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A tradition of hard work brings good news for lovers of Spanish wines

April 9, 2018 Comments off
Wineopenrs Zagarron-vineyards_B

The farmers of Bodegas Zagarrón use both the traditional style of goblet or bush vines in the windswept plateau region of southeast Spain as well as using espalier (or cordon) viticulture. Photo courtesy Bodegas Zagarrón.

Bodegas Zagarrón in Mota del Cuerva, Spain, isn’t a single winery or vineyard, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s a cooperative of around 780 families farming more than 5,000 hectares (about 12,400 acres) in the windmill-dotted high plains of southeast Spain.

Mota del Cuerva is in the heart of La Mancha, about halfway between Madrid and Valencia on the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s a land of windswept plateaus cut by steep river gorges, and its elevation of more than 900 meters (3,000 feet) produces relatively mild winters and hot summers.

With the proximity of Valencia, most of the Coquense, as the locals are known, speak both Spanish and Catalan. Winemaking in the region goes back 200 years or more, but it wasn’t until after 1948, when local winemakers decided to pool their efforts, that the area has become internationally known.

Carles Moltó Domínguez

Carles Moltó Domínguez, the personable American sales representative for Bodegas Zagarrón, says his current favorite is the Sauvignon Blanc. Photo and story by Dave Buchanan

“The wines we produce in the bodega represent the traditions of our city and our people,” said Carles Moltó Dominguez, the Zagarrón representative. “Our city is very old (founded by the Muslim Arabs in 714) and it has had a culture of wine and working with grapes for more than 200 years.”

I met Dominguez in early March at VinExpo 2018, held at the Javits Center in New York.

He explained that pooling resources allowed winemakers to modernize their winery and share the costs of production, shipping and marketing. A massive modernization of the facilities in 2005 brought state-of-the-art technology and this dynamic gathering has helped the forward-thinking Bodegas Zagarrón win more than 60 award in international wine competitions.

But the past isn’t forgotten, Dominguez assured me.

“The people of Cuenca have a long tradition of hard work and working with wines and we want to reflect and honor this tradition in our wines,” said Dominguez. “We believe these wines are a result of that long tradition of hard work” in the vineyards.

The main varieties produced include such classic Spanish grape varieties such as Tempranillo, Airén, Macabea, Verdejo and Sauvingnon Blanc.

Today, the modern, high-volume winery produces well-made wines retailing for under $12 a bottle, all carrying the La Mancha DO (Denominación de Origen).

We tasted though Zagarrón’s selection of Tempranillo-based red wines, including a 100 percent Tempranillo, a Tempranillo/Petit Verdot blend and a Tempranillo/ Syrah blend.

When I mentioned I was partial to the Termpranillo Syrah blend, with its smooth tannins and deep flavors of red and black fruits, Carles Moltó Dominguez smiled.

“It’s very nice, isn’t it? Very food friendly,” he said.

And when pressed, he held out the 2017 “Garbeo” Sauvignon Blanc.

“This is my favorite, at the moment,” he said.

The elegant, well-balanced Sauvignon Blanc sparkled light gold under the harsh lights of the convention center, offering a nose of citrus and floral notes. In the mouth, the wine’s distinctive personality came out, revealing hints of citrus and tropical fruit, admirably offset by a gentle touch of grassiness and wet-stone minerality.

When it was mentioned the wine probably could command a higher price, Dominguez laughed and shrugged.

“You have to remember this is Spain, and a Spaniard knows very well how to enjoy the smaller things in life and how to be happy with very little,” he said. “While we obviously like money in Spain, it’s not the most important thing to us. Our prices reflect this philosophy.”