That Obscure Object of Desire: Real Wine in Spain
It is impossible to produce natural wines, if the person who produces it is not natural.—josko gravner
In the short two decades after Franco’s death, Iberia’s Old World wine went new. Some loved the resulting modern wines. The marketing arm of Spanish wines shouted the affection on their website: “ The transformation of the image and quality of Spanish wines during the last quarter of the 20th century has been truly remarkable. During this period, a group of hard-working pi- oneers began to introduce and apply new wine producing tech-niques being used elsewhere.”But others, like me, took such statements as heresy, not nationalism. We saw Spain as having sacrificed preexisting expressions. Many old vines and varieties were saved, but there was also a huge planting of new international varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Merlot. It didn’t matter whether the grapes were old or new, indigenous or foreign—all of them were made in woody, overextracted styles at the expense of terroir. In short, Spanish wine was a disaster.
That was before American-based, Spanish-born boy genius José Pastor decided to be a wine importer when he grew up. He and I met through a bottle of wine. By chance, I tasted a Rioja he im- ported, Bodegas Peciña. The wine grabbed my attention for its unabashed sense of place. I went to Spain and visited the Peciñas and their vines. Upon my return, José, who is based in California, called me up. The next time he was in New York City, we met. We tasted. We talked. We made friendship. I was touched by the young Valencian man’s pride in his country and how he wanted to champion what was lost. I wondered: With his help in developing a thirsty market in America for wines that were not “espoofulated,” could the wines of Spain be saved? Oh, if only!