Antonio Huertes Gracia, President, Bodegas Ribera De Plezars S.L.started to be interested in the area of Arribes del Dueroa couple of decades ago, which is a Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve. It means that the pollution of the land and air is zero, ensuring that the native varieties have an extraordinary quality. The winery discovered that there was a variety called Bruñal, which was only known by very few experts and professionals and that the variety only existed there. And they started to work on it: analyzing the land and the grapes, the location and the analysis to determine the age of the vines (more than one hundred years old) and experiencing how the wine could be and how the vineyards could be treated so that their state was optimal, how it had to be elaborated so that the variety could express all its potential. They then got to know what kind of barrels was the most suitable, how much time was necessary for a correct evolution. It was an investigation that has lasted many years.
It is an interesting story what had led to the near extinction of Bruñal and how was it revived. It is a grape variety that economically was not profitable for the farmer. At that time the grapes were sold by weight and it is a low yield variety. This means that a kilo of grape only produces 60 cis of must, sometimes not even that. Therefore, the farmer preferred to plant other varieties to better yield and, therefore, more profitable. People were leaving Bruñal and changing the vines. “We had to find the vines as there were no defined areas of Brunal vineyard, as most of them are mixed with other variety vines. And then the task of convincing the farmers that it was necessary to separate the Bruñal vines from the rest of the varieties and treat the grapes in a different way,” shares Antonio
On how with low yield the expenses were controlled, Antonio reveals that being a very scarce grape has two effects on the cost. The first and the greatest impact it has is to produce a bottle of wine, and the second, that scarce goods are always much more expensive because production is not enough for everyone who wants to own it. Commenting on whether they use 100% Bruñal in all the wines or blend it with other prominent grapes of the region like Juan García, Rufete, Tempranillo and Garnacha, he says, “Generally speaking, we use the Bruñal and Juan García as a unique variety. Only in one of the wines called Abadengo Selección Especial do we mix the two varieties. But we have always preferred to keep the purity of each variety separate from the rest.”
Jewel of the winery
Antonio is so proud of Solo Brunal and calls it the jewel of the winery. “Its unique character, inside and outside, make it desired by customers around the world, but being limited is difficult for everyone to get a bottle. The sale is open to everyone, but we can say that most of the sales are located in Spain and in European countries with high appreciation for good wines like France, England, Switzerland and Germany. In Asia, our sale has mainly focused on China and Japan. And in America it is in the United States,” he says. For getting specific notes, flavor, tannins & acidity , the wine is usually aged for around 12 months in French or Romanian oak barrels. Antonio comments, “We mainly use Romanian oak because of its higher quality and because it comes froma natural forest, not like the French oak that comes from plantations. And in addition to that, we believe that it brings different flavors and textures to the wine and that adds very interesting complements.” Commenting on the similarities between Brunal with Portugal’s Alfrocheiro Preto, the Bodegas head says normally, the proximity between areas can produce similar varieties, but they are not the same. There have been instances when Bruñal has been cultivated in other parts of Castilla y Leon, but the same variety produces a very different wine. The terroir and the climatic conditions of Arribes de Duero makes Bruñal a very special variety, he adds.
Antonio shares that the company is mainly dedicated to producing different wines, using unique and autochthonous varieties from the Arribes del Duero area, in very moderate quantities, and the productions are small. “From the very beginning, we were surprised with the opinions of the world’s leading experts, who have even cataloged the Bruñal wine as one of the five best wines in Spain, and among the first in the world.” He also shares that the winery has great lovers like María Isabel Mijares in Spain, the first winemaker woman in the country, who has great media influence among specialists, editors of magazines, tastings, contests, etc., in Spain and Europe. “María has always encouraged us and has believed in the project. Similarly, in your country, the President of the Wine Academy Subbash Arora, whom we had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago, has always praised us with his masterful and personal comments about our wines.”
On his plans for India, Antonio shares that the winery is shortly starting in India by studying the market, its behavior, the tastes of the consumer, and the effects of taxes. He says that it is a complicated market for the world of wine, mainly because of the very high taxes for imported wines. For instance, during his last visit to India he organized a few Bruñal Tasting dinners and realized that the wine connoisseurs in India have an open mind and are eager to try and have new experiences. “We are eager for wine collectors to have our wine in our cellar,” says Anotnio. Antonio says his marketing strategy it is quite simple. “We want the grape and wine to be known in the professional world and this can convey the illusion of wanting to try something unique and exclusive to people with high purchasing power. Evidently, it is a wine that cannot be available to everyone as there are only 1482 bottles of Solo Bruñal. This logically implies that this is the maximum possible number of buyers in the whole world.” Let’s see who are the lucky ones in India to get hold this rare treat.