, gives a lot of fruit, and is very pleasant. It has very soft, round tannins, even sweetish, and that suits the British consumer, we have noticed”, explains David Jimeno, the director of Exports at Bodegas Aragonesas. With this variety as the seal of entry into the markets, the winery has well-established brands such as Coto de Hayas, Garnacha Centenaria, Aragonia or, the main star of recent years, Fagus. “Per capita wine consumption in the English market is twice that of Spain. Our wines are having great acceptance here, because the price is good, and in this country the taxes on alcohol are very high. We seek a balance”, says Jimeno.

Aragonese winemakers and experts from London, at the presentation held at the Hispania restaurant.
Aragonese winemakers and experts from London, at the presentation held at the Hispania restaurant.Rafael De Miguel

In the search for that balance, the paths are diverse. Excellence can be achieved through respect for tradition and the terroir, or through experimentation and the avant-garde.

“We sell ourselves to the world with the words ‘family winery’, ‘work’, ‘effort’ and ‘proximity’, but, as a winery, Garnacha is our banner”. The person who expresses himself in this way is Ignacio Otto. Along with his brother Jorge, he has come to London to open up a market that both consider essential for his future. Sons of Lorenzo Otto, grandsons of Lorenzo Otto, in charge of a winery, Bestué, owned by Otto Bestué, which has been at the foot of Mount Enate, in the Somontano region of Huesca, since 1640. Jorge worked in the city Londoner, managing derivatives and other indecipherable financial products for the Japanese bank Nomura, or for Société Générale. Then came Monaco, later Paris. But the end of the road took him back to Barbastro, where he understood that it was more necessary than anywhere else to give an international boost to the family business. “We are already in Central Europe with the most important countries. Selling in the UK would be super important to us”, say the brothers. They have arrived in London with a round wine, Viñadores, which combines 80% Garnacha and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The right mix, the perfect body so that the originality of the land can compete without complexes in any restaurant in the British capital.

Jorge and Ignacio Otto, from Bodegas Bestué, at the London event.
Jorge and Ignacio Otto, from Bodegas Bestué, at the London event.Rafael De Miguel

The Aragonese ‘laboratory’

There was a time, far, far away, when thinking of Aragonese Garnacha was thinking of wines that had to be drunk with a knife and fork. Hard as the earth. These are topics that are far removed from reality. The stars of the London presentation have been two wines of a mineral lightness, of a quality and freshness that have seduced the experts. “Frame It is the idea of ​​César Langa González, the winemaker and manager of Bodegas Langa, in Calatayud. We wanted to achieve a Garnacha wine in the most natural way possible, without the tertiary aromas that oak barrels normally provide. It is true that the barrel provides more complex aromas and nuances, but what we like is more clarity and sharpness”, says Hartmut Pelka, a German who fell in love with Calatayud and today represents those wineries throughout the world.

Marco Valerio Marcial, poet of the Roman Bilbilis (the name Calatayud had then), is the full name of the most capricious and daring wine from the Langa family. They have avoided aging in oak barrels, and fermentation takes place in egg-shaped cement tanks, which favor a continuous cycle of grape juice without the need to stir it manually. “96 points from James Suckling (the company that tastes and rates wines from around the world on a 100-point scale. 95 and above is an essential purchase for aficionados). The professionals love it, because it is a totally different wine. Twelve months of continuous clarification, in the cement barrel”, explains the German proudly.

The same pride of Juan Pablo Fernández, co-owner of La General de Vinos, a fantastic experiment, like the cellars laboratory from the US West Coast. “We make wines in the wineries of our partners, or even in others that are not linked to the company. We do not depend exclusively on our wineries, we can buy grapes from outside. We have our own technical means, and our own materials to work with”, describes Juan Pablo. are the called flying winemakers, the flying vintners who apply their knowledge to create new proposals in the most unexpected places. “Our greatest success is a wine from Campo de Borja called Furo. It is a light Garnacha, and it is part of our ability to always look for trends. We do not have a tradition behind us that we are obliged to respect. And today lightness is sought, they no longer want those great concentrations and complexities of the wines of recent years ”, he says.

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