Barcelona Wine Week has just finished for another year. For Spanish buyers and foreign visitors alike, it was an opportunity to meet artisanal producers whose wines often stay below the radar. Thanks to the democratic cost of participation at BWW, it’s easy to find unique wines produced in tiny quantities of several hundred bottles, which, for obvious reasons, are unlikely to be featured at ProWein or other major trade shows.
Altogether, 830 exhibitors gathered together under the slogan: “Spain, a unique mosaic of soils.” Some of the highlights of the exhibition were the presentation of the strategic plan for the Spanish wine industry, plus Tim Atkin MW’s report on Rioja.
A strategic plan for the Spanish wine industry
Among the important events of the exhibition was the presentation of the strategic plan for 2022-2027, developed by KPMG with the participation of the OIV. The report outlined in specific terms the challenges faced by the Spanish industry.
Wine production in Spain is much more dependent on exports than in Italy or France. Of the 38.3m hectoliters of wine produced in 2020, less than a third—or 10.3m hl—were consumed domestically. Compare that to Italy’s 26.9m of 49m hl produced, or 26.4m of 44m hl of France.
This is doubly alarming given the decline of Spain’s wine share in the global market. While wine exports from Spain have slightly increased in value terms, its share of the world market has declined from 10.1% in 2013 to 8.3% in 2021. Regaining that share and earning an additional €1,200 M has been identified as one of the goals for the next five years.
The intermediate steps include plans for premiumization, the development of sparkling wine exports, and the strengthening of wine tourism. Some of these steps seem quite ambitious: one of the goals is to produce 150m litres of non-alcoholic wine by 2027.
“There's a trend of moderation linked to consumers drinking less. Especially young people are more interested in health factors,” explained Juan Park, Director at Wine Intelligence. “Currently it's a small but growing market, and it is an open question if this market would be that big. But non-alcoholic wine as well needs to taste nice, to be nicely presented and nicely explained.”
Old vines are an underrated treasure
Making them profitable is possible, but it depends not just on growers, but also on people who are capable of creating brands and bringing them to market, as Peter Sisseck has done with PSI in Ribera del Duero. Seeing the old vineyards disappearing, he started producing wine with old vines grapes and giving growers the added value. Without selling the wine at a higher price these vineyards will not survive. The same job was done by Alvaro Palacios with Quiñon De Valmira, old vine Garnacha priced € 400 per bottle.
“Alvaro is well known for making iconic wines from old vines, but we need another 30 Alvaros in Spain,” said Tim Atkin MW. “The big challenge for Spain is to realize what jewels it has in its vineyards, to express them in wines and to convince the market to buy them. But I think that's already happening”.
“The big challenge for Spain is to realize what jewels it has in its vineyards, to express them in wines and to convince the market to buy them."
Luis Gutiérrez of the Wine Advocate agreed. “Peter Sisseck, Commando G and Casa Castillo are using grapes from old vineyards to make great wines,” he said. “You need more people who aim to make great wine from great grapes. Bringing the added value and monetizing the old vineyards is the only way”.
Best practices from abroad
In addition to the formal classifications adopted by other wine regions, there are successful marketing initiatives from elsewhere that can be a model, as Abbott demonstrated. The South African Old Vines Project together with Winetech, the University of Cape Town and the UCT Graduate School of Business, for example, carried out research. It concluded that vine age has a significant influence on the price of wines in South Africa. They found that R2.96 (€0.16) was added for every year a vineyard had been in the ground, translating to a Rand 103,60 (€5.44) premium for a 35-year-old vine entering old vine status.
An easy way to differentiate old vine wines and ensure they attract a premium is as simple as separating them from other wines in wine stores.
Tim Atkin Rioja report 2023
Tim Atkin MW also presented his eighth Rioja report, giving Rioja’s 2020 Artuke la Condenada an 100 point score. The previous wine to achieve 100 points was the 2001 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco. La Condenada also received the title of Best Red Wine of the Year, while the Best White was Viña Tondonia Reserva 2012. The Best Rosé was Monges Reserva 2018, Vinícola Real, and the Best Sparkling was Finca Alto Cantabria Brut Nature by Valdemar.
Would there be a new Gredos?
In recent decades, Spanish winemaking has witnessed the rapid development of several regions. First Priorat became a new star, then Bierzo, and in recent years wine enthusiasts have discovered the potential of Garnacha from old vines from Gredos. Could conditions be in place for another meteoric rise for another forgotten region?
The experts interviewed by Meininger’s suggest a different scenario. Rather, there are two processes at play: the emergence of new names in smaller regions, and the transformation of the image of familiar regions.
Highlighting geographical diversity
The exhibition aimed to highlight the wealth of soils that make up the Spanish vineyard. It’s territorial diversity was represented by 60 DOs on display, as well as tasting program and round tables.
The tasting programme featured four Masters of Wine who had all become winemakers in different areas of Spain. These names included Norrel Robertson, producing wines in Calatayud, Fernando Mora, who owns vineyards in different parts of Aragón, Andreas Kubach, working in Rioja Alavesa and Cuenca; and Almudena Alberca, the first female Master of Wine in Spain, who makes wine in Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Valdeorras. The wide range of terroirs was further highlighted by outstanding producers talking about the soils in which they work, such as Priorat stars René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios and Sara Pérez; Titín Palacios from Bierzo; Jerez chalky soils expert César Saldaña; Julia Casado from Bullas (Murcia) and Esmeralda García from Santiuste (Segovia).
Barcelona is one of the great food and wine destinations of Europe, and February is an ideal time to visit — there were fewer tourists than normal, and the weather is balmy. And Barcelona Wine Week makes it easy to catch up on what’s happening in wine in the whole country. It’s definitely worth attending.