The five winemakers who have contributed the most to improving the reputation of Spanish wine in the world

Desserts

Although Spanish wine continues to fight to be recognized at the same level as that of the other two quintessential wine-producing countries, Italy and France, no one has doubted its excellence for a long time.

Names like Vega Sicilia, Pingus or L'Ermita are well known throughout the world, but behind these great brands we find oenologists and winemakers who are truly responsible for their success, whose history, unlike that of their wines, does not it is on everyone's lips.

From this desire to tell who is behind our best wineries, the book Los cocineros del vino (Planeta Gastro) was born, a very interesting volume prefaced by Josep Roca, from El Celler de Can Roca, and Rafael Ansón, president of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy , which serves as a sort of biographical dictionary of Spanish wine.

The proper names of Spanish wine

The volume collects the history of the 20 most relevant winemakers and winemakers in Spain, which are accompanied by recipes selected by well-known chefs, perfect to pair with their wines.

The wine cooks: A hymn to the excellence of oenology. Forewords by Josep Roca and Rafael Ansón (Wines)

Today on Amazon for € 28.45 RRP at El Corte Inglés € 28.45

Although all of those selected are names of weight, we have chosen, with the advice of experts, the five winemakers who, in their opinion, have most influenced the evolution of Spanish wine, giving it quality levels never seen before.

1. Mariano García

Although currently Mariano García divides his time between Mauro, San Román and Garmón Continental, three wineries with three different styles, his name will always be associated with one of the most important wineries in Spain: Vega Sicilia.

García was the winemaker at the legendary Valbuena de Duero winery for 30 years, from 1968 to 1998, a position in which he succeeded his father and grandfather. But, after the Álvarez family took control of the winery, they decided to dedicate themselves to their own vineyards, which they had bought from a friend in 1978, in the Tudela area. "I kept them just because I didn't tear them off," he says in the book. From that same year is the first harvest of Mauro, one of the most renowned wines in Spain.

For Mariano, the first thing is the vineyard, then the wine and, finally, the winery. "We look for wines that respect the terroir, that by drinking them you know where they come from," he explains in the book. “Wines with singularities, personality and character, authentic, that tell you their history and tell you about their origin”.

It is not surprising, given that maxim, that Mariano set his sights on a wine region like Toro. When he bought the vineyards with which he made his second own wine, San Román, hardly anyone was betting on a designation of origin that is today among the most reputable.

Today, at 76 years old, Mariano is still at the foot of the canyon, working with his sons Alberto and Eduardo, in the continuous improvement of their wines. The relief is assured.

2. Peter Sisseck

Peter Sisseck is originally from Denmark, a country in which wine is drunk, not manufactured, but ended up making one of the most recognized wines in Spain: Dominio de Pingus.

His passion for wine caught on when he was only 13 years old, and he visited the chateau in Bordeaux where his uncle Peter Vinding Dieres was revolutionizing the production of white wines in the area. Years later, after doing an internship in France, he went to Sonoma, where he worked alongside Zelma Long, one of California's pioneering winemakers, and after graduating as an Agronomist, he ended up in Ribera del Duero, almost by chance.

"I usually say that I ran out of gas in Peñafiel," explains Sisseck in Los cocineros del vino. "The truth is that I was going to work at Ridge Vinyards, but it didn't start until August, so I asked my uncle, and I ended up going to Hacienda Monasterio for him." And what seemed like a short stop in his career, ended in a story that has lasted almost 30 years.

Sisseck, who barely spoke Spanish, began working on a new project that was cut short by the 1994 crisis. He decided then that, since he was there, he was going to make his own wine, in a very limited and artisanal run, under the model of what then began to be called vin de garage.

"Pingus was born from the idea of ​​delving into the fine red wine, the grape reigns here, and for that it needed old vines", says the winemaker. Was lucky. He bought four hectares of land in the Burgos area of ​​La Horra, where today one of the most recognized and expensive wines in Spain comes from, since its first vintage, in 1995.

Currently, Sisseck has teamed up with the winemaker Carlos del Río, owner of González-Byass, to make a fine payment in the south. "For me, historically, it is the great white wine of Spain," he points out. Will we be at the beginning of another legendary wine?

3. Álvaro Palacios

Álvaro Palacios was the seventh of nine siblings from a family from Alfaro (La Rioja) that was dedicated to the production and marketing of wine. After studying oenology at the University of Burgos, he came into contact with the Moueix family, who had wineries in Burgundy. And his life changed.

Since he got to know French wines, he knew that he wanted to make Grandes Crus in Spain, something that seemed impossible then. In 1989, René Barbier, who worked for his family's winery and with whom he toured Europe presenting his wines to importers, offered him a vineyard estate that he had acquired in Priorat.

"Perhaps in the Priorat there would have been 14,000 hectares of vineyards, but in 1989 there were 750", says the winemaker. “The villages were empty. The wine business was down ”.

Palacios began to work with different grapes from Priorat until, in 1993, he bought L’Ermita, “a vine of mythical scope, of incomparable magic, touched by a very special grace”. From there came the most sought-after wine in Spain at that time.

In 2000 his father, José Palacios, passed away and Álvaro took over the family business. He kept the Priorat vineyards, and those he had bought a few years ago in El Bierzo, but he moved back to Alfaro, where he also dedicated himself to improving family wines.

Palacios is convinced that wines depend entirely on the location of the vineyards. "Great wines are the strict and pure fruit of a privileged place," he says. "The more specific the location, the more precise the identity, a primary factor in defining a great classic wine." That is why it has worked intensively on the classification of wines beyond the denominations of origin at the level of municipalities and qualified vineyards, as is the case in France.

4. Rafael Palacios

Álvaro Palacios went to Priorat and his brother, Rafael, noticed Valdeorras, where he claimed and put on the map one of the most fashionable grapes today: godello.

It was not easy for him. Rafael was the youngest of the nine siblings and it was difficult for him to find his place in the family clan. "The viticulture thing came to me a little later than to Álvaro, but in the end we have grown up above the winery, where the family home was," he says.

During his training he passed through France and, later, Australia, where a new way of making wines was being forged that marked his style. "Today in Valdeorras I make whites in a very traditional way, but there I found a technical revolution and I learned to take the best of each place: seek a balance between respect for tradition and keep an open mind to innovation".

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