From Oct. 2016 – background to Costa News Group article 19/01/18



Being as closely involved in the Spanish wine scene as I am, I receive a number of both, solicited, and unsolicited news-feeds, almost on a daily basis. This week I received two, from wholly different sources, which made me smile, whilst underlining a basic tenet of the Iberian wine industry.


More than once over the last, perhaps ten years, I’ve referred to certain bodegas whose wines have come on in leaps and bounds, attributing this to the happy (though, perhaps at times, prickly!) combination of generations of tradition and experience being successfully allied to modern and innovative ways. It’s a foolish young winemaker who dismisses all he’s (she’s) been taught by fathers and grandfathers because of what they’ve learned at college, as well as what they seen and practised on their various internships.


And, of course, it would be quite wrong for the older generations to scoff at ‘newfangled’ ideas. An alliance is surely the way forward and I’ve often tasted the successful results of such generational harmony.


The large concern, Matarromera, has this year used drones as an integral part of their harvesting planning! Whilst there are dreadfully sinister roles for drones, in the main (I hope) they can be a tremendous boost in many walks of life. One being agriculture.


Extra to their use of vineyard based sensors and satellite imaging this high tech, high quality, wine company has gone even more state-of-the-art. Drones have been deployed before and during the harvest. These amazing machines have been programmed (don’t ask me how) to detect where vines are stressed, where grapes are diseased and when optimum ripeness has been achieved. That’s, vineyard by vineyard, and indeed each part of each vineyard (as ripening will occur at different rates, depending on aspect to the sun, wind etc.). We are talking precision farming here.


Now contrast this, almost science fiction scenario, to another, bible-esque story, this time on one of Spain’s Canary Islands, Tenerife. I was delighted to see a photo of this year’s Tenerife harvest where camels were being deployed! Meandering at a tranquil pace between rows of vines were a number of camels, each with raffia style baskets strapped aside their humps being steadily laden with picked bunches of grapes!


Charming, yes, but also very practical. If winemakers want to eschew modern technology (well, not that modern, I’m talking tractors here!) and take a very organic,  bordering on biodynamic, stance, a camel needs less water than a horse, can negotiate  some terrains (e.g. volcanic sands) far better and can still provide very useful manure!


Drones and camels – each the antithesis of the other, and each working towards the same goal. I love it!


Also, I was interested to read my distinguished colleague, Andrew Jefford’s article in Decanter Magazine recently on his, encouraging, view of the new cava designation, Cava de Paraje Calificado (you heard it here first, several months ago, actually!). He quotes, as did I, Señor Per Bonet, President of the Consejo Regulador, DO Cava, saying that such cavas (not yet available) are to be considered the very top of the quality pyramid.


In fact, Mr Jefford, goes further. It is now understood that this category of cava now stands shoulder to shoulder with wines from DOCa Rioja and DOQ Priorat as a third area of production which has reached the absolute top in terms of quality. I’m delighted with this – I’ve been in on the story since I was invited to lunch with Señor Bonet in August  2014 and I’m so pleased to see that all their efforts have finally achieved their objective.

(You can read my June article here ttp://


Finally, a couple of news snippets which I’m sure will also interest readers. Two major players in Spanish wine have recently made interesting acquisitions which reflect both a  proactive view and a positive, bullish confidence to the national and international wine  market. Marqués de Riscal has recently bought the bodega building (though not, yet, the surrounding vines nor the brands) of Bodegas PradoRey in Rueda, having already done similarly with their Ribera del Duero bodega building. They need the extra space.


Also, the ever forward-thinking and in many ways a true flagship of the Spanish wine industry, Bodegas Torres, has just announced the construction of another bodega, in the Costers del Segre area, not that far from the Montserrat monastery where wine was first made by the thirsty monks in the 15th Century. I have no doubt that this is all part of their combating climate change strategy, where they are slowly developing high altitude vineyards.


Last, but not least, in this week’s newsy Cork Talk. Whilst, there is as yet only one Spanish Master of Wine, Señor Pedro Ballesteros, the gentleman in question is helping no less than ten aspirants to join him in this prestigious club, by tutoring them in the many skills they will need to equip them to take the extremely difficult exams. Our best to them all!

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