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Gastronomy and Wine Portal

“Ribera del Duero DO. Big wineries help small ones, and small ones strengthen the big ones”

16.02.2024, Автор: Nataliia Burlachenko

The Regional Editor-in-Chief at the WTA Guide and Drinks+ Magazine, Brand Ambassador of Vinos de La Luz international group of companies Nataliia Burlachenko specifically for Drinks+, conducted an interview during her stay in Spain with the leaders of the most well-known association of winemakers – Mr. Enrique Pascual García, president of the regulatory council of Ribera del Duero DO, and Mr. Miguel Sanz Cabrejas, general director of Ribera del Duero DO. The conversation revolved around the successful experience that has enabled the Ribera del Duero brand to hold a worthy position in Spain’s top 100 brands ranking today.

How is it the situation at the moment with Ribera del Duero in general?

Enrique Pascual García: The situation is very good. We are currently growing, positioning ourselves not only in volume but also in terms of quality which is essencial. So at the moment we have obtained very interesting outcomes. All the DO is facing this moment of growth also because  its image and reputation of quality is changing. We are not just interested in growing the volume of our sales.

What are you doing that is making you grow like this?

E.P.G: In terms of quality measures, in viticulture but also at the wineries we are making sure that we are delivering that same quality. This system that is being implemented is helping us since the beginning with high principles. This is how we distinguish ourselves from the other because we have been focusing on that especifically. In this market, there are only two ways to distinguish yourself. Either by price or by quality. The wines and its production have been growing intensively on quality. I know the production almost since the beginning of it so I faced its evolution and lived very close to it. I can tell you that because of that, we have been given the possibility to growth our business. Nowadays we are the only ones to deliver this kind of quality in the region.

What do the producers that are out of the DO say about this?

E.P.G: All the people that are inside the region is part of the DO. There is only one project that is out of it but because of the kind of wine they produce. The ones from outside that want to be integrated can not do that.

Are you going to make any new changes in terms of law and legislation?

E.P.G: At the moment we are working on a project about new varietals that may be included into the region because of the climate changes, allowing us to keep producing the wines we currently make. They have to be varietals that will improve with time. Tempranillo will still be tempranillo but we have to consider these factors to protect us from the future changes. We are also trying to bring back some varietals that we can regulate. All of this is very complicated, especially if we wouldn’t have the association that is helping us developing the project.

It’s true that Malbec was very hard to work with because it used to be very sensitive to this kind of climate and region, very hard to achieve the intended colour etc. Do you work with the OIV? Because they produce and provide a lot of rules and recommendations about varietals and they study very deeply this topic.

E.P.G: For us the OIV is in the international contexto which, for us, is not that relevant. So all the recommendations they provide are more the matter of the national level organisations or the governmental ones.

How is the situation about Albillo? Do you tend to plant  more this white varietal? Why did you choose this grape? Is it to create a competition with Rueda?

E.P.G: What we intended to do was to create a different line. We see no advantage on competing with anyone. We are a team. Our goal is to define our viticulture heritage. The whites of Ribera del Duero have the goal to not be sold young, so they usually have barrel aging and they have similarities with wines from Burgundy. They are not so similar to the rest of whites from Spain in terms of style, more complex. The ideal is to position them in Europe with 5/8 years old. We have to learn, this is something new for us too. And now it has been planted more and more. Nowadays, to keep the profile of the Roses, they use Albillo. With the demand that we are facing, the viticultures are delivering by planting it more. Although it is in fact more expensive than Tempranillo. The Claret wine has always been a mix between white and red with no percentages, it was made naturally without that kind of control. There was no measure, we just mixed it until we reach our final goal. The result is very good. It has aromas of white wine but with the complexity of  red. All of the first red wines from Ribera del Duero had white grapes in it. From 1982 to 1990 the red and the white started being separated and the process finished in 1990. We have modified the conditions allowing to pour up to 25% of white in red.

We did it to be crossed with other varietals. Last year, 200.000 bottles were sold. When they are released, in less than one month they are sold out.

How was the impact of covid for the producersp Also how influences the war in Ukraine? Did you notice any sort of negative impact on sales?

E.P.G: Covid was not like we thought it would be for the business. It wasn’t very significant impact and we recovered from it very quickly. Overall, we didn’t face any problem regarding the war in Ukraine, Undirectly, it affects us on a level because of the world inflation. The energy increase was more impactful.

What about in terms of Enotourism? Is there negative effect that impacted you?

E.P.G: In terms of Wine tourism the effects were very strong but we are recovering very well and we faced a growth in terms of quality tourism which is something that we are looking for.

And the quality that you are achieveing is not only in terms of wine but also in terms of services, Hospitality, Location of the route because it is a very strategic point from Madrid, France. There are a lot of things to see and taste and a lot of diversity in general.

E.P.G: The business of wine is now positioned together with tourism and finally it is open. Logically it is very hard to fight against the coastal tourism and rural tourism, which is our scope but weare  developing and offering quality and well directed to succeed. The wine tourism has an advantage. It was born because people fell in love with a certain wine and they want to see how it is made and what’s the story behind it. And that’s what we are transmitting to people and it’s our main factor of attraction and allow us to grow, especially in consumers who are willing to pay more and more. Our signature is: If we are capable to offer a wine with such quality, the service has to deliver that same quality because that’s what people will be hoping for.

Which are the duties of the board? To regulate or to develop the DO?

Miguel Sanz Cabrejas: It has 2 roles. At the moment we are certifying and we also make the legislation because we need to make sure the quality is being delivered. We are present in 11 markets which represent 76% of Ribera del Duero exports. The goal is to reach these 3 things: • The wineries export increase • Increase the price of the product, generating value • Generate brand awareness.Most of the wineries in Ribera del Duero are very small and without many resources. We never use generic wines to represent us. The wine is worth more because it is better. Everything is connected to the quality. Personally I don’t come from the wine world. I am the first director of a DO that never had experience in wine, only in the food industry in the enterprise level. This is the philosophy here too. We have our goals to reach and negotiate our  plans. We created one international comission of promotion in which 6 wineries are participating and these ones are the ones that export to the 11 markets. So, when we plan a market strategy, they know that same market and they can cooperate between each other.

The producers and vine growers are part of it?

M.S.C: The administration includes 5 vine growers and 5 wineries. And they all have the same power. We do study the market properly and then discuss and take the necessary measures to apply to all. If you have the perfect product but you don’t know how to sell it there is no point.

The producers and vine growers are happy about all the work that has been developed?

M.S.C: All the decisions that are made are common to all, there are no votes. They are all very happy. We exist to recommend not to create different opinions.

How’s the reputation of Ribera del Duero inside the country?

M.S.C: It is excellent. At the moment it is considered a top wine in Spain with quality. In 2021, there was a list of 100 spanish brands that deliver trust the consumer. There were only 2 wine regions: Rioja and Ribera del Duero (out of 101 in all Spain) and Vega Sicilia that is Ribera del Duero is also in this list. In terms of notority, you could see that in covid period because the market was closed and when the sales increased online, the consumer understood that Ribera del Duero had a higher price but it was better at satisfying its needs because while the sector was falling, we had better sales because of the brand awareness created. The young generations had a very good perception of what we did and target that we reached. They understood our essence. They are looking for a different profiles which we offer. The kind of style that still has the quality and the fruityness.

Why is Ribera evolving much faster than Rioja?

E.P.G: Ribera del Duero had so much success in Spain already that you didn’t need to export it. From the 310 wineries we have, 120 export regularly. 40 are in charge of almost 80% of the total exports. So, after covid everything changed. The national market was closed, we had to open globaly in order to save the business. There were few wineries that were selling only in hotels. And now they are in the international context. Another very important element is that, 8 years ago when I first joined DO I went to US for a business trip and I asked the local businesses why do you only have few Ribera wines? And they would answer like “ why would we if they all taste the same? ”. After that, there was a revolution on the wineries level individually because they understood what the market wanted and started to make different wines and giving it a different profile. So now, that diversity is what made the region grow. Now, in the US, if they want to show the diversity of Ribera they need to have 5 or more wines to really represent it. Also, not all the world has the monetary capacity to export outside Spain. Ribera is a very recent region that exists now for 40 years so also there was still no capacity to look to the outside market as the main goal. The way that one winery creates to open the market, facilitates to the other ones and that is the kind of cooperation we are looking for. The big ones help the small ones and the small ones reinforce the big ones. Nowadays the buyer knows what he is looking for when we are selling Ribera del Duero, we do not really need to prove its reputation.