by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
From Goat to Oak
"In Spain wine skin made of goat's hide is dressed with the hair inwards, and [coated with] pitch. It is more convenient for carrying on the back of a mule, and cheaper than a cask." Winemaking is haphazard and unscientific.
...Cyrus Redding, London journalist Description of Modern Wines, 1851
In Spain the Martinez Bujanda family stores their wine in 12,000 French and American oak barrels. (see photo)
...from winery brochure
The Rest of the Story
How did the Bujanda's go from goat to oak? Here are some highlights.
1889—A lot was going on. The 1,056' Eiffel Tower was completed. Charlie Chaplin was born. Walter Lennox, 30, created a new china. One third of the Napa Valley grape crop was destroyed by heavy October rains...AND in the phylloxera-free Rioja district of Spain, Joaquin Martinez Bujanda built a winery (which still stands today as a handsome museum in his memory).
From the 1880s, let's leap forward a century to the 1980s. Robert Parker Jr. puts four different Conde wines on his list of "the world's best wine bargains." The Wine Spectator gives Conde similar accolades. Rising sales permit fourth- generation Jesus Martinez Bujanda, Jr. to design and have built what critic Tony Lord called a "brilliant" plant with the most modern technology.
Did it work out? By 1993 both Wine & Spirits Magazine and Groupo Gourmets (Spain) select Jesus' plant as SPANISH WINERY OF THE YEAR. The The Spectator agree in its large Rioja review. So, which Conde wine(s) should you try?
If you like full-bodied but gentle reds, my panel would say, buy the:
1994 Conde de Valdemar RESERVA Rioja, $17
The most exciting food I've had with the Conde Rioja were tasty TAPAS (Spanish appetizers) made by none other than Pilar Martinez Bujanda, Jesus Sr.'s daughter!
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