Spanish wine comes of age

The Spanish wine industry is finally coming of age, according to an experienced observer and operator.

Enrique Valero is general manager of the Abadia Retuerta craft wine and boutique hotel operation in the so-called ‘golden mile’ of the Ribera de Duero region in northern Spain.

In London to promote the estate wines and seek a new UK distributor, Valero, said: “Spain used to be product orientated, more agricultural than branded. But over the last 15 years, things have changed.”

He said 90% of Spanish wine used to drunk domestically and only sherry, cava and Rioja wines were exported. With the advent of branded ‘New World’ wines from the likes of Australia, California, Chile and South Africa, things have changed and Spain is changing.

Formerly with IDV which was a division of what is now Diageo, United Wineries International and then Grupo Gonzalez Byass, Valero has watched the Spanish wine industry evolve, receiving huge amounts of investment, some of it “easy money” from ill informed investors, as he describes it. Now the industry is on a stronger footing and knows where it is going, he believes.

The Abadia Retuerta operation comprises a five-star, 18-bedroom/three suite hotel in a converted monastery, and a restaurant with a formerly Michelin-starred chef on a 700 hectare estate with 54 vineyard plots. The estate, which is in Sardón de Duero in Valladolid province, champions sustainable grape growing and wine producing and claims to be moving towards non intervention farming. The project is backed by the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Novartis International.

With Spain last year being the largest wine producer in the world at 50 million hectoliters or 6.7 billon bottles (this year it is expected to revert back to Italy on current estimates), Valero believes the move to more premium branded wines, particularly for export, is timely as there has also been an upsurge in interest in Spanish gastronomy, culture and tourism.