Spanish Wine

02 October, 2013

Fernando González, the sommelier at Iberica – one of London’s leading Spanish restaurants – says: “We need to change the mentality that Spain can only produce cheap wines. For decades, some of the biggest brands have pitched their mass-production wines at very entry levels. There are still some products today, such as cava, that are sold by supermarkets at ridiculous prices. I feel that these strategies quite often have been our worst enemy. Quality is important, but fair pricing is too.”

One of the challenges facing Spanish growers and producers is, of course, the country’s own economy. Spain is one of the ‘sick men’ of Europe, teetering near economic collapse.

Wines from Spain’s Sevilla takes up the theme: “Wine consumption in Spain is declining, especially as the economic crisis bites harder. Therefore Spain needs to invest more in the domestic market on the one hand and to encourage further success in export markets on the other. This is a tough call given the need for investment and expertise to be successful in export.”

Economic crisis

Marqués de Riscal president Alejandro Aznar says: “We have to face the economic crisis, so we have to try to maintain our sales and all the investments done. The export market is so important now, so most of the wineries are focusing their efforts there in order to increase our sales.”

Miguel Torres sees another threat. “The biggest threat I see on a medium-long term is climate change. This is not a specific Spanish problem, but a world-wide problem. Spain can still handle an increase of 1 to 2 degrees in temperature but, if it goes beyond that, we would have to move to higher altitude regions and change the varieties in the existing vineyards.

“This would mean a complete new grape variety planting map. At Torres we have our programme, Torres & Earth, in place, which has a target to reduce CO2 emissions in 2020 by 30%per bottle, compared to 2008 levels. But also on sector level Spain is active: in 2011 the Wineries for Climate Protection symposium was organised in Barcelona, which ended with The Barcelona Declaration, calling for a minimum 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 and five other environmental action points. More than 150 partly large and well-known wineries are now part of this initiative and several, including Torres, are now in process of certification,” says Torres.

“We are convinced that in the near future consumers will be even more climate change-conscious and will select brands that are working actively with climate change programmes,” he says.

On a more day-to-day level, Gonzalez Byass chief executive Jorge Grosse sees another challenge: “To push the value of Spanish wine up. In comparison with our competitors Spain still offers extremely good value for money in international markets and we need to persuade the gatekeepers – and, as a consequence, the retailers – that good Spanish wine is worth paying that little bit more for. I

“If you consider the quality and complexity of our aged sherries, for example, a Matusalem with 30 years ageing or the Las Palmas range, whose wines range from between six and 40 years in age.  “Few other wines offer such incredible value for their years. Or Rioja Gran Reservas and Reservas, aged for three to five years before their release on to the market. A lot of investment and time goes into the quality of these wines, which remain such good value comparatively speaking when considering their French, Italian or Californian counterparts.”

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