The History of Rioja Wine: Tradition and Invention 0367618117, 9780367618117

The History of Rioja Wine offers an informative, chronological and in-depth account of Rioja wine from the mid-nineteent

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of figures
List of tables
1. An intruder at the royal table
2. Everything started with a crisis
3. Taste and status: the invention of the “gourmet” in early bourgeois society
4. A voice in the wilderness
5. The Médoc connection: transnational knowledge transfer or industrial espionage?
6. Conquering the Queen’s palate
7. Thwarted: too modern for the time
8. Quantity beats quality: the challenge of the phylloxera plague
9. The comeback: shape and consolidation of a brand
10. New wine, new conflicts: industrial wineries, small winegrowers and the state
11. The globalization trap: challenges and opportunities for Rioja wine in the twenty-first century
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The History of Rioja Wine

The History of Rioja Wine offers an informative, chronological and in-depth account of Rioja wine from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. This book illuminates the fascinating and largely unknown success story of Rioja wine. Drawing on illustrative sources, the volume traces the economic, social, cultural and political evolution of Rioja wine from the 1850s to the present day, concluding with a reflection on the lesson its appealing success story offers to any lover of history and wine. The book is adorned with historical photographs throughout, the majority previously unpublished. An ideal companion both for students interested in Spanish history and wine enthusiasts more generally, this volume offers readers the opportunity to uncork the secrets of Rioja’s wine. Ludger Mees completed his PhD in History at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, and was Assistant Professor at the same institution before taking up a lectureship at the University of the Basque Country in 1991. Since 2004 he has been full Professor of Contemporary History at the University of the Basque Country, and between 2004 and 2009 he was also Vice-Chancellor. He is author, co-author or editor of 17 books and about 120 articles and book chapters in the fields of nationalism, social movements, historiography and agrarian history. His recent publications include Una Historia Social del Vino: Rioja, Navarra, Cataluña 1860–1940 and The Basque Contention: Ethnicity, Politics, Violence.

Routledge Studies of Gastronomy, Food and Drink Series Editor: C. Michael Hall, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

This groundbreaking series focuses on cutting edge research on key topics and contemporary issues in the area of gastronomy, food and drink to reflect the growing interest in these as academic disciplines as well as food movements as part of economic and social development. The books in the series are interdisciplinary and international in scope, considering not only culture and history but also contemporary issues facing the food industry, such as security of supply chains. By doing so the series will appeal to researchers, academics and practitioners in the fields of gastronomy and food studies, as well as related disciplines such as tourism, hospitality, leisure, hotel management, cultural studies, anthropology, geography and marketing. The Consuming Geographies of Food Hillary Shaw Heritage Cuisines: Traditions, Identities and Tourism Dallen J. Timothy Food Tourism and Regional Development Edited by C. Michael Hall and Stephan Gössling Food, Wine and China A Tourism Perspective Edited by Christof Pforr and Ian Phau The Shape of Wine Its Packaging Evolution Henry H. Work Wine, Terroir and Utopia Making New Worlds Edited by Jacqueline Dutton and Peter J. Howland The History of Rioja Wine Tradition and Invention Ludger Mees For more information about this series, please visit: https://www.routledge. com/series/RSGFD

The History of Rioja Wine Tradition and Invention

Ludger Mees

First published 2023 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2023 Ludger Mees The right of Ludger Mees to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Mees, Ludger, author. Title: The history of Rioja wine : tradition and invention / Ludger Mees. Description: Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2023. | Series: Routledge studies of gastronomy, food and drink | Includes bibliographical references and index. Subjects: LCSH: Wine industry--Spain--La Rioja. | Viticulture--Spain--La Rioja. Classification: LCC HD9385.S73 R5664 2023 (print) | LCC HD9385.S73 (ebook) | DDC 338.4/766320946354--dc23/eng/20220202 LC record available at LC ebook record available at ISBN: 978-0-367-61811-7 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-61812-4 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-10666-1 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661 Typeset in Times New Roman by Taylor & Francis Books

For Begoña, Oier and Jan: with love and good wine, always!


List of figures List of tables Acknowledgements 1 An intruder at the royal table

viii x xi 1

2 Everything started with a crisis


3 Taste and status: the invention of the “gourmet” in early bourgeois society


4 A voice in the wilderness


5 The Médoc connection: transnational knowledge transfer or industrial espionage?


6 Conquering the Queen’s palate


7 Thwarted: too modern for the time


8 Quantity beats quality: the challenge of the phylloxera plague


9 The comeback: shape and consolidation of a brand


10 New wine, new conflicts: industrial wineries, small winegrowers and the state


11 The globalization trap: challenges and opportunities for Rioja wine in the twenty-first century





1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1

3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5

6.6 6.7

Workers at Bodegas Bilbaínas capping and labeling the bottles (1915–1920) Districts of the Qualified Denomination of Origin Rioja The owners of Bodegas Bilbaínas have an aperitif in the garden (1915–1920) Carriage with advertisements for Bodegas Bilbaínas Bottling champagne in the cellar of Bodegas Bilbaínas with the person in charge, the French expert Charles Delouvin (1915–1920) Bottling and labeling at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Bodegas Bilbaínas: bottling the champagne Lumen (1915–1920) Labeling bottles of champagne Lumen at Bodegas Bilbaínas Façade of Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Cleaning the bottles at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) The backyard, the cooperage and barrels at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Bodegas Bilbaínas’s staff (1915–1920) Preparing the baskets for the harvest at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Grape reception at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Vats at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) A wagon advertising products of Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Disgorging of Bodegas Bilbaínas Lumen champagne (1915–1920) Bodegas Bilbaínas, label Castle Pomal, vintage 1904 The Medoc Alavés label (1866) Bodegas Bilbaínas, label Rioja Pomal cepa Borgoña Winery and residence of founder Rafael López de Heredia in Haro with its tower called Txori-Toki (“Place of the Birds”), 1886 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920)

xiv 6 12 18

26 30 33 40 45 50 54 58 63 68 71 77 86 90 99 102

108 111 114

Figures 7.1 7.2 7.3 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7

10.1 10.2 10.3 11.1 11.2

11.3 11.4 11.5

Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) A woman harvesting at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Harvesters at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1942) Tilling in Viña Tondonia (about 1916) Unloading grapes at the winery (about 1920) No vineyard was safe from phylloxera Breaking up the soil of the vineyard with the Malacate plow (about 1913) Label for a bottle of wine from 1898 Label for a bottle of wine from 1883 Rafael López de Heredia Landeta, the founder of the winery, in the bodega’s cave (about 1920) Rafael López de Heredia, the founder of the winery, and his son watch the harvest in the Tondonia vineyard (about 1929) Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1926) Five vats of wine in the López de Heredia winery. April 1910 photo taken for the Brussels Universal Exposition of the same year Harvest: unloading of grapes at the López de Heredia winery (about 1920) Advertisement in the daily La Rioja, August 22, 1907 A woman working as a harvester at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Depot of the Rafael López de Heredia Company in Seville (about 1900) López de Heredia winery advertisement on streetcars (photo was taken in Madrid on April 14, 1931, the day of the proclamation of the Second Republic in Spain) Wine racking at the López de Heredia winery (about 1930) Design for letter headers in correspondence (about 1924) Female harvesters at Viña Tondonia (about 1920)

ix 118 122 129 136 141 146 148 154 160 161 162 168 172

178 194 197 204 210

215 219 226 230


1.1 Leading importing wine countries into the United Kingdom in 2020 (in million GBP) 1.2 List of leading wine supplying countries to the US market (2020; in million US dollars) 1.3 Grape varieties in the DOC Rioja districts (2020; percentage) 1.4 Wine production in the DOC Rioja in 2019 (in liters) 8.1 Vineyard area in Logroño and Álava (in hectares) 9.1 Bodegas Franco-Españolas’s sales revenues (%) 9.2 Destination of Rioja wine in thousands of hectoliters (1925– 1931) 10.1 Population of Rioja Alavesa 10.2 Population change in Haro (judicial district)

3 3 7 7 140 165 171 196 196


When presenting a new book, it is often not much more than a cliché and a tribute to political correctness to state that this new publication is the result of a collective effort in which the author has enjoyed the support of many people. As far as this work on the history of Rioja wine is concerned, though, I can promise that this is the truth, and nothing but the truth. I would not have been able to write the following pages without the help, advice, criticism and other contributions made by a large number of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This journey began many years ago in the Greek restaurant of the University of Bielefeld during an after-lunch conversation, accompanied by a few glasses of wine. That was the moment in which my colleagues and friends Hans-Jürgen Puhle and Klaus-Jürgen Nagel and I decided that we could not let the world wait any longer without revealing the enigmas of the fascinating, yet still relatively unknown, history of Spanish wine. The result was a research project funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, a lengthy period of intense digging through archives and libraries, and the publication of our first findings in books and reviews. Ever since, Hans-Jürgen and Jürgen have been valuable, intelligent and critical scrutinizers of my wine-related publications, which have greatly benefitted from their input. This is also the case with this new book, which is a result of a broader research project carried out thanks to the support provided by the University of the Basque Country (GIU 20/02) and the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities PGC2018-094133-B-100 (MCIU/AEI/ FEDER,UE). My focus on the Rioja region and her wines is not only due to my gustative preferences, but also because, thanks to my personal relationship with many growers and winemakers in the region, large and small, I have been able to experience and share in their fascination for their daily endeavour, which is much more than mere business. I have learned that it is rather a philosophy of life, an almost religious understanding of the world and its contradictions, a respectful, quasi-monastic dedication to the natural environment with all its beauties and mishaps. It is simply impossible not to start asking questions when confronted with this scenario. Hence, this book is also for all those



Rioja winemakers who motivated me with their enthusiasm, leading me to discover some of the secrets of their fascinating world of wine. More specifically, I would like to express my gratitude to several people who have contributed to this book by sharing with me with their ideas, opinions and expertise. I am particularly honoured to count on the testimonies of internationally distinguished wine connoisseurs, Masters of Wine and wine writers such as Tim Atkin, Sarah Jane Evans, Jancis Robinson and Luis Gutiérrez. From the other side of the barricade (i.e. from the producers’ perspective), I appreciate very much the input given by some of the most prominent Rioja growers and winemakers such as Fernando Salamero, María José López de Heredia, Mayte Calvo, Diego Pinilla, Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, Gonzalo Saénz de Samaniego, Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernández. A special mention also to María José López de Heredia, Mayte Calvo and Diego Pinilla, who have so kindly allowed me to use the wonderful historical photos deposited in the archives of their wineries (R. López de Heredia – Viña Tondonia; Bodegas Bilbaínas) for this book. These images will hopefully contribute to making the reading of this book also a visual pleasure. One person who has left his indispensable mark throughout this book is my research assistant Aritz Farwell. If Aritz finds a stone in the street and turns it over, he will undoubtedly find some amazing and unexpected historical document underneath it. And Aritz knows where to look for these stones. I can only bow my head in awe out of respect for his extraordinary research qualities. Last but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to my family: my wife Begoña and my sons Jan and Oier. Thank you for just being there always, for putting up with me when the book was not moving forward, for reminding me – with a glass of wine in hand – that wine is life, but life is more than wine. This book is for you.

Figure 1.1 Workers at Bodegas Bilbaínas capping and labeling the bottles (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


An intruder at the royal table

The court of Queen Isabella II of Spain (1830–1904) was not known as a place of culinary finesse. On the contrary, contemporary witnesses report that although the queen and her retinue loved to devote a great deal of time to dining, they did not pay much attention to the table manners appropriate to their status, nor did they instruct their kitchen staff to delight the royal palate with exquisite and subtle explosions of taste. Sophisticated and innovative sauces, long commonplace at the tables of English and French royalty, for example, had not yet begun their triumphant procession under the Spanish Bourbons. The court’s indifference to their absence serves to mark, perhaps, the scant strides gastronomy had taken in Spain compared to England or France. To be fair, the queen had more pressing concerns to attend to during her reign. Her throne was already unstable when she ascended to it in 1833, after the death of her father, at the age of less than three. By 1866, the unpopular queen’s rule was crumbling before the forces that would in two years’ time lead to revolution and drive her from her glamorous summer quarters at the Basque seaside resort of San Sebastián into French exile. But unaware of what lay ahead as her grip on power steadily eroded (on which more later), Isabella’s day-to-day life during the spring of 1866 unfolded mostly at its accustomed pace. One seemingly minor exception was Saturday, May 5. That day, something unusual happened at Isabella’s well-staffed royal lunch table. Sources provide no information about the midday menu. The main course quite likely consisted of a juicy roast, as was so often the case. But observers did comment on the drink. Instead of the customary French wine, a new red wine found its way into the royal glass; and it did not come from Spain’s neighbors to the north, which was in itself remarkable. For, despite all the qualitative culinary differences with other European royal houses, the Spanish queen’s table typically shared a noteworthy similarity with her noble congeners: the wine of choice was invariably French. And to this common affinity for French wine, particularly for that from the wine mecca of Bordeaux, but sometimes also from Burgundy, might be added a second characteristic that united the dynasties in their DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-1


An intruder at the royal table

eating and drinking habits: the royal court’s food and drink preferences did not remain a private matter. Such intelligence traveled relatively quickly from the royal table to the dining rooms of the aristocratic and bourgeois elite, setting new standards that reshaped the gastronomic habitus of the status-addicted upper classes. In all likelihood, news of the queen’s novel weekend wine also made its way through this elite word-of-mouth network. Attentive ears would have learned, as the queen did, that it was produced in northern Spain or, more precisely, in the Basque province of Álava. In fact, when Isabella read the label stuck to the bottle she noticed the wine was branded “Medoc Alavés,” a combination of words with the pompous, almost presumptuous aim of associating this wine from the small, rural province of the Basque Country with the grandeur of the celebrated Médoc. Yet, it seems this daring association between two such disparate worlds was not wholly unmerited: the unannounced intruder did surprisingly well in the glasses of the queen and her guests. An eyewitness reported: During the lunch [the wine] was given the honors it deserves, and Her Majesty was the first to taste it, without saying her opinion until the expert D. Pedro Rubio tasted it once and twice, after having looked at it in the light as many times. It so happened that at the table was D. Alfonso Chico de Guzman, who has a great wine harvest in [the southern Spanish province of] Murcia, is intelligent, and was also invited to give his vote. They were unanimous in that it was an exquisite wine, well made and of excellent taste and color … Isabella shared this appreciation and reserved for her personal consumption six of the twelve bottles that had been sent to her.1 This successful appraisal at the royal court was the culmination of an audacious experiment that had been launched only a few years earlier. It was the coronation, and rarely was a word more appropriate than in this case, of a project whose task was to find a way out of a deep social crisis through innovation. Its central idea was the invention of a new quality wine that could survive the heat of the summer and long transport routes unscathed and would attract new, well-off groups of customers. The protagonists were from the Basque province of Álava, whose southern part belongs to the geographical region of Rioja. They constituted an alliance of transnationally networked and enlightened aristocrats, farsighted liberal politicians, inquisitive winegrowers and scientifically trained experts. As will be demonstrated, the experiment began in the bleakest of circumstances. Rioja and neighboring wine regions, such as Navarre, produced more wine than there were buyers. Oversupply helped make it cheaper than water and at the beginning of the nineteenth century the wine was frequently added to mortar for use in construction. The individuals who transformed a throwaway

An intruder at the royal table


product into a coveted royal consumer good in so short a time could rightly show pride over such an extraordinary success. A century and a half later, Rioja wine has conquered domestic Spanish and international markets. Worldwide, Rioja is considered one of the most, if not the most, prestigious wine regions in Spain. According to the magazine Food & Wine, “with their dusty spice notes and elegant cherry-scented fruit, the wines of Rioja are the essence of Spain.” The journal Wine Spectator, a distinguished and trend-setting publication for wine lovers around the world, similarly sings its praise: “Rioja produces wines of impressive quality and potentially strong value, which has helped make it one of Spain’s best-known regions.”2 Tim Atkin, master of wine, holds that “Rioja is Spain’s most famous and popular wine region.”3 Riding Rioja’s prestige (and competitive prices), Spanish wine has achieved an increasing and solid presence on international markets. Currently, Spain ranks fifth on the list of the UK’s most important wine providers (Table 1.1). The preferences of US consumers are not substantially different. In 2020, Spain was the fifth most important wine providing country (Table 1.2). Although there are no detailed statistics available to break down the Spanish figures into regions of origin, it is reasonable to calculate that a great deal of the wine imported into the US or the UK comes from Rioja. In 2020, 56% of the wine sold under the label of “Qualified Denomination of Origin Rioja” (Denominación de Origen Calificada, DOC) went to the domestic Table 1.1 Leading importing wine countries into the United Kingdom in 2020 (in million GBP) France Italy Australia New Zealand Spain

733.2 627.9 289.4 270.1 261.6

Source: (accessed January 12, 2022).

Table 1.2 List of leading wine supplying countries to the US market (2020; in million US dollars) Italy France New Zealand Australia Spain

2,017.90 1,773.80 508.28 344.34 333.30

Source: (accessed January 12, 2022).


An intruder at the royal table

market and the remaining 44% ended up in the glasses of foreign customers. Out of the total export, 33.9% went to the UK, followed by Germany (12.32%) and the US (10.08%).4 Given its strong presence on the international wine markets, it is surprising that the history of Rioja’s success story is still largely unknown to most wine lovers in the English-speaking world. While a few publications, some of them of my own authorship, are available in Spanish (and German) for those who are keen to know something more about the wine they are drinking5, the topic is still woefully under-researched for the Anglo-Saxon audience. Except for some nicely illustrated features on today’s Rioja and its wines, it is difficult to find scientifically rigorous publications that go beyond the description of the vineyards, the wines and their taste.6 This book pretends to narrow the dearth in knowledge by offering a scholarly, well written and entertaining account of Rioja’s wine history based on years of research on the topic. Rather than addressing an exclusively academic readership, it is meant for those educated wine lovers for whom a bottle of wine is not only a simple pleasure, but also the fruit of a certain culture with a specific history. The following pages aim to offer all readers interested in this culture and history a new opportunity to uncork the secrets of Rioja’s wine and discover the economic, political, social and cultural settings within which the wine developed. It traces Rioja’s meteoric rise from a small elite’s daring mid-nineteenth-century brainchild to the powerful global player on the international wine markets that it is today. It is useful to keep several points in mind to understand why the history of Rioja wine is so exceptional and intriguing. To begin with, it challenges the widespread prejudice that holds agrarian and underdeveloped countries or regions such as Spain or Rioja were not able to establish future-orientated initiatives of modernization throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Furthermore, Rioja’s history is an extraordinary example of the nineteenth century’s enormous complexity, an era that not only saw the rise of nations and nation states, but also the diffusion of transnational economic and scientific exchange. Lastly, the story of Rioja’s wine is compelling because its outcome remained uncertain for years as its protagonists cleared many successive hurdles before eventually realizing their goal. The consequential foray into Queen Isabella’s dining room, detailed in a chapter devoted to the endeavor, was but one in a long line of notable achievements that often took place in trying or uncertain times. Throughout the pages of this book, the reader will be invited to visit these historical moments. The story, told chronologically, opens in the middle of the nineteenth century during a serious economic crisis that threatened thousands of families in the small and remote villages of Rioja with destitution. When Rioja was immersed in this deep crisis and reflecting on the possibilities of overcoming it, in other more developed parts of the world the figure of the gourmet was invented. New taste preferences and

An intruder at the royal table


the appreciation of fine food and wine as markers of social status were decisive steps towards the shape of a cultural, economic and social milieu in which an elegant (and more expensive) fine wine would find its clientele. After dedicating a chapter to this crucial evolution of taste and status within the modern society, the narrative recounts the efforts of far-sighted Alavese politicians to combat this crisis and the key role played by individuals in the Médoc to establish the “Bordeaux Connection,” a conduit for expertise that was instrumental in Rioja’s eventual success. The plot then turns to Madrid, Spain’s center of power and home to the kingdom’s economic and political elite, where the new wine’s promising reception among the metropole’s beau monde was soon interrupted by the Glorious Revolution. These events coincided with the devastating outbreak of phylloxera in France, subsequently described from the perspective of Rioja, which helped ameliorate France’s depleted wine production before it too succumbed to the ravages of the blight. It was at this critical juncture that the coastal Basque provinces began to exert their influence on the wine region. Space is devoted to their fin-de-siècle industrialization and economic growth, which generated the capital that was necessary to create Rioja’s great industrial bodegas. Attention is also paid to structural changes in the wine sector that gave rise to class conflicts of a hitherto unknown nature in the small towns and villages of Rioja. These became increasingly acute in the early twentieth century as smallscale winegrowers, mostly organized into Catholic agricultural unions, quarreled with the owners of the large industrial bodegas. The narrative concludes with an account of the pitched battle that was waged between consolidating winegrowers’ associations and the emergent wine bourgeoisie over Rioja’s future; a clash that ultimately forced Spain’s government to choose sides and take action as pressure escalated to regulate the burgeoning industry and its signature product. This dynamic epoch illustrates how the invention and evolution of the Rioja wine we drink today were driven through innovations devised to overcome adversity. Indeed, as so often occurs in history, it was a series of imaginative responses to a deep social crisis that laid the foundations for Rioja’s success in the nineteenth century and propelled it to the renown it presently enjoys. Rioja, whose wine rose to prominence on the back of the legendary Medoc Alavés, is now Spain’s greatest producer of quality wine. In 2020, it accounted for 23.6% of total Spanish wine production with a recognized “designation of origin” (“Denominación de Origen,” DO). Of the current 96 Denominations of Origin, Rioja is followed in amount of wine produced by Cava, mecca of sparkling wine (17.7%), Valdepeñas, known for its low-cost table wines (6.1%) and the white wine region Rueda (5.0%).7 At present, the Rioja wine region conforms to the guidelines established by the “Denominación de Origen Calificada” (DOC), a “Qualified Designation of Origin” that guarantees particularly strict quality control. It extends over a length of approximately 120 kilometers from the northwest to the southeast of the Upper Ebro basin. The area is well-known for its red wines and about 90% of its grapes, especially the native tempranillo, are used for red wine vinification.


An intruder at the royal table

Figure 1.2 Districts of the Qualified Denomination of Origin Rioja Source: courtesy of Control Board of the Rioja Denomination of Origin

The DOC, which is not congruent with the autonomous community of La Rioja, also spans parts of the autonomous communities of Navarre and the Basque Country. The territory is normally divided into three districts: The Rioja Alta, the Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja) and the Rioja Alavesa. The Rioja Alta extends over 27,871 hectares. Its clay soils, high in iron and lime deposits, are excellent for growing the classic tempranillo red grape. The Rioja Alavesa vineyards, covering 13,179 hectares, are even more fortunate. Protected by the Sierra de Cantabria (or Sierra de Toloño) mountain range, they are blessed with optimal growing conditions. Along with marginally greater rainfall, the average altitude of the vines is slightly higher than in the other two Rioja zones. The 25,191 hectares of Rioja Oriental also include parts of the province of Navarre. Its soil is of inferior quality to that of its neighbors to the west. Here too, the tempranillo reigns supreme, although Garnacha, another red grape, is also commonly cultivated. Garnacha was traditionally used to make wines rich in alcohol, which were then blended with wines in other Spanish regions or abroad. But the rediscovery of Garnacha several years ago sparked a boom in homegrown wines that utilize it. Motivation for the change lay partly with the special place the grape has among wine connoisseurs,8 but also with the 1991 Rioja DOC statutes, which stipulate that all wines bearing the label must be produced and bottled locally. Rioja wine is brought to market by a total of 473 wineries (2020), of which 25 are cooperatives. As we shall see, part of the sector has been heavily

An intruder at the royal table


Table 1.3 Grape varieties in the DOC Rioja districts (2020; percentage) Variety

R. Alta

R. Oriental

R. Alavesa

% Color D. O.C.

Tempranillo Garnacha Mazuelo Graciano Maturana tinta Other red Total red Viura Malvasia Garnacha blanca Tempranillo blanco Maturana blanca Verdejo Turruntes Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc Other white Total white Total DOC

92.20 5.0 1.58 0.8 0.32 0.1 100 82.46 2.59 2.45

78.23 13.73 3.18 4.1 0.45 0.31 100 38.63 1.52 6.62

96.58 0.83 0.8 1.37 0.19 0.24 100 89.95 2.47 0.86

87.72 7.51 2.04 2.18 0.34 0.21 100 68.78 2.21 3.62

79.78 6.83 1.85 1.99 0.31 0.19 90.95 6.23 0.2 0.33











0.98 0.11 1.04 2.08

14.56 0.08 5.72 5.96

0.23 0 0.97 1.84

5.45 0.08 2.61 3.35

0.49 0.01 0.24 0.30

1.03 100 42.08

0.16 100 38.03

0.12 100 19.89

0.6 100 100

% Total D. O.C.

0.05 9.05 100

Source: courtesy of Control Board of the Rioja Denomination of Origin

Table 1.4 Wine production in the DOC Rioja in 2019 (in liters) Red R. Alavesa R. Alta R. Oriental Total

5,854,162,600 12,238,425,200 6,020,486,900 24,113,074,700

Rosé 237,631,900 770,194,900 303,917,300 1,311,744,100

White 508,528,000 1,290,353,900 511,140,900 2,310,022,800

TOTAL 6,600,322,500 14,298,974,000 6,835,545,100 27,734,841,600

Source: courtesy of Control Board of the Rioja Denomination of Origin

industrialized since the end of the nineteenth century, when some of the most important bodegas were founded. Although this has not completely altered the small-scale structure of land ownership, commercialization throughout the years has undergone a process of concentration. In 2019, eighteen bodegas


An intruder at the royal table

(3.7% of the total) accounted for almost 57% of all wine sales compared to just 7% of the same by cooperatives. One defining characteristic of Rioja wine is its quality. The DOC prohibits the sale of wine in bulk and most of the bottled Rioja that goes to market is aged wine that corresponds to three levels: Crianza (red wines aged at least two years, including a one-year minimum in oak barrels), Reserva (red wines aged three years, including a one-year minimum in oak) and Gran Reserva (red wines aged five years, including a two-year minimum in oak). This is why the average price of exported Rioja in 2019 was 50% higher than the same for other Spanish DO wines (€4.81 compared to €3.20 per liter), a price gap that is even larger when compared to Spanish wine sales as a whole (€1.12 per liter).9 However, a much more complex and complicated reality exists behind these figures. Despite the quality standards set by the DOC, Rioja produces a considerable selection of very different wines. They run the gamut from old-vine, barrel-aged, top-quality red wine to simple table wine, which is available in the supermarket for five euros a bottle. This leads to an important question: What does Rioja actually stand for today? Or, as the renowned master of wine Tim Atkin put it in his 2019 Rioja report: “And what about Rioja? Does it know who or what it is?”10 To some extent, these concerns over Rioja’s identity and soul might be considered “luxury problems,” questions that may be posed due to Rioja’s commanding presence in the marketplace today. The history of Rioja’s wine provides context and nuance to these and other debates. This book tells the fascinating and still largely unknown story behind the impressive transformation of a highly perishable throw-away product into a coveted commodity that is increasingly in demand among a broad spectrum of consumers.

Notes 1 Letter from the Duke of Riánsares (= Agustín Fernando Muñoz) to Pedro Egaña, Irumendi, May 6, 1866, Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Álava (ATHA), 120– 23 [translation: L.M.]. 2 Wine Spectator, October 29, 2020; Food & Wine, July 24, 2017. 3 Tim Atkin, Rioja 2019: Special Report, 7, (accessed November 17, 2020). 4 Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, Rioja: Annual Report 2020, (accessed January 12, 2022). 5 Ludger Mees and Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, “Wein und Politik. Reblausbekämpfung in Katalonien und der Rioja,” in Marcus Gräser et al. (eds.), Staat, Nation, Demokratie. Traditionen und Perspektiven moderner Gesellschaften. Festschrift für HansJürgen Puhle (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 129–155; Ludger Mees, Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Kampf um den Wein. Modernisierung und Interessenpolitik im spanischen Weinbau (Munich/Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Oldenbourg, 2005); Ludger Mees, El Medoc Alavés. La revolución del vino de Rioja (Madrid: La Fábrica, Cía Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, 2018). Ludger Mees,

An intruder at the royal table







Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Una historia social del vino. Rioja, Navarra, Cataluña 1860–1940 (Madrid: Tecnos, 2019). Jesús Barquín, Luis Gutiérrez and Víctor de la Serna, The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain: A Regional Guide to the Best Producers and Their Wines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); John Radford, The Wines of Rioja (London: Octopus Publishing Group, 2006); Hubrecht Duijker, The Wines of Rioja (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1985). Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, Datos de las Denominaciones de Origen Protegidas de vinos (DOPs). Campaña 2019/20, 20, limentacion/temas/calidad-diferenciada/informedops2019-2020_tcm30-570387.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022). According to the Master of Wine Tim Atkin, “the quality of the best Rioja Garnachas can be superb,” which partly is a consequence of the fact that many Garnacha vines are grown on up to one-hundred-year-old parcels. See Tim Atkin, Rioja 2020: Special Report, 12, (accessed July 27, 2021). Figures taken from the Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, Annual Report 2019, 66; Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, Rioja en cifras. Estadísticas 2019 (Logroño, 2020), 11; Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, Memoria anual 2020 (Logroño: 2021), 77. Tim Atkin, Rioja 2019: Special Report, 5.

References Atkin, Tim, Rioja 2019: Special Report, 7, (accessed November 17, 2020). Atkin, Tim, Rioja 2020: Special Report, 12, (accessed July 27, 2021). Barquín, Jesús, Luis Gutiérrez and Víctor de la Serna, The Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain: A Regional Guide to the Best Producers and Their Wines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011). Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, Rioja en cifras: Estadísticas 2019 (Logroño, 2020). Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, Memoria anual 2020 (Logroño: 2021). Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, Annual Report 2019 (Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, 2019). Control Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin, Rioja: Annual Report 2020, www. (accessed January 12, 2022). Duijker, Hubrecht, The Wines of Rioja (London: Mitchell Beazley, 1985). Mees, Ludger and Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, “Wein und Politik. Reblausbekämpfung in Katalonien und der Rioja,” in Marcus Gräseret al. (eds.), Staat, Nation, Demokratie: Traditionen und Perspektiven moderner Gesellschaften. Festschrift für HansJürgen Puhle (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 129–155. Mees, Ludger, El Medoc Alavés: La revolución del vino de Rioja (Madrid: La Fábrica, Cía Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, 2018). Mees, Ludger, Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Kampf um den Wein: Modernisierung und Interessenpolitik im spanischen Weinbau (Munich/Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, Oldenbourg, 2005).


An intruder at the royal table

Mees, Ludger, Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, Hans-Jürgen Puhle, Una historia social del vino: Rioja, Navarra, Cataluña 1860–1940 (Madrid: Tecnos, 2019). Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, “Datos de las Denominaciones de Origen Protegidas de vinos (DOPs),” Campaña, 2019/20, 20, alimentacion/temas/calidad-diferenciada/informedops2019-2020_tcm30-570387.pdf (accessed January 12, 2022). Radford, John, The Wines of Rioja (London: Octopus Publishing Group, 2006).

Figure 2.1 The owners of Bodegas Bilbaínas have an aperitif in the garden (1915– 1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


Everything started with a crisis

The Rioja we drink today is a relatively modern phenomenon. While the region produced wine at least since the times of the Roman Empire, the history of today’s quality wine does not begin until the mid-nineteenth century. As we are going to see, this modern wine was invented by virtue of an intriguing and risky experiment that involved a fundamental shift in approach to winemaking. To better understand this crucial turning point in Rioja’s history, it is vital to consider how contemporary conditions shaped the winemaking sector and the people associated with it. Throughout human history, many successful processes of innovation have been triggered by moments of acute crisis. This is what occurred in Spain’s Rioja region in the mid-nineteenth century, when overproduction and the collapse of wine prices pushed thousands of families to the brink of misery. The origin of the crisis can be traced to a slow but steady rise in the proportion of Spanish farmland given over to viticulture between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This increment of the area under vine, which can be cultivated in sunny areas without large investments and on poor soil, was tied to two significant phenomena. The first was chronic turbulence in the wheat sector, a key factor in Spanish agriculture’s eventual and extensively scrutinized late-nineteenth-century crisis. In addition to repeated efforts to protect Spain’s central grain-producing provinces, notably the liberal government’s 1820 ban on foreign wheat imports, another facet of the century-long wheat saga involved a shift to vines at the expense of wheat in some regions due to the greater profitability of the former. The second were the so-called desamortizaciones (disentailments; i.e., the privatization of often fallow public and church property) that also took place during the liberal era. Much of the newly privatized land was put to use for viticulture, which further fueled the gradual expansion of this traditional Spanish crop over the first half of the nineteenth century.1 Many sources from that period directly reference the problem of overproduction. As early as 1771, a report prepared for the Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País, a society of enlightened Basques, attributed the decline and potential ruin of Rioja to “excessive vine cultivation.” Nearly six decades later, the president of Álava’s provincial government continued to DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-2


Everything started with a crisis

identify oversupply as a principal cause for the “decline” of the Rioja Alavesa in an open letter dated 1829: Among the causes that have contributed to this state of decadence is mainly the lack of consumption and the debasement of the price, resulting from the abundant production of this item not only in Rioja, but also in many towns, which were previously mere consumers, and have recently successfully devoted themselves to this new branch of agriculture. The president recommended finding new markets “abroad and in the colonies” as a way to address the surpluses. This objective was hampered, however, by the defective quality of traditional wine, especially by the “ease with which after one year the wines tend to rot or substantially alter their essence.” The problem was only compounded by its “bitter and excessively hard taste,” which to consumers “who are not used to it” did not seem “very pleasant.” The same diagnosis was delivered by José Elvira at the great agricultural exhibition in Madrid in 1857. The Albarite (Logroño) winegrower, pharmacist, and canning industry pioneer affirmed that the “abundant wine harvests on this riverbank have brought about the ruin of the owners.” So much wine went unsold that winemakers distributed it free of charge or simply poured it out into the street in order to leave the vats empty for the next harvest. Elvira’s proposal for how to remedy the situation mirrored the opinion offered by President Verástegui in 1829: One should not look for the origin of such strange events in the economic cause, to which it is only attributed, that is, that the exuberance of production is not related to consumption, or what is the same, the supply to the demand. If this riverbank is to provide an outlet for the millions of liters it produces, its natural markets are not, as has been believed so far, the mountains of Santander and the sober Basque Country, because the needs of their inhabitants are infinitely inferior to the excess production of Rioja. There is no doubt that the market for our wines is in the Spanish Antilles and in our former colonies. The wine must be exported from the Cantabrian Sea ports to bring in return sugar, cocoa, … coffee and dyeing wood from equatorial countries. How is it, then, you may ask, that traders have neglected such a valuable commercial item? Because experience has taught them that these wines do not suffer the journey without becoming acidic or an insipid liquid that makes them negligible in competition with Catalan wines [which, due to their higher alcohol content, were at less risk of alteration during long transport, L.M.].2 As these reflections on overproduction and possible solutions to it illustrate, political and commercial leaders quickly singled out two closely linked goals:

Everything started with a crisis


conquest of new markets, chiefly abroad, and improvement of the commodity through better production methods. The first received a boost in 1864, when the railway between Tudela and Bilbao opened and when the Miranda del Ebro branch was linked to the recently completed Madrid–Irun line. The new railroads gave the main wine-producing centers of Rioja vastly improved access to both Bilbao’s port and the French border.3 Before the iron road was laid, transport required mules loaded with leather skins or horse-drawn carriages piled with barrels to trudge along the highways and byways that led to markets as far flung as the coasts of Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Santander. The second objective – an improved product – faced multiple obstacles that demanded attention before it could be realized, as contemporary witnesses such as Verástegui or Elvira acknowledged. One of these was lack of wine stability. Indeed, traditional wines were extremely prone to all kinds of environmental influences. They could not withstand the summer heat, for example, obligating winemakers to sell their goods before summer or risk considerable losses. Another impediment lay in the harvest itself, which took place between mid-October and mid-November. In many places, the start of the harvest was determined by mayoral decree, regardless of the grapes’ ripeness or a winegrower’s individual circumstances. The custom, which was not definitively abolished until the aftermath of the September 1868 revolution, was exacerbated by the fact that different varieties, with distinct ripening times, were frequently planted alongside each other in vineyards. Richard Ford, an English traveler to Spain in the early nineteenth century, described what he called the “Spanish indifference” to the process of winemaking as follows: Donkeys laden with panniers of the ripe fruit, damsels bending under heavy baskets, men with reddened legs and arms, joyous and jovial as satyrs, hurry jostling on to the rude and dirty vat, into which the fruit is thrown indiscriminately, the black-coloured with the white ones, the ripe bunches with the sour, the sound berries with those decayed; no pains are taken, no selection is made; the filth and negligence are commensurate with this carelessness; the husks are either trampled under naked feet or pressed out under a rude beam; in both cases every refining operation is left to the fermentation of nature, for there is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we may.4 As I shall discuss with more detail in the following chapter, this portrait of traditionalist inertia was a stereotype that often surfaced in testimonies of foreign visitors and observers. But how does it compare to what we know about the actual process of winemaking? What was it that foreigners criticized as anachronistic and obsolete? Richard Ford was right in one regard. Once harvested, unripe, ripe, and overripe grapes were taken directly from the vineyard and poured together without distinction into open barrels (“tinas”) or cement tanks (“lagares”) of similar size (80–160 hl). In these vessels, the grapes, mixed with stems and leaves, went through an initial and intense


Everything started with a crisis

process of fermentation. Because it took days to fill the containers, grapes were typically in very uneven stages of fermentation that were practically impossible to control. For this reason, some winegrowers would drain the must that was formed before the first pressing in order to mix it again later with the pressed wine. This unpressed and nearly unfermented must was called lágrima (tear). The most sought-after wine, the so-called corazón (heart), flowed from the first foot pressing, the second foot pressing resulted in the vino de trujal while the final mechanical pressing of grape skins and stems produced the lowest-quality vino de prensa (press wine). Once this process was finalized, the wine was transferred from the tanks to open vats in the cellars where, without having yet completed its rapid first fermentation, a second, slower one took place. There, either all the wines were mixed in the same barrel, or the first two were poured into one barrel and the rest, of poorer quality, into another. In addition, the winemakers often included the remains of the pressing in order to give the wine “more flavor” and “color.” Suffice it here to mention some of the many defects that experts identified in this second phase of production: uncontrolled fermentation; the existence of bacteria cultures in the vats (insufficient sulfurization); excessive aeration due to either lost volume through evaporation or strong agitation caused by racking; increase in bacteria and bitter taste because of prolonged exposure to the remains of pressing when racking was discarded for fear of spoiling the wine; sharp temperature fluctuations in the cellars, etc. Winegrowers also added alcohol to stabilize the wine so that it could be transported to market just three or four months later, something that seemed “almost indispensable” in the Rioja according to L. Bouilhac.5 High alcohol level was not only essential for transportation, but also catered to consumer preferences. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, an enlightened aristocrat from the province of Álava differentiated in a report for the Real Sociedad Bascongada between the tastes of foreigners, who preferred a light and clean wine, and those of the traditional clientele of the Basque provinces, “who like rough and crude wine” (“áspero y grosero”): We should not talk to them about the clarity and purity of the wine, circumstances so appreciable for the others. A thick and closed wine, which, according to their expression, can be chewed, is all their delight.6 In mid-nineteenth-century Spain, Rioja wine was still an integral part of a daily diet that provided necessary calories for manual work. Its traditional consumers were accustomed to drinking a coarse and earthy wine full of sediment. Their palates detested the fine, light Bordeaux wine that had conquered elites throughout the world. These gustatory habits posed a serious problem to any kind of modernization in the wine sector. Hidalgo Tablada, the author of one of the first treatises on winemaking published in Spain, warned that modernizing production in Rioja and the Upper Ebro Valley

Everything started with a crisis


would be unfeasible so long as consumer preferences did not change. If the wines were to be adapted to those of Bordeaux, “they would not be esteemed and we would not sell them.”7 Thus, for those who sought to remake Rioja and open new commercial routes, traditional taste preferences and the wine’s instability, particularly the resulting vulnerabilities when exposed to summer heat or rough transport, represented substantial stumbling blocks. But there were others as well. In the early to mid-1850s, powdery mildew crossed the French border and devastated vineyards in Rioja and the surrounding Spanish countryside, producing a dramatic decline in yields. The sudden spread of the fungal disease left Rioja’s winegrowers reeling as the dilemma of overproduction was replaced seemingly overnight with the predicament of crippling shortfalls. They were accustomed to the ups and downs of agricultural life, but this roller coaster presented the winegrowers with a frightening new crisis. After years of abundant yields, low prices and unsalable wine surpluses, now extremely poor vintages with insufficient yields combined with a disastrous 1855 harvest to begin a downward spiral that jeopardized the well-being of thousands of families. While both overproduction and shortfalls were pernicious to winegrowers, there was an important difference between the two. Unlike the long-term structural problem of surpluses, a remedy for the mildew crisis soon materialized. Drawing upon the French experience, Rioja winegrowers learned that regular preventive sulfurization of the vines was an effective antidote against the spread of the disease. The treatment, however, came with a hefty price tag: it made wine production considerably more expensive. A smattering of available estimates indicate that the economic impact of sulfurization, derived mainly from the cost of labor and sulfur flower, that ranged from 25% to 50% of the final sales price.8 Although likely closer to the lower figure, the added expense still proved prohibitive for a good number of small growers who, despite a momentary recovery after years of falling or stagnant prices, were forced to abandon winegrowing. The consensus among historians is that this blight-driven exodus had lasting and transformative consequences on the Spanish wine sector. Many were unable or unwilling to persevere because the territory’s social and economic structure did not precisely invite costly or uncertain investment. The mid-nineteenth-century Rioja and Upper Ebro Valley were composed almost entirely of small-scale properties that harvesters used for wine as well as grain. The few data available in this regard seem to indicate that the size of the properties increased as they approached Castile in the south, with the handful of large winemakers whose annual production exceeded 20,000 cántaras (in Rioja, one cántara stands for 16.1 liters) situated in the Ribera close to the Castilian border. Although these historical surveys were imprecise, especially for Navarre and Logroño, their authors calculated the average area of the vineyards to be 0.42 ha, 3.40 ha and 12.45 ha for Navarre, Álava and Logroño, respectively.9 As early as 1868, this significant property


Everything started with a crisis

Figure 2.2 Carriage with advertisements for Bodegas Bilbaínas Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

fragmentation was identified as a leading cause for the region’s agricultural underdevelopment in a report on Álava’s School of Agriculture. A decade later, the issue continued to be referenced. An official report from 1877 on the state of industry, agriculture and commerce in Navarre, based on numerous questionnaires collected in the territories where vines were grown, estimated the number of wine growers at around 10,000. A separate report from about the same time, conducted by Delgado y Masnata, offered a similar analysis for the province of Logroño. There, almost 55,000 landowners, 21,000 agricultural laborers and 8,000 tenant farmers were counted. In this case, small property size was also reflected in the tax revenue that Logroño collected, another good indicator of the overall structure of land ownership in the province: 83% of the landowners and tenant farmers paid less than 50 pesetas in taxes, while only 4% contributed with more than 200 pesetas.10 These statistics coincide with the findings made by Delgado and Bermejo, whose study on provincial administration included comparing census data between 1842 and 1860. Although the earlier figures are somewhat imprecise, they found that while the number of agricultural laborers (jornaleros) increased significantly over this time, the landowning class remained quite stable in number. Thus, it would seem there was a greater tendency towards proletarianization among the crisis-ridden Rioja peasantry than there was towards the consolidation of the rural middle classes. Furthermore, the

Everything started with a crisis


aforementioned sale of public and Church properties benefited the larger landowners, who lived mainly in the more fertile regions of the Ebro Valley and in increasing numbers in or close to the city of Haro, which was to become one of the main wine capitals.11 In a nutshell: Powdery mildew and the resulting increase in the cost of viticulture expelled from the sector those small growers who could not afford the additional expenses for the purchase and use of sulfur. They had no choice but to abandon their properties and hire themselves out as agricultural or industrial workers. Among the rest of the winegrowers, those who remained active despite the increase in the cost of production, a debate unfolded about the most effective possibilities and ways to recover the money invested. Two clear alternatives arose. The first was the classic response of increasing productivity in order to sell more. This was the traditional quantity-centered approach. And the second, more daring and innovative, advocated recouping the investment by raising the final price of the wine. To increase the price, however, it was also necessary to better the quality of the product in order to appeal to a new market of customers willing and able to pay more for a glass of good wine. This discussion reflected a phenomenon that we find on many occasions and in the most diverse contexts of human history: crisis as the mother of innovation. As we have seen, the idea of producing a new wine for a new market also emerged earlier when overproduction threatened winemakers; the powdery mildew ordeal of the midnineteenth century served to give it another significant boost. Only a few welloff members of the agricultural elite were in a position to participate in a modernization process that would eventually help to overcome the wine crisis in Rioja. Yet, as we will later see, those wealthy landowners represented just one part of a broad coalition of wine innovators who closed ranks behind a common goal. And this coalition was not originally based in Haro, the future center of Rioja’s wine industry, but in the small Basque province of Álava, which for some years would manage to overcome its sleepy quietism and provincial tranquility by taking center stage as a pioneer in modern winemaking. Why Álava? The response to this question requires a quick look at the history of Basque particularism.12 As mentioned above, la Rioja Alavesa (i.e., the southern area of the Basque province of Álava), is part of the Rioja region. Álava, together with six other territories on both sides of the Pyrenees, falls within what is usually described as the Basque Country: Gipuzkoa (capital: San Sebastián), Bizkaia (capital: Bilbao), Navarre (capital: Pamplona)13 and Álava (capital: Vitoria) on the Spanish side; Labourd (Bayonne), Lower Navarre (Saint-JeanPied-de-Port) and Soule (Mauléon) on French soil. As these territories have never shared a common modern state, the definition of what should be understood as “Basque Country” is normally articulated along cultural and historical lines, instead of political and administrative communalities. Indeed, notwithstanding the differences between the seven territories, all of them share two common features. First of all, a native language is spoken across


Everything started with a crisis

the region, or has historically been spoken: Euskara. The presence of Euskara, completely different from the Romance languages of French and Spanish, is the reason why the Basque-language toponym for “Basque Country” is Euskal Herria, meaning “the land of those who speak Basque.” And secondly, as formerly loyal regions of the Spanish and French monarchies since the Middle Ages, each of these seven territories enjoyed a high level of self-government that was guaranteed by special charters, the so-called “fueros.” These charters provided the inhabitants of the Basque territories with their own institutions, the right to manage their public affairs, the ability to collect taxes and contributions, as well as the capacity to determine what to do with these funds. The French revolutionaries considered these conventions of self-government unjustified privileges and reactionary relics from the ancien régime. They were abolished and the three northern Basque territories were incorporated into the French nation-state. On the Spanish side of the border, liberals utilized similar arguments against the Basque fueros in their fight to establish a modern constitutional nation-state in Spain. Largely because ancien régime traditionalists defended Basque particularism and supported the fueros, the Basque territories became, with the exception of the liberal cities, reactionary strongholds in the two civil wars that pitted liberals against traditionalists during the nineteenth century. This struggle between Spanish liberalism and traditionalism, which was also a conflict over the limits of Basque self-government, was ongoing when the hardship suffered by Rioja vineyardists was becoming increasingly acute in the mid-nineteenth century. After the liberal victory in the first civil or Carlist war (1833–1839), a law of 1839 recognized the Basque fueros, but stated that this particular system of Basque self-governance would be submitted to revision and modification in order to adapt it to the “interest of the nation and the Constitution.” This was a first warning for what was to come after the second Carlist War (1872–1876), when the fueros were completely abolished in 1876 and the Basque territories were granted only a certain level of fiscal autonomy.14 In the interval between wars, however, the three Basque provinces, including Álava, continued to exercise their traditional home rule. This made them unique among all Spanish provinces and afforded them a substantial advantage over the others considering Spain’s economic woes at the time. The loss of most of its colonies, huge public expenditure due to nearly permanent warfare, stagnating agriculture, and the deficiencies of an underdeveloped tax system that protected the bulk of the agrarian elite from paying taxes had plunged Spain into a chronic debt crisis. This, combined with a lack of any serious attempt at economic modernization, severely limited Spain’s ability to implement even a minimum of public policy. In the Basque provinces, this situation was ameliorated thanks to the tax autonomy afforded by the fueros. The local governing bodies, the socalled “Diputaciones Forales,” disposed of their own financial resources and were allowed to decide on their use and distribution. Whereas in other provinces the options for innovative public policies or anti-cyclical crisis

Everything started with a crisis


management were extremely limited by the general Spanish budget, the margins for action by the Basque provincial governments were much wider. It was therefore no coincidence that the first institution to react to the first desperate calls to protect and assist the suffering Rioja winegrowers was the Basque provincial government of Álava and not, for instance, Logroño’s Diputación. As the reader will recall, the province of Logroño (today, La Rioja) administered a far larger area of Rioja and was responsible for the fate of many more winegrower families than Álava. Yet, Logroño’s available resources were remarkably more modest than Álava’s and therefore its capacity to generate innovative public programs or to modernize on its own without support from the Spanish central government were more limited. Moreover, as vital as the availability of resources and the capacity for autonomous decision-making were in giving Álava more flexibility to act, they were not sufficient to enable the provincial government to become an active and successful player in the modernization of Rioja’s wine sector. The decisions to be adopted depended not only on the access to funds, but also on the opportunities provided by a given cultural and socioeconomic context that could devise creative solutions which, in previous circumstances, had been little more than utopian reveries. One of these crucial new ideas challenged what was understood about the very nature of wine and its consumption patterns. For centuries, wine was essentially a beverage that provided the necessary daily caloric intake for the hard manual work of peasants and laborers. Then the slow but steady implementation of bourgeois society in the more developed European countries, along with the resulting rise of the new middle and upper classes, altered the function and image of wine. Wine was now fast becoming a commodity that marked social distinctions. Aristocratic and bourgeois consumers wanted wine that distinguished them from the lower classes. And, of course, this wine had to differ from the common wine popular among peasants and manual workers: differ in quality, reputation, and price. This is how in Europe, and especially in France and the British Empire, the demand for quality wine became increasingly important. Therefore, we must pay a bit more attention to this nineteenth-century European transformation in consumption and taste patterns, without which Rioja’s wine innovation would hardly have been set in motion.

Notes 1 Angel García Sanz, “Crisis de la agricultura tradicional y revolución liberal (1800–1850),” in Angel García Sanz and Ramon Garrabou (eds.), Historia agraria de la España contemporánea, vol. 1: Cambio social y nuevas formas de propiedad (1800–1850) (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985), 7–99; Josep Fontana, “La crisis agraria de comienzos del siglo XIX y sus repercusiones en España,” ibid., 103–128; Ramón Garrabou and Jesús Sanz Fernández, “La agricultura española durante el siglo XIX: ¿Inmovilismo o cambio?,” in Ramon Garrabou and Jesús Sanz Fernández (eds.), Historia agraria de la España




4 5

6 7 8


Everything started with a crisis contemporánea, vol. 2: Expansión y crisis (1850–1900) (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985), 7–191. Memoria sobre los productos de la agricultura española reunidos en la Exposición General de 1857 (Madrid, 1859–1861), 991–992, quotation 992; Circular del Diputado General de la Provincia de Álava (Valentín Verástegui), Vitoria, September 7, 1829, Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Alava (ATHA), Armario 49, Legajo 12, No. 17; the report drafted by the Real Sociedad Vascongada is reproduced partly in Gabriel Chinchetru, El vino de la Rioja Alavesa desde el siglo XVIII hasta nuestros días, (Vitoria: Real Sociedad Vascongada de los Amigos del País, 1988), 16–17. All the translations from Spanish sources into English are done by the author, unless otherwise mentioned. Alain Huetz de Lemps, Vignobles et vins du nord-ouest de l’Espagne, 2 vols., (Bordeaux: Féret et Fils, 1967), 525 and 853–854; José Miguel Delgado Idarreta, “La red de comunicación en la Rioja en el siglo XIX,” in Actas del I. Coloquio sobre Geografía de la Rioja, Logroño 1985, vol. 6, 119–126; id., “La Rioja, Logroño y los ferrocarriles a fines del siglo XIX,” in Cuadernos de Investigación (Geografía e Historia), vol. 5, Logroño 1978, 135–150; reference to the Basque markets in Mariano Ciriquiain Gaiztarro, “El vino de la Rioja en Vascongadas,” Berceo, 1955 (37), 435–449. In 1771, the “Junta de Cosecheros de Vino de la Ciudad de Logroño” advocated the establishment of commercial routes to Santander with the aim of reducing the dependence of winegrowers on the local and Basque markets. See José María Lope Toledo, “Estudio histórico del vino de la Rioja,” Berceo, 1958 (46), 7–23. In 1856, of all the wine that left the city of Logroño, 29% went to Santander, 40% to Bilbao, 18% to Vitoria and 13% to other regions. See Juan Carlos Bilbao Díez, La desamortización de Pascual Madoz en la ciudad de Logroño y su partido judicial (1855–56), (Logroño: Instituto de Estudios Riojanos, 1983), 59. In 1862, the then Civil Governor of Logroño, Manuel Somoza, pointed to the dilemma posed by the “exuberance of the great harvests of La Rioja … with hardly any other markets than the mountains of Santander and the Basque Provinces, insufficient to consume such extraordinary production.” Cf. Boletín Oficial de la Provincia de Logroño (BOPL), October 1, 1862. Richard Ford, Gatherings from Spain (London: John Murray, 1846), 146. “The (wines, L.M.) of the Rioja … are very poor in alcohol, and for their exportation it is almost indispensable to add some (alcohol, L.M.).” L. Bouilhac, Vinos de la Rioja y de la Rivera: Apuntes prácticos de vinificación (Burgos: Anselmo Revilla, 1869), 17. This report, drafted by Félix María Sánchez Samaniego y Zabala, is quoted in Chinchetru (1988), 22. José Hidalgo Tablada, Tratado de la fabricación de vinos en España y en el estranjero [sic], second edition (Madrid: Libería de los Señores Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta,1871), 306. Juan Pan-Montojo, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994), 69–70. However, the author does not really consider these sources very reliable, as they were included in publications aimed at pressuring the government to lower tariffs on imported sulfur and therefore most likely prone to exaggeration. Ministerio de Fomento, Estudio sobre la Exposición Vinícola Nacional de 1877 (Madrid: Ministerio de Fomento, 1878), 76 and 181–188. For an overall view of the evolution of ownership structures in the wine-growing areas of northern Spain since the Middle Ages, see Huetz de Lemps, Vignobles, 723–741. In 1877, on the occasion of the above-mentioned wine exhibition, the Ministry of Public Works [Ministerio de Fomento] undertook the first major attempt to obtain an overview of the social and economic composition of winegrowing in the various regions of Spain, but was met with rejection by the winegrowing

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11 12 13 14


elites surveyed who refused to provide truthful information. The background to this attitude was the fear that the survey forms sent by the Government were in fact from the Treasury for purpose of taxation. This is, at least, what the agricultural engineer from Logroño stated (ibid., 152). The deliberate concealment of goods and income is a widespread phenomenon in the social and economic history of Spain during the Restoration. Although, since the loss of the last colonies, all Spanish governments had to face chronic deficit problems, the close links between the political and the agrarian elites did not exactly encourage effective measures against tax evasion. Thus, it is quite significant that the first cadastral registration was not undertaken until 1906, and it took more than 50 years to be completed. See Gabriel Tortella Casares, “La economía española 1830–1900,” in Manuel Tuñón de Lara (ed.), Historia de España, vol. 8: Revolución burguesa, oligarquía y constitucionalismo (1834–1923) (Barcelona: Labor, 1981), 11–167, especially 131–148. Antonio Tadeo Delgado y Masnata, Memoria sobre agricultura e industrias derivadas en la provincia de Logroño (Logroño: Federico Sanz, 1876), 26; Report by Ramón Ortiz de Zárate, Vitoria, November 10, 1868, ATHA, DM 576-20. Francisco Bermejo and José Miguel Delgado Idarreta, La administración provincial española. La Diputación Provincial de La Rioja (Logroño: Gobierno de La Rioja, 1984), 100–101, 125–135. For what follows, see Ludger Mees, The Basque Contention. Ethnicity, Politics, Violence (New York: Routledge, 2020), especially 28–50. The adscription of Navarre to the Basque Country is contested by many nonnationalist Basques and Navarrese. Coro Rubio, “25 de octubre de 1839,” in Santiago de Pablo, José Luis de la Granja, Ludger Mees and Jesús Casquete (eds.), Diccionario ilustrado de símbolos del nacionalismo vasco (Madrid: Tecnos, 2012), 786–800. In Navarre, self-governance had already been abolished in 1841.

References Bermejo, Francisco and José Miguel Delgado Idarreta, La administración provincial española: La Diputación Provincial de La Rioja (Logroño: Gobierno de La Rioja, 1984). Bilbao Díez, Juan Carlos, La desamortización de Pascual Madoz en la ciudad de Logroño y su partido judicial (1855–56), (Logroño: Instituto de Estudios Riojanos, 1983). Boletín Oficial de la Provincia de Logroño (BOPL), October 1, 1862. Bouilhac, L., Vinos de la Rioja y de la Rivera: Apuntes prácticos de vinificación (Burgos: Anselmo Revilla, 1869). Chinchetru, Gabriel, El vino de la Rioja Alavesa desde el siglo XVIII hasta nuestros días, (Vitoria: Real Sociedad Vascongada de los Amigos del País, 1988). Ciriquiain Gaiztarro, Mariano, “El vino de la Rioja en Vascongadas,” Berceo, 37 (1955), 435–449. Delgado Idarreta, José Miguel, “La red de comunicación en la Rioja en el siglo XIX,” Actas del I. Coloquio sobre Geografía de la Rioja, 6 (Logroño 1985), 119–126. Delgado Idarreta, José Miguel, “La Rioja, Logroño y los ferrocarriles a fines del siglo XIX,” Cuadernos de Investigación (Geografía e Historia), 5 (Logroño 1978), 135– 150.


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Delgado y Masnata, Antonio Tadeo, Memoria sobre agricultura e industrias derivadas en la provincia de Logroño (Logroño: Federico Sanz, 1876). Fontana, Josep, “La crisis agraria de comienzos del siglo XIX y sus repercusiones en España,” in Ángel García Sanz and Ramon Garrabou (eds.), Historia agraria de la España contemporánea, vol. 1: Cambio social y nuevas formas de propiedad (1800– 1850) (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985), 103–128. Ford, Richard, Gatherings from Spain (London: John Murray, 1846). García Sanz, Ángel, “Crisis de la agricultura tradicional y revolución liberal (1800– 1850),” in Ángel García Sanz and Ramon Garrabou (eds.), Historia agraria de la España contemporánea, vol. 1: Cambio social y nuevas formas de propiedad (1800– 1850) (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985), 7–99. Garrabou, Ramón and Jesús Sanz Fernández, “La agricultura española durante el siglo XIX: ¿Inmovilismo o cambio?,” in Ramon Garrabou and Jesús Sanz Fernández (eds.), Historia agraria de la España contemporánea, vol. 2: Expansión y crisis (1850–1900) (Barcelona: Crítica, 1985), 7–191. Hidalgo Tablada, José, Tratado de la fabricación de vinos en España y en el estranjero [sic]), second edition (Madrid: Librería de los Señores Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta, 1871). Huetz de Lemps, Alain, Vignobles et vins du nord-ouest de l’Espagne, 2 vols., (Bordeaux: Féret et Fils, 1967). Lope Toledo, José María, “Estudio histórico del vino de la Rioja,” Berceo, 46 (1958), 7–23. Mees, Ludger, The Basque Contention: Ethnicity, Politics, Violence (New York: Routledge, 2020). Memoria sobre los productos de la agricultura española reunidos en la Exposición General de 1857 (Madrid, 1859–1861). Ministerio de Fomento, Estudio sobre la Exposición Vinícola Nacional de 1877 (Madrid: Ministerio de Fomento, 1878). Pan-Montojo, Juan, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994). Rubio, Coro, “25 de octubre de 1839,” in Santiago de Pablo, José Luis de la Granja, Ludger Mees and Jesús Casquete (eds.), Diccionario ilustrado de símbolos del nacionalismo vasco (Madrid: Tecnos, 2012), 786–800. Tortella Casares, Gabriel, “La economía española 1830–1900,” in Manuel Tuñón de Lara (ed.), Historia de España, vol. 8: Revolución burguesa, oligarquía y constitucionalismo (1834–1923) (Barcelona: Labor, 1981), 11–167.

Figure 3.1 Bottling champagne in the cellar of Bodegas Bilbaínas with the person in charge, the French expert Charles Delouvin (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


Taste and status The invention of the “gourmet” in early bourgeois society

Although the cultural turn in the social sciences has contributed to refocus academic scholars’ attention on the nexus between social change and patterns of social and cultural behavior, the approach has been present in their repertoire since at least the 1930s. The German sociologist Norbert Elias’s pioneering study about the “Civilizing Process” (“Über den Prozess der Zivilisation”) linked the long process of modern state-building to a profound change in human behavior that not only included new perceptions of violence, sex and bodily functions, but also new taste patterns and table manners. Four decades later, the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu examined a similar topic, concluding that the form of a particular habitus, understood as a cumulus of socially fixed habits, attitudes, mannerisms, skills, dispositions and taste preferences, was used by ruling elites as an important tool to establish their cultural and hence social hegemony. Within this theoretical framework, a new kind of taste can both reflect and create class differences.1 This is not the place to discuss these theories and their limitations in depth. However, it is necessary to consider how the invention and the development of Rioja as a quality wine articulated with the rise of modern bourgeois society and the subsequent emergence of new patterns of cultural behavior. It was within this historical setting that the demand for sophisticated quality wines could be sparked or, alternatively, dampened, depending on the progress that the process of social change was making in the different regions of Europe. In this context, and when it comes to the shape and evolution of new gustative preferences and habits, there seems to be a scholarly consensus that these new cultural patterns did not result from the substitution of outdated aristocratic practices for new bourgeois ones, but rather from a fusion of both. As Charles Ludington put it in his analysis on the “politics of wine in Britain” between the seventeenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries: rather than the demise of the aristocracy, what one sees throughout the two centuries under study here is an aristocracy that frequently reinvented itself by accommodating the cultural, and only gradually the political, demands of the middle ranks.2 DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-3


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This “paradox of continuity and change” produced a new hybrid elite with a new esteem for food and also for wine: “It needed a wine to represent its legitimacy and its values, and French wine was the perfect fit.”3 In the bourgeois society that was created and nourished by the “double revolution” (in the sense used by E. J. Hobsbawm4), the new urban middle and upper classes no longer viewed food as simply a means to provide the body with the energetic fuel that was necessary for hard manual labor. Instead, food became a marker of social differentiation. While a coarse worker was able to digest whatever was placed before him, the new urban elite stomach was rather delicate and its digestion fragile. Drawing on and developing an idea that had already been disseminated by the theorists of the Enlightenment, post-Enlightenment elites elevated food to a sort of medicine that might cure or alleviate the diseases that modern life was provoking in the fragile bodies and tender stomachs of the upper classes. The concern for a healthy lifestyle and the conviction that food was one of the most relevant keys to achieving that aim became core elements of bourgeois mentality. From this prism, cooking was no longer merely a process by which raw food was transformed into digestible dishes that would provide the necessary energetic input for manual labor. Modern cooking was upgraded to an authentic art that had to achieve two basic goals: First, it had to provide wholesome nutrition that facilitated the healthy development of body and mind. Cooks became doctors, and for this purpose gastronomy had to evolve into a science and become a science or, at least, incorporate the findings of modern sciences into its repertoire. This scientification of all spheres of life was another core feature of modern bourgeois society. Second, modern cooking was expected to implement this almost medical function without renouncing the gustatory pleasures of a new dining etiquette that frowned upon a return to traditional and aristocratic patterns of gluttonous behavior, particularly those that encouraged people to eat greedily or to excess. The achievement of these two goals at the same time (i.e., the combination of a healthy diet and the gustatory pleasures of the table) required expertise and knowledge. It is not a coincidence that the subtitle to one of the first and most successful cooking books was The Art of Composing the Most Simple and Most Highly Finished Broths, Gravies, Soups, Sauces.5 Because the Enlightenment discovered the individual, there was yet another feature of bourgeois mentality that heavily influenced perceptions of food and drink in Europe since the late eighteenth century: the notion of individual privacy. In early modern Europe, lunch or dinner for those who went out to eat and drink at the popular taverns or inns was a social event. Owners set the menu and eating times for diners, who often shared a common table with strangers. The invention of the modern restaurant in Paris in the late eighteenth century permitted both the consumption of healthy food and the individualization of eating and drinking rituals. The customer was no longer forced to follow fixed meal schedules, or to have lunch and dinner accompanied by people he did not know and to eat and drink what everybody else

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was eating and drinking. Now he could dine according to his personal time schedules and preferences. He would be seated at a separate table that was at a reasonable distance from the others. He would personally choose dishes from a menu and consume food and drink knowing they were not only more sophisticated, but also supposedly healthier than the food offered at the common people’s inns. In fact, as Rebecca L. Spang has shown, the word “restaurant” initially described a healthy bouillon: Centuries before a restaurant was a place to eat (and even several decades after), a restaurant was a thing to eat, a restorative broth …. Many French cookbooks of the eighteenth century included lengthy recipes for bouillonbased preparations called restaurants, which they promised would restore health to suffering invalids and flavor to otherwise insipid sauces.6 It was not until the post-Napoleonic era, beginning in the 1820s, that Parisian restaurants, or better, the places that had been offering those restorative broths to the well-off citizens of the French capital, expanded their menus beyond the classical bouillon and began to resemble the gastronomic establishments with which we are familiar today.7 Within this context, the restaurant “denoted a process of social stratification whereby ‘honest people’ were no longer willing (nor, it was implied, were they able, as a result of physical, moral, and aesthetic ‘delicacy’) to frequent inns, taverns, or cookshops.”8 The restaurant as an institution that intertwined science, health and pleasure became a key symbol of social differentiation that was proudly exhibited by the new elites who had liberated eating and drinking rituals from their former aristocratic exclusiveness. It was a gathering place for those who shared an appreciation for cuisine and fine dining, concern for a healthy lifestyle and faith in the virtues of scientific knowledge; those who were willing and able to afford the economic consequences of healthy and sophisticated dishes and drinks. This reappraisal of taste and gastronomic values and practices resulted in the creation of the “gourmet,” which was soon accompanied by the rise and dissemination of publications dedicated to different aspects of the new art of gastronomy. An early example is Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière’s Almanach des Gourmands. Published nearly annually between 1803 and 1812, the almanac dealt with a variety of topics related to gastronomy, including what can probably be considered the first restaurant guides. Grimod was also one of the first writers to reshape the meaning of terms such as gourmet or gourmandism, which he was keen to dissociate from their traditional sense of gluttony and aristocratic excess. For him, being a real gourmand required cultural skills that went far beyond the disposition of refined gustatory senses: A Gourmand is not only one who eats with depth, choice, reflection and sensuality, one who leaves nothing on his plate nor in his glass … he must


Taste and status attach himself to a more strident appetite, without this jovial humor the best parties are nothing but sad bloodbaths … he must … continually use all the senses with which nature endowed him; finally his memoirs must be embellished with a mass of anecdotes, stories and amusing tales, with which he fills the space of services and the gaps between courses.9

In another publication aimed at teaching the art of being a good host, Grimod complained that the Revolution had attempted to replace that art with “republican rusticity.” Now, under Napoleonic rule, the time had come to recover good hosting and its main elements: nobility, munificence, permanent attention, appetite, docility, and unbounded gratitude. Despite his aristocratic routes, Grimod’s gastronomic discourse was deeply imbued with bourgeois values. After more than 300 pages of teaching the art of being a good host, he concluded that just as “order” and “economy” were the “two main sources of magnificence” in everyday life, so were they for a good host in his endeavor to set up a perfect table: “With these two virtues, a modest fortune can pay for a splendid table; without them, a millionaire would be in every moment of his life nothing but an unhappy rich man.”10 Thus, money and property were not indispensable preconditions for a good host, yet a “modest fortune” was still needed if a “splendid” table was to be

Figure 3.2 Bottling and labeling at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

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set. In the new world of the gourmands aristocratic exclusivity was rejected, but so was gastronomic egalitarianism. Other authors followed in Grimod’s footsteps. Their reflections, writings and teachings about the new cuisine, its protagonists and its social microcosm transformed the gourmand (or gourmet) into a fashionable star of the new bourgeois lifestyle. In 1814, the little-known journalist Honoré Blanc published a guide of the most prestigious Parisian restaurants. Blanc presented the gourmand’s gastronomic pleasure as a core human sensation, a feeling “which itself cannot be replaced, repressed nor modified.” This sensation, the gourmandise, could only be fully experienced by the well off, the “hommes de goût” (men of taste), because for those who struggled to make ends meet, the gourmandise was “nonsense, sensuality ridiculous and ingestion a scandal.”11 It is unclear if the best-selling author and cook William Kitchiner would have agreed with this perspective. He probably would, as he also drew extensively on Grimod’s Almanach. Kitchiner was an optician, but as the son of a wealthy merchant he was able to dedicate his life to cooking and the pleasures of the table, a passion which he ardently extolled. In the introduction to his famous 1817 cookbook The Cook’s Oracle, Kitchiner outlines his bourgeois conception of contemporary food preparation. His “cardinal virtues of cookery” are the virtues of the new elites: cleanliness, frugality, nourishment, and palatableness. If these virtues were implemented in the kitchen, cookery became a sort of preventative medicine: “If medicine be ranked among these arts which dignify their professors, cookery may lay claim to an equal, if not a superior, distinction; to prevent diseases is surely a more advantageous art to mankind than to cure them.”12 This meld of gastronomy and scientific language was also present in the work of the self-styled gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. Born into a family of wealthy lawyers, Brillat-Savarin was elected deputy in 1789 and became mayor of his hometown Belley near Lyon in 1793. He self-exiled to the United States during the Reign of Terror, but returned to France and was later appointed judge to the Supreme Court of Appeals in Paris in 1796. Although Brillat-Savarin never earned his living with cookery, he was an avid gourmand. It was not until 1825, two months before his death, that he published his influential book, The Physiology of Taste. Written in elegant prose, Brillat-Savarin develops and defends his central thesis throughout its pages, holding that cookery is a science with its own rules and methodologies. As Thompson puts it, the meditations published in his book “were as intrinsic to his proposed ‘science’ as say the scientific method is to the natural sciences.”13 For Brillat-Savarin, the pleasures of the table, the gourmandise, had nothing to do with traditional aristocratic gluttony: Gourmandise is a passionate, reasoned and habitual preference for objects that flatter the taste. Gourmandise is the enemy of excesses … In whatever respect gourmandise is considered, it deserves nothing but praise and encouragement.14


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A taste for exquisite and sophisticated food promised nothing but advantages for the author. It favored sociability and the strengthening of social ties; it had a positive impact on conjugal happiness, including sexual desire; and it provided the state with substantial tax revenue. In like fashion to the aforementioned gastronomy writers, Brillat-Savarin advocated the –limiteddemocratization of the table, opening the door to the possibility that women might become gourmets. This egalitarianism, however, went only so far, and the sub-groups of gourmets that Brillat-Savarin highlighted speak for themselves. These mirrored the belief that the world of sophisticated cookery and taste was reserved for the middle and upper classes: the financiers and bankers (“all those who amass a lot of money and with ease, are almost indispensably obliged to be gourmands”); the doctors, the “people of letters”; the devotees (who just implement the divine law according to which man is the king of nature, and everything the earth produces was created for him); and the knights and abbots (sidelined by the Revolution, but great gourmands avant-la-lettre from time immemorial).15 A few years later, similar arguments could be found in Marie-Antoine Carême’s book, The Art of French Cuisine. Carême, abandoned by his parents at young age, was an authentic self-made man who rose to fame after starting out as a kitchen boy in several Parisian restaurants. As head chef for both the Rothschild family and the influential clergyman and politician Charles-Maurice Talleyrand, Carême garnered a level of prestige during his lifetime that was unmatched among his French colleagues. His book was an expression of proud bourgeois self-esteem that did not hesitate to criticize aristocratic gluttony at the table or to dismiss the “coquetry” of imitating aristocratic table settings. Accordingly, Carême proposed reducing meals to four courses in lieu of the traditional eight. The modification captured the spirit of his book, which was meant for all “fortunes” and all people who “love for a question of taste to take care of their kitchen.” Still, once again this democratization of gastronomy had its limits. Carême concluded the introduction to The Art of French Cuisine with a more precise definition of his intended audience: “quelque bon bourgeois de Paris,” any good bourgeois of Paris.16 The good bourgeois did not only appreciate and celebrate the refined gastronomic products of the modern kitchen. Such a person was also a connoisseur and lover of quality wine. In fact, the evolution of the modern gourmet since the late eighteenth century was accompanied from the very beginning by a reassessment of wine, its image and its place at the table and in society. Wine became a commodity that fulfilled two essential requirements of the new bourgeois food culture. First, it contributed to a healthy lifestyle and, second, like fine food, it could serve as a marker of social distinction. Furthermore, and this is a crucial point to which we will return when discussing the invention of modern Rioja wine, this growing reputation and demand for fine wine also generated an impact on producers:

Taste and status


Not only did bourgeois consumers want wines that were different from the common wine popular among peasants and manual workers, but many had developed an appreciation of quality wines that separated them from the masses … Wine was, then, a commodity that marked social distinctions, and the demand for quality wines gave better-off producers the opportunity to plant more carefully: to plant varieties that gave quality over quantity, and in locations where they would produce the best wine.17 To these shifts in demand and production may be added the ripples of change that wine’s newfound place in elite urban food culture sent through the rituals that regulated wine’s consumption at the table. Many of the early gastronomic and wine writers paid a great deal of attention to this topic, hoping to educate their readership in what they considered proper wine-drinking etiquette. In his 1808 Manuel des amphitryons, the gastronomic pioneer Grimod opened his eight-page chapter on “Wine service and tasting” with the categorical statement: “Wine service is an essential part of a meal.” Grimod’s first recommendation regarding this topic was significant in that it reflected his disdain for revolutionary egalitarianism, which he traced back to Minister Turgot’s reform decrees of 1776. From his perspective, the system offered a “pretended liberty” that encouraged an unfortunate relaxation in the “bonds of subordination.” And this was a proclivity that Grimod believed

Figure 3.3 Bodegas Bilbaínas: bottling the champagne Lumen (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


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should not be tolerated in wine service. Servers in post-revolutionary France, he asserted, had taken advantage of their recently won liberty and broken with the traditional custom of serving the wine on a plate together with two empty glasses and a carafe of water. Instead, they now poured wine into glasses before taking it to the table, denying diners the option to mix the water and wine as they saw fit or to drink them separately. This was a task that should not be in the hands of the servers, or lackeys, as Grimod calls them. To avoid this aggravation, Grimod suggested the host place the wine bottles on the table and invite his guests to serve themselves. Moreover, he cautioned that wine must be served directly from the bottle and not poured into crystal flasks so that it might “shine with more brightness” at the table. Doing this, Grimod stressed, caused the wine to lose its bouquet and part of its quality. The correct form was to pour from the bottle into very thin glasses: “It is a maxim adopted by all gourmets that the thinner the glass, the better the wine looks.”18 The use of thick glasses should be discarded because there was “too much interval between the liquor and the lips of the drinker.” The latter, of course, also had obligations at the table. Grimod noted, for instance, that it was “dishonest” to refuse the first glass of wine offered by a host, although a second could be turned away if so wished. He also asserted that, much the same as leaving food on one’s plate, leaving a bit of wine in one’s glass was considered “impolite.”19 While Grimod dedicated a chapter to wine, André Jullien published an entire book on the topic in 1813. Contrary to our current understanding of the term “sommelier,” Jullien’s work, entitled Sommelier’s Handbook, was a publication directed at any person dealing with the production or sale of wine who might be interested in subjects such as the process of racking, the conditions of a good wine cave, or export and import tariffs for wine in different countries. Resonating the bourgeoisie’s concern for a healthy lifestyle, Jullien connected wine and health in the first sentence of his introduction: Wine, that precious liqueur which revives the strength of a man weakened by illness, and helps to maintain his health when used moderately, requires care and precautions, without which not only does it not acquire all the qualities it should have, but also it deteriorates in more or less time.20 It was not easy to implement these “care and precautions,” however, because the enormous variety of wines made it almost impossible for anyone to make a reasonable judgement about the quality of a given wine. In fact, Jullien argued that only “gourmets” who lived on or close to their vineyard and were able to taste their wines frequently could distinguish and appreciate them. When it came to tasting unfamiliar wine from other regions and countries, a lack of experience became an important obstacle even for those gourmets.

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Part of the difficulty, but also an absolute priority for all who were tasting a new wine, lay in the ability to distinguish a pure and healthy wine from one that had been blended with other liquids or products, not always proceeding from the grapes. As part of his effort to create some basic guidelines for tasting and judging wine, Jullien emphasized that its taste would depend on what the taster had recently eaten, perhaps the first published reference to the relationship between food and wine. But for those who were simply unable to determine if a wine was pure, wholesome, or had reached its “final level of maturity,” Jullien recommended the best course of action was to turn to reliable wine connoisseurs for advice, which often necessitated a willingness to pay the price that a pure premium wine deserved. Unfortunately, even under these conditions it was difficult to guarantee the quality of a bottle of wine, for first a trustworthy wine dealer had to be found and in the French capital this was still “as difficult as to find a good poem.”21 Still more successful than André Jullien was Cyrus Redding, “the first great wine writer in English language,” who in 1833 published the first edition of his famous History and Description of Modern Wines, which can be considered “the most informed book on wine written” so far.22 Six years later, encouraged by the positive impact of his best-selling book, Redding presented a lesser-known text designed for anyone who bought, produced or sold wine.23 Redding’s publications were extraordinarily salient because he framed wine drinking as an art with its proper norms, values, rituals and social significance. For those who knew and implemented these rituals, “the art of taking wine” became a social marker that helped trace an invisible line between the elites and the common “vulgar” people: there certainly is as much difference between the mode in which a horse drinks from the crystal pond and the hog from his trough, as between the mode in which a gentleman of refinement and education uses his wine and a cockney alderman swills his punch at a turtle-feast.24 Whereas the latter “partakes in a gratification merely animal,” the former’s gratification was “social and refined”: “With the one wine is the sauce merely – with the other it makes the great end and object of the occasion.”25 How, then, did this art of drinking wine unfold? Before presenting his descriptions and remarks on the different wines worldwide, Redding advanced some pieces of advice in this sense. He shared the already mentioned idea that wine had to be served from the bottle and at the table, without decanting and after having drawn the cork carefully. He agreed that it should be poured into thin glasses and stated that it was “not a good rule to drink of too many kinds of wines at dinner,” suggesting a glass of “full-bodied strong white wine” after the soup, followed by another of Madeira. Then, with the main course, the “light wines” should be introduced, which “in fashionable life” included three or four more kinds of white wine (except champagne, a drink


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reserved for dessert). Oddly enough, Redding claimed that “it is not common to take any red wine with dinner, as with some dishes it very ill comports.” Yet this rule was apparently not binding, as suggested by the presence of different red wines in his laudatory description of French dining habits. And for Redding, the French were the unrivaled champions of culinary finesse, whereas the “middling class of society in England” was infamous for reversing the “correct order of things” at the table, disregarding the intricacies of pairing wine and meal, and frequently disrespecting the “salutary limits” demanded by the art of drinking wine. On the contrary: “Oftentimes do Englishmen drink themselves into taciturnity below-stairs, and, ascending to the drawing-room, sit silent and solemn as so many quakers, among the fair sex.”26 This unbridled excess in wine consumption was a serious violation of the bourgeois art of wine drinking. According to Redding, if the “art of taking wine” was something, it was undoubtedly “the science of exciting agreeable conversation and eliciting brilliant thoughts for an idle hour between the repast and the dining-room.” For the new ruling elites, it was a catalyst of social communication and even of sexual interaction: The true enjoyer of wine finds it exhilarate the spirits, increase the memory, promote cheerfulness; if he be something of a wit, it draws out his hoarded stores of good sayings and lively repartees, during the moment of relaxation from thought, at the hour when it is good “to sit a while.” This cheerful glass calls into action his better natural qualities, as with the ruby liquid he swallows “a sunbeam of the sky.” He makes his wine secondary to his conversation, and when he finds the latter at what he thinks its keenest edge and brightest polish, he leaves the table to mingle with beauty, and exchange the wine for a sparkle of more attractive and higher character, perhaps to bask in “the purple light of love.”27 For Cyrus Redding and other early nineteenth-century gastronomic writers, wine drinking was an art, a ritual and a social marker. Obviously, not just any wine served this purpose. It had to be a fine, distinctive, quality wine that contrasted with the coarse, dark, impure and alcoholic beverage consumed by the lower classes. And if it was a French wine, so much the better. There was a broad consensus among Redding and his fellow writers that France was the Mecca of premium wine. This was not by chance. As Kym Anderson puts it, if France was “at the cutting edge in terms of technology of wine production and caring for vineyards and fighting wine diseases,” it was due to the country’s extraordinary progress in the areas of science, technology and modern marketing.28 We have already mentioned the importance conferred to science within the new bourgeois gastronomic microcosmos, without which there was no healthy diet. Within this world, a fine pure wine needed scientific input to prevent

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unintentional disturbances in the processes of fermentation and aging. It was no coincidence that mid-nineteenth-century France was the birthplace of what would later be called modern European oenology. Early advances in the field were due in no small measure to two outstanding scientists. One was Jean-Antoine Chaptal, a well-off businessman and chemist with a broad knowledge in medicine, who also served as Napoleon’s Minister of the Interior. At the turn of the century, Chaptal published the first edition of his seminal and successively updated, Traité théorique et pratique sur la culture de la vigne. The book is best known for the thesis that a good wine and its stability depend essentially on alcohol level and that, as a consequence, wine with insufficient alcohol should be stabilized by adding sugar or concentrated must to grape juice just before fermentation. But it should not be forgotten that Chaptal’s book was also one of the first to discuss other important factors in wine production, such as climate or soil. It had an enormous impact and, together with other treatises, was immediately translated into several different languages, including German, Italian or Hungarian. Despite the polemics surrounding chaptalization (i.e., the manipulation of wine by the addition of sugar), Chaptal is rightly considered to be one of the founders of modern oenology.29 The second scientist to mention here is the chemist and bacteriologist Louis Pasteur. Beginning in the mid-1850s, he took the next, even more decisive steps towards a better understanding about the function of yeasts, bacteria, sugar and oxygen in the fermentation process in his Mémoire sur la fermentation appelée lactique (1857) and Études sur le vin: Ses maladies et les causes que les provoquent: Procédés nouveaux pour le conserver et pour le viellir (1866). Pasteur discovered that the decomposition and putrefaction of wine during fermentation is due to the generation of microorganisms that produce acetic (or ethanoic) acid, responsible for turning wine into vinegar. Soon Pasteur became the leading French and international authority in a new scientific discipline that from the end of the nineteenth century would be known as oenology. It was Ulysse Gayon, a disciple of Pasteur and inventor (along with Alexis Millardet) of the Bordeaux mixture (of copper, sulphate and quicklime) as a remedy against mildew, who in 1880 inaugurated and directed the Station Agronomique et Oenologique (in 1956: École Supérieure d’Oenologie) in Bordeaux. For at least two generations, Pasteur’s work was the paradigm for all those scientifically concerned with wine production and its problems.30 Owing to Chaptal and Pasteur, among others, winemaking became a science; and science was indispensable for producing the fine, healthy and pure wine the new urban gourmet elites were demanding. Although nineteenthcentury France was the main protagonist of this transformation in winemaking and consumption, a significant amount of this new quality wine ended up in the cellars of the British middle and upper classes as well as on the tables of well-off gourmets all over the world. Thus, taste was socially, but also politically constructed. As Charles Ludington has demonstrated, demand


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for light and healthy French wines, especially clarets from Bordeaux, was a prominent topic of political debate in the United Kingdom throughout the nineteenth century. Liberal free traders and reformers utilized the issue to argue for a roll back of traditional protectionist policies that were said to be responsible for the enormous popularity of strong, fortified and unhealthy wines among British consumers, such as Portuguese port or Spanish sherry. By lowering or eliminating the duty on French wine to make it more affordable, so ran the argument, the British would rediscover their taste for the more wholesome French wine and once again become a “hard-working, healthy, and civilized” society.31 Leaving aside the enormous popularity of port in the British market, there was broad consensus among nineteenth-century gourmets that French wine was the best. The status of champagne was beyond question, a wine that could not be absent –poured into special narrow flutes- from a gourmet’s table when dessert was served. Champagne had become an “obligatory adjunct” to the social rituals of the emergent bourgeoisie of Europe.32 However, according to the leading experts of the epoch, there was a certain risk attached to the consumption of champagne: It was convenient to drink it in very moderate quantities since, although it was pure and natural, “there is no wine that is less suitable for the stomach and more unpleasantly disturbs the digestion.”33 With Champagne being the brilliant dessert star at all fine dinners, nineteenth-century gourmets were left to engage in a debate over which were the best red and white wines and, of course, this question pitted Bordeaux against Burgundy. The scarcity of sources does not permit a clear winner for white wines. At first glance, Burgundy seems to be the leader since Chablis was mentioned much more by contemporary gourmets than any white wine from Bordeaux. Grimod recommended that there should always be a “very good Chablis wine” among the white wines on a table, offering one particular Chablis as an example (“the growth of Mr. Chéron”). André Jullien agreed that Chablis was “highly esteemed” and was topped in his overall ranking of French white wines by only one other Burgundy white: the Meursault from the Côte-d’Or department. Some years later, when describing different national wine-drinking habits, Cyrus Redding stated that the French would always have “a glass of Pontac or Chablis” with oysters.34 Nonetheless, a look at Honoré Blanc’s restaurant guide seems to tilt the balance back in favor of white Bordeaux, given which wines were available at what prices in early nineteenth-century first-class Parisian restaurants (locations that enjoyed “an honorable reputation, acquired through a series of glorious works”). Chablis was indeed very popular since almost all of the selected gourmet restaurants offered a Chablis along with other white wines. However, in general, it was far from being the most expensive white wine. Here are just a few examples: The restaurant Bancelin offered two different Chablis, a more common one for 1.50 francs a bottle, and a “first quality” Chablis for 1.75 francs.35 The Bordeaux whites from Graves and the sweet Sauternes were more expensive at 4 and 5 francs respectively. Beauvilliers which according to Honoré Blanc was

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famous for its “exquisite” wines, featured an extensive white wine list. Again, Chablis was present, but its 2.25 francs placed it in the lower-price range. The Graves and Sauternes whites both cost 5 francs, while the more expensive white Hermitage wines from the northern Rhône region were worth 8 francs, a price that was matched by a white Rhine wine and a white from Sillery in the Champagne district of Marne. A similar price ranking can be found on the menus of Frères Provençaux: Chablis 2 francs, Graves 6 francs, Sauternes 6 francs, Hermitage 6 francs, Sillery 8 francs and Rhine 10 francs. The most expensive white wine was the Hungarian dessert wine from Tokay, priced at 18 francs for a half-bottle. What about the red wines? While there seemed to be a certain consensus in ranking white Bordeaux higher than Burgundy, early gourmets varied in their preferences when it came to red wines, although most of them underscored, and sometimes lamented, Bordeaux’s predominance in the French and international markets. In his Almanach des Gourmands, for instance, Grimod regretted that “Bordeaux wine has now obtained an exclusive preference on our tables.”36 For him, one of the best wines was a 20-year-old Burgundy Clos de Vougeot, real “nectar in a bottle.”37 Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin avoided polemics with fans of either Burgundy or Bordeaux by placing both beverages on the same level, describing a connoisseur as a person who would gracefully sprinkle a partridge’s wing “with a glass of wine from Lafite or Clos Vougeot.”38 In his History of Ancient and Modern Wines, by contrast Alexander Henderson praised Bordelais wines because “they unquestionably rank as the most perfect which France produces.” To him, the Médoc region comprehended “the most celebrated growths of the country, such as Lafite and Latour, Leoville, Château Margaux, and Rauzan.” Henderson also believed the top Bordeaux wines had an important advantage over the Burgundy growths in that they were “less disposed to acidity and other disorders than the wines of Burgundy.”39 Some years later, Cyrus Redding inverted this judgment: Burgundy is perhaps the most perfect of all the known wines in the qualities that are deemed most essential to vinous perfection. The flavor is delicious, the bouquet exquisite, and the superior delicacy which it possesses, justly entitles it to be held the first in estimation of all the red wines known.40 Redding did not change his opinion in his second book published in 1839: “The wines of Burgundy are the first red wines in the world; for delicacy, flavor, perfume, richness, and purity, there are no others in any country which approach them.” More specifically, Redding considered Romanée-Conti “the first red wine in the world.” Unfortunately, due to the estate’s extremely limited production, it was almost impossible to come by a bottle of the wine, a fact that led him to suspect that most of the Romanée-Conti that was exported was “non genuine.” Interestingly enough, Redding’s praise for Burgundy reds was not followed by an appreciation of Bordeaux’s claret wine, who instead singled out the red Rhône Hermitage as “one of the best French red wines.” The famous Bordeaux growths were apparently not his first choice because those that were “sent to England are not pure, but mixed with second-class hermitage, and sometimes [Spanish]


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beni-carlo, with a little spirit of wine.” Due to this frequent fraud, Redding recommended the purchase of a good Bordeaux only from “the best dealers.”41 Redding was referring here to a general problem that bedeviled Bordeaux wine in the mid-nineteenth century. As the leader in French export of fine wine, and due to the fact that most wine was exported in bulk and not in bottles, falsification by dealers through blending with other wines was quite common.42 As early as 1816, André Jullien stated his personal preference for Burgundy and noted the purity of the reds from the Côte-d’Or, which needed “no blend, no preparation to reach their highest degree of perfection.” Even though he acknowledged these wines had rivals, he was convinced they were “not surpassed by any of them. First growth wines, when they come from a good year, combine, in the right proportions, all the qualities that make up perfect wines.” For Jullien, this meant that Burgundy reds were closely followed by Bordeaux clarets in terms of quality, for which no amount of further praise would add to their reputation because they were already “too well known.” While it was true that, especially in France, Bordeaux’s rivals were preferred by some, there was no doubt that the clarets “generally triumph in foreign countries, and produce considerable sums of money through their exports.” It is interesting to observe that Jullien already listed in 1816 the very same estates in his classification of “first category” Bordeaux red wines that would make up the selected group of grands crus in the famous 1855 ranking: Chateaux Lafite, Latour, Margaux (from the Médoc region), and Haut-Brion (from Graves).43

Figure 3.4 Labeling bottles of champagne Lumen at Bodegas Bilbaínas Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

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What do the prices tell us about value and consumers’ preferences with respect to fine red wine? Another glance at Honré Blanc’s restaurant guide permits two findings.44 First, all top Parisian restaurants mentioned in the guide offered different wines from both Burgundy and Bordeaux, whereas Hermitage and wines from other regions were not available in every restaurant. And second, if we proceed from the hypotheses that a restaurant is only likely to put an expensive wine on its menu if there is demand for it among its costumers, and that there is a certain correlation between price and esteem, then we can conclude that there was no remarkable difference in the level of appreciation for Burgundy or Bordeaux wine. The top wines from both regions had very similar prices. At Bancelin, the famous Burgundy Clos Vougeot cost 6 francs, a Château Lafite 5 francs and a Hermitage 4 francs. At Beauvilliers, praised by Blanc for its exquisite wines, a Romanée-Conti was 8 francs, as was La Tâche. Once again, the most expensive Burgundy wine was Clos Vougeot from the 1788 vintage, valued at 10 francs. But this was exactly the price a diner had to pay for a “first quality” Château Lafite. Latour and Margaux, as well as a Hermitage, were priced 8 francs. A very similar price pattern can be found at Frères Provençaux. There, the most expensive red wines were a Clos de Vougeot and a “first quality” Lafite, both listed at 8 francs, followed by a Romanée-Conti, at 7 francs. At Grignon, the Burgundies had a small lead over the Bordeaux. The highest price was for a RomanéeConti or a Clos de Vougeot at 8 francs, whereas an “old Lafite” cost 6 francs and a Margaux or a Haut-Brion just 5 francs. Within this new gourmet wine cosmos, was there any place for Spanish and, in particular, Rioja wines? Were Spanish (and Rioja) wines known among the gourmets in the first place? The contemporary sources offer some responses to these questions. Once again, it was Cyrus Redding who offered the first detailed overview of Spanish wine in the 1830s. Perhaps surprisingly, the famous wine writer disseminated a highly empathic and positive image of Spanish wine that “deservedly rank high in the estimation of foreigners” because, according to the “judgement of the first connoisseurs in wine, not only in England, but all over the world,” Spanish wines followed France “in the excellence of its vinous productions.” If there was still a quality gap between French and Spanish wine, it was not due to nature. On the contrary: Nature had endowed Spain with exceptional climatic and geological characteristics to grow grapes. Instead, for Redding French superiority was the result of bourgeois modernity, science and secularization, a process that in backward Spain had not yet been implemented: If France rank before Spain in this respect, it is because science has led the way to excellence, and has enabled the French to attain, by delicacy of management, by art and labor, that which nature had well nigh accorded to Spain without such appliances. Superstition and ignorance may triumph over a simple-hearted people, which the Spanish peasantry and farmers undoubtedly are, but nature vindicates herself in her


Taste and status productions, even in the land of priestly arrogance, and intellectual prostration.45

The lack of scientific know-how and the adherence to old and obsolete traditions were extremely detrimental to the quality of Spanish wine, although, despite the “disadvantage in the process of making,” it was still possible to find Spanish wines “of surpassing excellence,” and Redding was not only referring to sherry and the sweet Málaga dessert wines produced and commercialized to a large extent by British entrepreneurs. Yet the daily reality of Spanish winemaking was rather sobering and sad: The best red wines grown far in the interior, are generally kept in skins, as being more facile of carriage. They are often found so defiled, even in the tavern, with the pitchy taste, and the filth of the uncleansed skin, to say nothing of the deposit owing to the coarse conduct of the vintage, that they cannot be drunk by a foreigner at all.46 So for Redding it was all but a miracle that there were excellent Spanish wines in the first place: The details respecting the management of the wines in the interior of Spain are very scanty, but the same bad conduct injures them all, and the pitched hog skin of the vinatero, or wine-seller, generally completes what the carelessness of the grower began. With so many evils in such a nice article as wine, it is rather to be wondered how any Spanish wine is not only palatable, but good …47 According to the British writer, one of the most serious obstacles to a brilliant future in which Spanish wines “will one day rank much higher in estimation,” was politics: The political condition of the country must change for the better at some future time; then the happy nature of the climate, and the fertility of the soil, will be seconded by industry and science.48 This was an evident reference to the weakness of Spanish liberalism and the unwillingness of the absolutist elites to give way to the implementation of the modern capitalist and constitutional society. In 1833, the year in which Redding’s book was published, the Spanish traditionalists (“Carlists”) launched a war against the liberals that lasted seven years. The nearly half century that followed saw several traditionalist uprisings and another civil war until the definitive liberal victory in 1876. These ongoing conflicts were not precisely a conducive setting for the implementation of scientific knowledge in the wine sector that Redding foresaw.49

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Favorable climatological and geological conditions, enormous potential, but tied to obsolete techniques and lacking expertise: this was the mainstream discourse among most early nineteenth-century foreign wine writers when it came to describing the situation of Spain’s wine sector. Here is one final example from 1866: Spain … produces in abundance wines of every description, and could, with a little trouble, compete with the light wines of France and the Rhine. Her climate and soil are so varied, that any desired quality of grape may be produced. At present, with the exception of the sherry trade, chiefly in the hands of the English, no attempt has been made to develop this branch of industry. Wine is made as it was made centuries ago, in the rudest and dirtiest manner; and, in travelling through the country, it is frequently impossible to obtain a wine that is at all drinkable; and this in the midst of an abundance so great that it has not unfrequently happened that the wine of one year has been spilled into the streets to make room for the new vintage.50 If we contrast this thoroughly pessimistic statement with others similar to Redding’s point of view, we could conclude that while it may have been “frequently impossible” to find a good wine in Spain, it was not completely impossible because there happened to be good wine in the country. So where did this good Spanish wine come from? It comes as no surprise that most of the wine writers dedicated large sections of their reports on Spanish wines to sherry and Málaga wines, which were virtually the only reputable wines to be shipped to foreign markets, especially the British. As to wines that were not sherry or Málaga, there seemed to be a certain agreement in regarding the red wines of Valdepeñas in the central La Mancha region as the best Spanish red wines. From a historical perspective, this might come as a surprise because at least since the late nineteenth century until the present, La Mancha is a region that has not been particularly famous for its quality wines, but rather for its low-cost mass-produced red wines. The reasons for this unexpectedly positive image of Valdepeñas among many foreign wine writers are uncertain, partly because the history of La Mancha wine is still a rather under-researched topic. One hypothesis might be the presence of prominent members of the Spanish nobility who produced wine in Valdepeñas, Manzanares and surroundings; wine that was presumably sold in nearby Madrid, which is only some 200 km away. These may have been the only “visible” winemakers in the region and their wine, produced for the political and economic elites of Madrid, was probably of a finer quality than the bulk of La Mancha red wine.51 Redding himself mentioned the “celebrated wine called Val de Peñas [sic]” that was produced close to the town of Manzanares “in which the Duke of San Carlos, upon whose estates the wine is made, keeps extensive cellars, where it may be tasted in perfection”: “It is a wine which requires age to


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perfect, and then it is equal to any red wine in the world, for every quality save, perhaps, the delicacy which distinguishes the higher class of Burgundy.” Insofar as there was a problem with Valdepeñas, it was due to transport in pitched skins, “which impart to it an insufferable taste of the resin.” Because of this issue, Redding concluded that Valdepeñas wine could only be tasted “upon the spot” and that, in order to prevent the alteration in taste, English merchants should travel to La Mancha armed with staves for the construction of oak barrels, and in so doing “secure on speculation some of the finest wines on earth.”52 This opinion of Valdepeñas was similar to André Jullien’s view of the wine, expressed nearly twenty years earlier. Again, the analogy to Burgundy wines emerged, but while Redding singled out Burgundy as the only quality wine that would never be emulated even by a decently produced and carefully transported Valdepeñas, his French colleague made a more positive comparison: “The best [wines] are harvested in the surroundings of Valdepeñas; it is assured that they are similar to our good Burgundy wines, of which they have almost all the qualities: they have finesse, spirit, pleasant taste, and even bouquet.”53 Alexander Henderson shared this appreciation of La Mancha wine in his 1824 wine guide, but for him the wine of reference was not Burgundy but Bordeaux: in certain districts some very good dry red wines are manufactured; among which those of Val de Peñas [sic], Manzanares and Ciudad Real, in the territory of La Mancha, and kingdom of New Castille, take the lead. They are in much request at Madrid, and approach in quality to some of the stronger Bordeaux wines. The soils on which they grow are, for the most part, gravelly.54 While Valdepeñas attracted the attention of early nineteenth-century writers, Rioja was rarely mentioned. When it was, it was presented as a drinkable but not outstanding red wine. A travel guide published in 1826 highlighted Rioja’s “luxuriant orchards and vineyards” without providing more details about the wine itself.55 However, neither Henderson’s wine guide nor Cyrus Redding’s Every Man His Own Butler refer to Rioja at all. And the latter’s 1833 History cites Rioja only in passing as one of the best wines of Old Castile.56 Jullien likewise gives little more than a nod to the “small province of Rioxa [sic],” without disclosing much about the wines grown there, except for a characterization of the locally predominant Tempranillo grape, recognized “as much for its taste as for the good red wines it produces.”57 One of the first travel guides to focus greater attention on Rioja was Samuel Edward Widdrington’s Spain and the Spaniards in 1843. Widdrington acknowledged that Valdepeñas was the “most celebrated wine of the interior of Spain,” but added that only a very small selection of these wines were able to achieve a “very superior quality” and that the greater

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Figure 3.5 Façade of Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

part of Valdepeñas wines suffered from “mismanagement of some art in the making,” which provoked “a heavy and disagreeable flavor.” This verdict contrasted with his view of the wines from Rioja and Lower Navarre and, perhaps for the first time, an overall judgement was rendered in favor of these: “The best wines of the interior, upon the whole, are those of Rioja and Lower Navarre, along the course of the Ebro. These are light and generous, and capable of being made as good as any in Europe.”58 Can this positive appraisal be considered reliable? Other sources were just as likely to paint a different picture, such as the one, captured in a contemporary piece of literature, that depicts a protagonist drinking this supposedly excellent Rioja as mulled wine.59 These contradictory images of Rioja persisted throughout the 1860s in the rather few mentions made to Rioja wine by travelers and other writers. On the one hand, we find descriptions of the beverage as a quality wine with enormous potential, similar to Burgundy wine, but still fairly unknown: “The Rioja wine, made in the upper part of the Ebro valley, is of good quality, somewhat resembling Burgundy, and would probably find favour in England if better known.”60 On the other, there are contrasting assessments. A report on Spain’s economy and trade referred to Rioja simply as a wine that was exported to France and England “for the manufacture of claret and port.”


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According to this source, out of the total exports for 1860, about three fourths of the value were due to exports from Catalonia and Rioja, while the remainder were mostly for sherry and Málaga wines. Again, we face the dual reality of traditional Rioja wine. It was good and attractive enough to be shipped and sold abroad, but its provenance quickly disappeared and found its way to the consumer as an unspecified blend, perhaps under the label of a famous Médoc Château.61 In a popular travel guide on Spain and Portugal, first published in 1865, Rioja did not figure among the best wines of the country; in addition to sherry and Málaga, the preferred reds hailed from Valdepeñas, Arganda (near Madrid) and Benicarló (province Castellón in the Valencia region). Without attracting any special attention, Rioja was described as a “good,” but also “heady” wine. Once more, the guide’s author expressed his empathetic belief that Spanish wines might have a great future: “When the Spanish red wines become better known, Bordeaux will sustain a serious competition.” But for this to happen, it was absolutely necessary to modernize the process of wine growing: “Were the vines better cultivated and the elaboración better attended to, this wine, the produce of Burgundian vines transplanted here, would bear exportation and enjoy great reputation.” The author was referring here to Valdepeñas, the wine he considered the best Spanish “vin ordinaire.”62 When this guide was published, several modernization initiatives in the Spanish wine sector had already occurred or were still under way. The idea of making a new wine targeting a new public (i.e., emerging middle- and upperclass gourmets, who appreciated a quality wine and was willing to pay for it) was taking hold in the minds of some adventurous outsiders. Yet the stage for these innovative efforts was not Valdepeñas. It was Rioja.

Notes 1 Elias’s book was first published in German in 1939. In English, see Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process. Sociogenetic and Psycogenetic Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). Bourdieu’s 1979 book is available in English. See Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 2010). 2 Charles Ludington, The Politics of Wine in Britain. A New Cultural History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 5. 3 Ibid., 255. 4 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 (New York: Vintage Books, 1996). 5 William Kitchiner, The Cook’s Oracle and Housekeeper’s Manual (London: Harper & Cliff, 1830 [first: 1817]). 6 Rebecca L. Spang, The Invention of the Restaurant. Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2020 [first: 2000]), 1–2. 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 English translation quoted in Jane Thompson, “Gastronomic Literature, Modern Cuisine and the Development of French Bourgeois Identity from 1800 to 1850,”

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10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29



32 33 34


History Honors Papers 9 (2011),, 39 [accessed August 2, 2021]. Alexandre Balthazar Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, Manuel des amphitryons (Paris: Capelle et Renand, 1808), 323, 344 (here and for all following French texts: author’s translation). Honoré Blanc, Le guide des dineurs ou statistique des principaux restaurants de Paris (Paris: Chez les Marchands de Nouveautés, 1814), 3–6. Kitchiner, viii–ix, 17. Thompson, 48–49. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût, ou méditations de gastronomie transcendente (Paris: Gabriel de Gonet, 1848 [first: 1826]), 121. Ibid., 123–145. Marie-Antoine Carême, L’art de la cuisine française au XIXe siècle (Paris: Chez L’Auteur, 1833), lvix, lx. Rod Phillips, French Wine: A History (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), 104–105. Alexandre B. L. Grimod de la Reynière, Almanach des gourmands (Paris: L’Imprimerie de Cellot, 1810), 64. Grimod, Manuel, 292–300. André Jullien, Manuel du sommelier, ou instruction pratique sur la manière de soigner les vins (Paris: L. Colas, 1822 [3.edition, first: 1813]), i. Ibid., 5. Jullien defined the wine’s “final level of maturity” as the one “beyond which it loses its strength and taste.” Cyrus Redding, History and Description of Modern Wines (London: Whittaker & Co., 1836 [first: 1833]). The other quotation is from Ludington, 243. Cyrus Redding, Every Man His Own Butler (London: Whittaker & Co., 1839). Redding, Butler, vi. Ibid. Ibid., xii. Ibid., xiii. Kym Anderson and Vicente Pinilla (eds.), Wine Globalization. A New Comparative History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 55. “Chaptal’s work is often seen as a major turning point in the history of winemaking.” See Harry P. Paul, Science, Vine, and Wine in Modern France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 123. Rod Phillips has correctly observed that the popularity of Chaptal’s ideas and proposals was not due to the two volumes of his Theoretical and Practical Treaty, but to a brief summary published in the same year and written by the chemist Antoine-Alexis Cadet de Vaux entitled The Art of Making Wine, According to the Method of Chaptal. See Phillips, 131–132. “Perhaps after having achieved paradigm status, Pasteur’s book became the classic text of oenologists, at least after they invented themselves in the late nineteenth century … As oenology developed, it grew less Pasteurian; but it was rigorously Pasteurian for a couple of generations.” See Paul, 155. Ludington, 239. In his book, Ludington rejects as too simplistic the classical thesis that in the UK Whigs drank port because of their hatred of the French, while Tories drank claret because of their admiration for France and the Bourbon monarchy. Anderson and Pinilla, 57. Grimod, Manuel, 298. It is uncertain which wine Redding is referring to with “Pontac.” It may be a reference to a Bordeaux wine since Arnaud de Pontac was a prestigious Bordelais winemaker and owner of Château Haut-Brion in the 16th century. See Redding,



36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51

52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62

Taste and status Every Man, viii; Grimod, Manuel, 294; André Jullien, Topographie de tous les vignobles connus (Paris: L. Colas, 1816), 102. On the price list given by Blanc the author gives the value of “1 fr. 10 s..” “S” very probably refers to “sous,” a traditional French coin that was worth 5 cents beginning with the institution of the decimal system in 1793. Accordingly, “10 s.” would be 50 cents. See Blanc, 38–112. Grimod, Almanach, 206. Ibid. Brillat-Savarin, 17. Alexander Henderson, The History of Ancient and Modern Wines (London: Baldwin, Cradook and Joy, 1824), 179–183. Redding, History, 97. Redding, Butler, 37, 41, 45. Phillips, 140. Jullien, Topographie, 203–204, 209–210. Blanc, 38–112. Redding, History, 181–182. For what follows see the chapter on Spain, 181–200. Ibid., 183. Ibid., 186. Ibid., 195. Ibid., 186–187. Spain in 1866 (Odds and Ends, no. 16), 33. The idea that Valdepaña’s wine’s celebrity was due to its production, trade and promotion by well-connected local aristocrats in Madrid is highlighted by Carlos J. Rubio Martínez, “La comercialización del vino de Valdepeñas en Madrid a principios del siglo XIX,” in Actas I Congreso Ciudad Real y su provincia (Ciudad Real: Instituto de Estudios Manchegos, 2015), 421–428. A similar argument is provided by Antonio Bermúdez García-Moreno and Teodoro Sánchez-Migallón Jiménez, Bodegas emblemáticas de Manzanares 1900–1936 (Córdoba: Digital Asus, 2020). Redding, History, 183–184; Redding, Every Man, 29–30. Jullien, Topographie, 343. Henderson, 195. James Duncan, The Modern Traveller: Spain and Portugal, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1826), 150. Redding, History, 186. Jullien, Topographie, 342 and 335. Samuel Edward Widdrington, Spain and the Spaniards in 1843, vol. 1 (London: T. & W. Boone, 1844), 410. Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 72 (35), no. 446, December 1852, 703 [“Major Moss”]. The Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. 13, no. 13, 1861, 5. Spain in 1866, 32. Henry O’Shea, Guide to Spain and Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 4th edition, 1869 [first: 1865]), xliv, xlvii, 64.

References Anderson, Kym and Vicente Pinilla (eds.), Wine Globalization: A New Comparative History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018). Bermúdez García-Moreno, Antonio and Teodoro Sánchez-Migallón Jiménez, Bodegas emblemáticas de Manzanares 1900–1936 (Córdoba: Digital Asus, 2020).

Taste and status


Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 72 (35), no. 446, December1852. Blanc, Honoré, Le guide des dineurs ou statistique des principaux restaurants de Paris (Paris: Chez les Marchands de Nouveautés, 1814). Bourdieu, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (London: Routledge, 2010). Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme, Physiologie du goût, ou méditations de gastronomie transcendente (Paris: Gabriel de Gonet, 1848 [first: 1826]). Carême, Marie-Antoine, L’art de la cuisine française au XIXe siècle (Paris: Chez L’Auteur, 1833). Duncan, James, The Modern Traveller: Spain and Portugal, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1826). Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. 13, no. 13, 1861. Elias, Norbert, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). Grimod de la Reynière, Alexandre Balthazar Laurent, Almanach des gourmands (Paris: L’Imprimerie de Cellot, 1810). Grimod de la Reynière, Alexandre Balthazar Laurent, Manuel des amphitryons (Paris: Capelle et Renand, 1808). Henderson, Alexander, The History of Ancient and Modern Wines (London: Baldwin, Cradook and Joy, 1824). Hobsbawm, Eric J., The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 (New York: Vintage Books, 1996). Jullien, André, Manuel du sommelier, ou instruction pratique sur la manière de soigner les vins (Paris: L. Colas, 3rd edition, 1822 [first: 1813]). Jullien, André, Topographie de tous les vignobles connus (Paris: L. Colas, 1816). Kitchiner, William, The Cook’s Oracle and Housekeeper’s Manual (London: Harper & Cliff, 1830 [first: 1817]). Ludington, Charles, The Politics of Wine in Britain: A New Cultural History (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). O’Shea, Henry, Guide to Spain and Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 4th edition, 1869 [first: 1865]). Paul, Harry P., Science, Vine, and Wine in Modern France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Phillips, Rod, French Wine: A History (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2016). Redding, Cyrus, Every Man His Own Butler (London: Whittaker & Co., 1839). Redding, Cyrus, History and Description of Modern Wines (London: Whittaker & Co., 1836 [first: 1833]). Rubio Martínez, Carlos J., “La comercialización del vino de Valdepeñas en Madrid a principios del siglo XIX,” in Actas I Congreso Ciudad Real y su provincia (Ciudad Real: Instituto de Estudios Manchegos, 2015), 421–428. Spang, Rebecca L., The Invention of the Restaurant. Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2020 [first: 2000]). Thompson, Jane, “Gastronomic Literature, Modern Cuisine and the Development of French Bourgeois Identity from 1800 to 1850,” History Honors Papers 9 (2011), (accessed August 2, 2021). Widdrington, Samuel Edward, Spain and the Spaniards in 1843, vol. 1 (London: T. & W. Boone, 1844).

Figure 4.1 Cleaning the bottles at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


A voice in the wilderness

Most inventions in history originated in the minds of individuals who frequently had to struggle with public skepticism or even rejection due to what for many were nothing but exotic fantasies with uncertain outcomes. Inventors were daring adventurers determined to break through and overcome the customs, habits, and thoughts of their time, even though this transgression was likely to provoke personal headaches and financial damage. At worst, they became lone voices in the wilderness, brushed off or ignored; at best, initial rejection gave way to future respect and triumph. For these latter, successful innovations never come out of the blue. On the contrary, they are usually the fruit of a patient absorption of many previous efforts; a process that coalesces through the fusion of new ideas and the refinement of previous proposals within a more favorable context. Many successful innovations arose out of the ashes left by prior experiments that had failed or faded away almost unnoticed. This was true for the new quality Rioja wine. It could only be invented because the protagonists were able to build upon the experience made by previous modernizing initiatives, which foreshadowed some of the core ideas that years later shaped the new Rioja wine labeled Medoc Alavés. Before this wine was invented, made its way to the Queen’s table and started conquering the palates of wine lovers all over the world, there had been various attempts to make the leap from theory to practice that, nevertheless, did not prosper and eventually remained mere anecdotes. We should briefly touch on the two most emblematic of such initiatives. The first of these experiments took place in the province of Álava, more precisely in the village of Labastida, about half a century before the Medoc Alavés was created and within the setting of a wine-growing region that was suffering the consequences of the overproduction crisis mentioned above. Its protagonist was a family of wealthy landowners, the Quintanos, and especially Manuel Esteban Quintano, born in Labastida in 1756. Manuel embarked on an ecclesiastical career, furthering his studies in Bayonne. He was ordained a priest and in 1782 he obtained a canonry with the help of his relative, the Grand Inquisitor Manuel Quintano Bonifaz. Manuel Esteban combined his vocation in the Church with his interest in winemaking, which led him to turn an official visit to the Cathedral Chapter of Bordeaux in 1785 DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-4


A voice in the wilderness

into an opportunity to discover some of the secrets of Bordeaux winemaking. After observing two vintages, Quintano entered a competition for the best proposal to increase the sales of wine from Álava, organized in 1787 by the Real Sociedad de Amigos del País, the aforementioned association of enlightened Basque elites. In this paper he describes his experiences among the Médoc winegrowers and reflects on the differences between the production of this famous French wine and the one produced in the Rioja. Because of its historical importance, it is worth reproducing here a relevant part of the text, one of the first documents that established a comparison between the Médoc and Rioja: 1 2 3


That the soil of the vineyards of Bordeaux and Medoc is generally a mixture of sand and gravel [“cascajo menudo”]. That the grapes are those, which in the Rioja are called Gracianas … That the way of making wine there is reduced to treading the grapes after they are brought from the vineyards in low wooden troughs [“lagares”] wide enough to be handled without the treaders being uncomfortable and with a bit less than a meter of depth with a certain slope so that the must runs to the lowest part. As the must is pressed, the stalk is removed, separating it entirely with a harpoon, and without using it in the press as in the Rioja, which undoubtedly gives the wine very bad qualities. The must which comes out after treading the grapes is poured into a large bucket of boards, which in the Rioja is called a ‘tina’, and it is there that the must alone, with some skins which came out of the press, undergoes fermentation, which raises to the surface of the must the grains and skins and consequently the cruder particles of the wine, leaving the purest and lightest part of it below. At the point at which the fermentation slows down, the wine is removed from the bottom, which is usually after four or six days depending on the heat of the atmosphere. Once the wine is removed from the vat, it is placed in the barrels and at appropriate times the racking and clarification are carried out … And finally I observe that in the Rioja the must is boiled and fermented with all the skins and stalk, and that it is also pressed with the greatest force; and also that it is not clarified here nor is it racked as in France, for which reason Rioja wine cannot be so pleasing to the eye and palate and as it is so full of earthy parts it cannot be kept for long, much less transported to distant countries without being putrefied by heat or other causes.1

Thus, Quintano had the expertise and the means to start producing at his Labastida estate, together with his brothers Diego and José Vicente, a new wine unknown to other winemakers. After a small consignment of the new wine was sent to England, he made a new shipment of greater volume – both in barrels and bottles – to Havana and Veracruz in 1795. In view of the success obtained by Quintano, and the favorable treatment he received from the

A voice in the wilderness


government in the form of tax advantages, the Labastida winegrowers began to rebel. Faced with these protests, the municipality of Labastida passed precepts in 1801 regulating the sale of wine in the town. Among the various provisions adopted, there was one that established a common price for all the wine sold in the town. Manuel Quintano, the most affected by these ordinances, appealed to the Council of Castile based on the following arguments: The common wines of Rioxa [sic], because of the bad method by which they are made, are full of lees and tartaric acid, hence it comes that they cannot be imported to America without being lost, either because of the heat of the tropics, or with the shocks of the ship, the lees and tartar are mixed with the wine, which inevitably leads [to] an acid fermentation; on the contrary, the wines made by the Bordeaux method, as they are purified of one and the other, are free of these inconveniences. This has been experienced having sent it to Havana, Vera Cruz and Mexico, where it arrived in the best state [in] several expeditions that have been made. This proves that it would be very detrimental to the development of this industry if these wines had to be sold at the same price as the other common wines … It would also be an injustice to force these wines to be sold at the same price as the other common wines, because for the aforementioned reasons they need other care and attention and more costly operations, and in order for them to be more secure from being lost on the ship it is necessary to keep them for at least a year, having experienced that they can be kept for much longer and thus arrive better.2 Labastida’s winegrowers did not remain silent and defended their position against what they considered a quest for personal profit. According to this interpretation, “the new method has been for him a pretext to break away from the common rules and make his fortune, or increase it on the ruins of the unhappy Labastida winegrowers.”3 The lawsuit lasted for several years, during which the Council’s decisions oscillated between agreeing with Quintano and confirming the validity of Labastida’s precepts. Although the ultimate resolution to the legal conflict is not known, we do know that Quintano’s project did not come to fruition. It may be that Quintano, in an effort to restore peace with his neighbors, gave up on the venture. Equally possible is that the Napoleonic invasion and the War of Independence, years of great political, social and economic instability, fostered an atmosphere that was not at all favorable for the realization of innovative projects. Manuel Quintano died in 1818. Some decades later, a military officer picked up the gauntlet thrown down by the ecclesiastic modernizer Quintano. Luciano Murrieta belonged to a Biscayan family that had made its fortune in Peru.4 He was born in Arequipa in 1822. Thanks to his father’s friendship with the liberal general Baldomero Espartero, Luciano came into contact with this crucial figure of progressive liberalism as an adolescent. He began a military career in Spain and soon joined Espartero’s entourage. After his military victory, Espartero occupied


A voice in the wilderness

Figure 4.2 The backyard, the cooperage and barrels at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

the positions of Prime Minister and Regent of the Kingdom successively in 1840 and 1841 during the minority reign of Isabel II. These were turbulent times, greatly marked by the impact of different military leaders on the country’s politics, which, according to the constellation of forces at a given moment, alternated between moderate and progressive liberalism. It was in this context that Espartero, who bore the title “Duke of Victory” since his triumph over the Carlists, was stripped of his regency by Ramón María Narváez and forced into exile in 1843. In July of that year, he embarked at Cádiz on a ship bound for London with his aide-de-camp, Luciano Murrieta. Once settled in the British capital, Espartero and Murrieta moved in circles frequented by members of the political and social establishment, where, as already indicated, savoring good wine had become a marker of social status. It was here that Murrieta became aware of the poor consideration the British had for Spanish wine. He described it as follows in his Memoirs, written after returning to Spain at the end of 1847, when Espartero and Murrieta took up residence in Logroño, where the former’s wife owned extensive properties devoted to agriculture and viticulture: I was in England in the company of the Duke of Victory, suffering the consequences of forced expatriation for our political ideas and constantly

A voice in the wilderness


seeing the great esteem, even veneration, that is given to good wine there, and on returning to Logroño and observing that in many cases wine was used to make mortar, as it was cheaper than water, we could not help but feel sorry that a wealth whose defect was none other than its terrible elaboration was going down the drain.5 We know nothing about the characteristics of the new wine that Murrieta began to make, nor about its manufacturing process. Yet we do know that he succeeded in obtaining a wine that was suitable for long journeys and appreciated by customers. Thus, in 1851 Murrieta sent 50 barrels of the new wine to Havana and another 50 to Mexico. There is evidence that those shipped to Havana arrived well and that the wine received praise from the Captain General and Governor of Cuba, who personally purchased one of the barrels. The Logroño’s local press also reported that similar enthusiastic responses to the wine were arriving from other parts of the peninsula and abroad. It is worth noting that these sources made the not insignificant observation that Murrieta distributed the wine under the prestigious name and title of the Duque de la Victoria and not his own. This being so, it is difficult to calculate how much of the praise was due to the quality of the new wine rather than Espartero’s prestige and fame. Were the encomiums simply the result of a desire to honor that important figure in Spanish politics, fighter for the “Spanish fatherland” in the former colonies and victor against the Carlists? A similar question may be posed concerning the four wines Murrieta presented under the name “Duque de la Victoria” to the great Agricultural Exhibition held in Madrid in 1857. Contrary to what Borrell affirms, without having consulted the original source, none of Murrieta’s wines competed “with the Medoc label.”6 These were the wines entered into competition: Wine Albaflor [?], 1848. Claret, 1848. Logroño, tempranillo, 1848. Malvasía, 1848. As we can see, all these wines were aged, but none that could resemble a Médoc according to this brief description was awarded a prize. This may come as a surprise if we are to believe the accolades that had been disseminated a few years earlier. The Malvasía wine, awarded the Silver Medal by the jury, had little to do with a Médoc; and the references that were made to Médoc in the jury’s report were from other regions. The wine was described as a “fortified wine” (“vino generoso”), which was apparently a sort of sparkling wine. This, at least, is what the jury’s comment suggested in their justification of Murrieta’s award, which highlighted the necessity of “promoting in Spain the production of sparkling wines … so rare on this side of the Pyrenees,” as frequent in Champagne, Anjou and banks of the Rhine and the Elbe, among other parts of Europe.7


A voice in the wilderness

Did Murrieta expect more out of this important exhibition than a single medal, and only a silver one at that? There are no reliable data that would allow us to find a clear answer to this question. What is certain is that shortly after his participation in the Exposition, Murrieta surprisingly ceased his winemaking activities. In his Memoirs, Murrieta attributes the decision to a scarcity of means as well as his unwillingness to settle permanently, preferring instead to continue traveling and living in different places. Ultimately, the cessation was only temporary. Years later Murrieta recovered his old fondness for wine and never abandoned it again. The impetus for this change of heart, he wrote, came from a traveler he chanced upon, who told him that he had tasted his wine from a barrel that had survived a shipwreck. This traveler added that he was amazed by the enormous quality of the wine. Murrieta, who had been ennobled by Amadeo I, King of Spain from 1870 to 1873, with the title of Marqués de Murrieta, returned to Logroño in 1877 and acquired the Ygay estate.8 There he built his now famous winery. By then, however, the wine sector in the neighboring province of Álava had already been impacted by the development of an innovative experiment which, in the long term, was to have much greater significance than its promoters could have imagined at the time.

Notes 1 Quoted according to Quintano’s brief biography published in Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia, (accessed February 24, 2021); Luis Vicente Elías Pastor et al., El Rioja a la luz de un archive familiar. Galo Lucas de Pobes Quintano Gómez de Gayangos, pionero del Rioja (Logreoño: [no publisher], 2021), 47–104. 2 Quoted in Alain Huetz de Lemps, “La lucha tenaz de Manuel Quintano a favor de la calidad de los vinos riojanos (1787–1806),” Berceo, 129 (1995), 169–174 (quotation: 172). 3 Extract of a text signed by Lázaro de Soto in the name of the town council and the winegrowers on July 1, 1803, quoted ibid., 173. 4 On Murrieta’s biography see María Dolores Borrell Merlín, “Historia y cultura del Rioja: el Marqués de Murrieta,” Berceo, 150, (2006), 169–188; Francisco Javier Gómez, Logroño histórico (Logroño: Estab. Tip. de la Rioja, 1885), 157–163. 5 Quoted according to Borrell, 176. 6 Ibid., 178. 7 Memoria sobre los productos de la agricultura española, 992. 8 There is some confusion about the exact date of the founding of the Ygay winery. According to Huetz de Lemps, Vignobles, 532, the acquisition was made in 1870, which is almost certainly an error. Murrieta himself dates the meeting with the traveler to 1875 and adds that he bought Ygay “years later” (Gómez, 157–163). Borrell also places the purchase of Ygay in 1877, adding that “in 1878, the year of Espartero’s death, he founded ‘Château Ygay’” (178). In any case, wine production probably began before 1877, since a year later Murrieta presented his wines at the Paris World’s Fare. At the 1877 wine exhibition in Madrid, on the other hand, he was not present.

A voice in the wilderness


References Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia, (accessed February 24, 2021). Borrell Merlín, María Dolores, “Historia y cultura del Rioja: el Marqués de Murrieta,” Berceo, 150 (2006), 169–188. Elías Pastor, Luis Vicenteet al., El Rioja a la luz de un archive familiar. Galo Lucas de Pobes Quintano Gómez de Gayangos, pionero del Rioja (Logreoño: [no publisher], 2021). Gómez, Francisco Javier, Logroño histórico (Logroño: Estab. Tip. de la Rioja, 1885). Huetz de Lemps, Alain, “La lucha tenaz de Manuel Quintano a favor de la calidad de los vinos riojanos (1787–1806),” Berceo, 129 (1995), 169–174. Huetz de Lemps, Alain, Vignobles et vins du nord-ouest de l’Espagne, 2 vols. (Bordeaux: Féret et Fils, 1967). Memoria sobre los productos de la agricultura española reunidos en la Exposición General de 1857 (Madrid, 1859–1861).

Figure 5.1 Bodegas Bilbaínas’s staff (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


The Médoc connection Transnational knowledge transfer or industrial espionage?

The mid-nineteenth-century Rioja was an important European winegrowing region that was known to international gourmets, but did not enjoy any special esteem. Inhabitants of this crisis-ridden region endured the pernicious impact of wine depreciation due to overproduction as well as the damage to vines caused by frost or fungal diseases. The few attempts to find a way out of the crisis through innovation and the production of quality wine remained unheard voices in the wilderness. Their protagonists were too modern and suspicious for a rural and backward society attached to tradition, religion and conservative mindsets. Given this complex and adverse historical reality, it seems almost a miracle that, only a few years after Quintano’s and Murrieta’s failure, another modernizing experiment would arise from that very same traditionalist setting; one that eventually revolutionized Rioja’s winemaking through the invention of a new wine that came to delight wine lovers and gourmets in Spain and around the world. How was this possible? One general answer to this question, together with other more specific responses, will be outlined in this chapter. The broader answer is derived from our knowledge of the nineteenth century. This age of nations and nationalisms was also an era characterized by new political ideologies, growing scientification of human life, railways and industry, mass migrations and the first wave of economic and communicative globalization, which facilitated the transfer of scientific knowledge and technological skills across national borders. Indeed, the nineteenth century was an era of paradox that witnessed the rise of nations and nationalisms possessed of increasingly porous borders, more permeable to the transmission and exchange of knowledge than ever before.1 This is how two such extremely different winegrowing regions as Rioja and Bordeaux came together. The Médoc connection was essential for Rioja’s triumphal climb out of her chronic crisis. The opportunities afforded by the increasing ease of nineteenth-century transnational communication were taken advantage of due to a set of specific local conditions. These created a favorable context within which the invention of a new wine was no longer impossible. As I will explain DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-5


The Médoc connection

in the following pages, there were two important differences that distinguished the Medoc Alavés project from its predecessors, giving it a dynamic that previous initiatives lacked. First was the decisive involvement of such an influential and prestigious institution as the provincial government of Álava (Diputación Foral). The institution enjoyed, like its Basque provincial council counterparts, a high level of political, financial and administrative self-government, enshrined in the medieval charters, the fueros. The second, related element that made the Medoc Alavés initiative different from previous wine modernization projects were the protagonists, who were no longer limited to just a handful of more or less wealthy individuals. They now consisted of a solid tripartite coalition: the aforementioned institutional actor, the provincial government; a group of aristocrats and enlightened winegrowers; and the first representatives of a new professional group, namely, the well-trained technicians and experts in winegrowing, who would nowadays be considered enologists. The confluence of these three actors gave strength to the project, which could no longer be dismissed as the personal whim of an eccentric individual interested more in his private business than in the well-being of the collective. The participation of the highest political and administrative institution in Álava, combined with that of technical experts trained to help growers who made their living from wine, lent prestige to the project from the start. The province’s recognized role in defending the interests of all of Álava’s people, and the perception that experts possessed no vested financial interest in their work, helped reassure winegrowers who had once expressed suspicion when confronted with proposals of uncertain outcome. The first steps taken by the regional government, the Diputación Foral, to promote improvements in winemaking as a remedy against the crisis of overproduction occurred three decades before the start of the Medoc Alavés experiment. They began with a dramatic wake-up call from the Procurador General, the deputy of the Laguardia wine district, who reported on the “decadent and ruinous state” in which the towns of the district found themselves “due to the impossibility of selling their wines, which form the main and almost the only part of their production.” The regional parliament endorsed these concerns, as well as the proposal that “in their current situation there is hardly any other option than to improve the elaboration of wines.” The resolution added – as if to draw conclusions from Manuel Quintano’s frustrating experience in Labastida – that this innovation could not be carried out by the winegrowers themselves, which was nothing else than an implicit call for local government institutions to assume leadership in paving the way towards a new Rioja wine: These improvements cannot be made by individual winegrowers who find a powerful obstacle in public opinion, and even in the concerns of their neighbors, while lacking of the additional resources that are necessary for providing a new impulse to the sales.2

The Médoc connection


This debate gave rise to the aforementioned circular written by the Deputy General Valentín Verástegui, who sent a questionnaire on the subject to authorities in the Rioja Alavesa and other Rioja towns and villages. Its thirteen questions, aimed at gathering the relevant information necessary to undertake reforms in the winemaking process, can be read as a catalog of the main problems afflicting traditional Rioja wine at the time. Because of its historical importance, it is worth quoting here a long excerpt from this unique document: 1 Which vines are those which bear fruit most abundantly in the Rioja Alavesa region, and which bear the least? 2 Which are those which give the sweetest taste, which the most acidic, and which the hardest …? 3 What tastes and qualities are distinguished in the wine made from each of these species of grape separately, and which are distinguished in the blend with equal parts of varieties, or which using more or less grapes from a certain variety? 4 What soils are the most suitable for the best grapes? 5 What taste is most appreciated in the different countries to which Rioja wine is taken for consumption, distinguishing the taste of the sedentary classes and that of those who devote themselves to farm work and other stronger ones? 6 What alterations does wine undergo in its transport? 7 What difference is there between wine made from perfectly ripe grapes, and that made from more or less green grapes, both as to taste and vigor, and as to its duration? 8 Will it be convenient to continue harvesting the grapes at one time as is customary, mixing the ripe fruit with the unripe fruit, or will it be more useful to harvest them two or three times, limiting each time to the ripest grapes? 9 What is the elaboration that should be given to the wine so that it comes out with spirit and smoothness? 10 Should the fermentation be carried out in large or small barrels, or in the same vats in which they are deposited? 11 Will it be convenient to multiply the rackings in order to strip the wine of the dregs and foreign matter that cause its alteration? 12 What improvements could be made in the present method without costing more than the country can afford, and to what extent could the improvement and perfection be increased, with what variations and expenses in case of a winegrower of, for example, one thousand cántaras [one cántara = 16.1 liters], and thus proportionally? 13 What elaboration can be given to the wines to prolong the time of their duration, and to resist the difference of climates, so that they can be transported by sea and land?3


The Médoc connection

As can be seen, there were thirteen questions, many of them very pertinent and well argued. Unfortunately, they went unanswered. In the archives of the Diputación, at least, there is no document in which any of the respondents offered their opinions on the issues raised. Apparently, it was still too early for innovative initiatives in the Rioja. This suggests the image of a forwardlooking provincial government that was stymied by small winegrowers who were too busy with their daily professional tasks to answer a lengthy survey from the Diputación. Three decades passed before the same problems and similar proposals once again occupied the regional government of Álava. The Rioja wine sector was still in a precarious situation, although the crisis of overproduction had momentarily given way to the crisis caused by powdery mildew and heavy frosts, resulting in drastic reductions in yields. As mentioned above, powdery mildew, which appeared in the form of a white ash deposited on leaves, shoots and grapes, slowed and paralyzed a vine’s growth. During the 1850s, it spread through the vineyards of Europe and entered the Iberian Peninsula through Portugal, causing its maximum impact on the vineyards of the Upper Ebro Valley in 1855.4 The consequence was a drastic reduction in production that almost made the previous problem of market surplus seem a thing of the past. Under these new circumstances, the priority of the winegrowers was to recover a sufficient level of production to ensure the livelihood of the families who depended on the monoculture of the vine. As, the situation became increasingly desperate, the issue soon occupied renewed debate in the Juntas Generales, the regional parliament of Álava. In the sessions of May 1859, the Finance Commission reported on petitions it had received from several Rioja town councils, which requested a remission of the provincial tax payment (“hoja de hermandad”) owing to the “state of poverty of those inhabitants due to the scarcity of wine harvests in recent years, which is what constitutes their main wealth.” The figures are striking. Seriously impacted by the plague and, above all, the frost, the wine production of Labastida growers dropped from an annual average of 170,000 cántaras during the previous five-year period to about 39,000 in 1858. In Salinillas, the decrease was from an average of 31,050 cántaras to 14,157 in 1858, while in Labraza and Barriobusto the decline was from 35,000 cántaras to 6,000. In order to improve the situation of the affected families and alleviate fiscal pressure, there was no choice but to grant total or partial remission of taxes.5 In Elciego, there were a total of 95 growers in 1851 who produced 80,614 cántaras of wine. After the 1861 harvest, only 68 growers remained with a total production of 52,201 cántaras of wine.6 The provincial government, however, was not satisfied with this merely reactive measure of tax relief. Political leaders were aware that time was ticking for the suffering people of Rioja and that there was an urgent need to design an effective strategy to pull the Rioja wine sector out of a crisis that, for one reason or another, had damaged the lives of growers and their families for too many years. This was the context in which José María Migueloa and

The Médoc connection


Figure 5.2 Preparing the baskets for the harvest at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

Valentín Sotés, deputies for the Laguardia district, presented a motion to the regional parliament in which they made a precise analysis of the sector’s worrying situation and put forward proposals to find a way out of the crisis. This is the gist of their motion: there is a very important branch of agriculture … in this Province: the cultivation of the vine and the manufacture of wine, which constitutes the main wealth of the Rioja. In these last few years, in which the mildew and frosts have considerably reduced production, Aragón and Navarre have come to cover the resulting deficit in consumption, and those wines which are more alcoholic than ours are being received with favor by the working people. With the decrease in the cost of transport by the railways already under construction, they will be received with increasing preference and our wines will be threatened by great competition, the result of which will undoubtedly be to take over most of the consumers we have today, and it is therefore essential to avoid the blow which can bring about the ruin of the Rioja, giving our wine the qualities it is susceptible to by means of an intelligent choice of vines and good winemaking. In this way this class of consumers will eagerly look for our wines and the railways which took away their present consumption will provide the means of seducing [customers] on other markets. [The wine] will certainly achieve a higher value and considerably increase the wealth of the country.7


The Médoc connection

To achieve this goal, and this was the conclusion of Migueloa’s and Sotés’s motion, a more active intervention was required from the highest public institution in the province, beginning with the importation of diverse vine varieties from abroad for the purposes of experimentation with the soils of Rioja Alavesa. The motion also recommended making available to growers all the tools and infrastructure necessary to improve winemaking in accordance with the most modern procedures. Several landowners had already offered to participate in such a pilot project, if the provincial government previously created the appropriate conditions because, according to the authors of the motion, “the landowners do everything in their power to improve production, but they do not have the means nor the indispensable knowledge to bring it to the desired level.” Migueloa and Sotés summarized their proposal in two concrete measures to be adopted by the government: 1 2

That different types of vines should be brought to and tested in different parts of Rioja. That a building should be constructed or made available in Laguardia with the appropriate rules, providing it with the necessary elements to test the improvements of which the manufacture of wines is susceptible.8

Now, at the end of the 1850s, this motion fell on fertile and more mature ground. On the one hand, everyone shared the impression that the situation in Rioja was no longer sustainable and that something had to be done. On the other, those in charge of the provincial government had been thinking for some time about measures to overcome the crisis and were adopting concrete decisions to improve the productivity of agriculture in the province. Along these lines, it is worth mentioning the creation of a School for Agriculture, the “Granja Modelo” (later: Escuela Práctica de Agricultura) in 1854. Based on similar experiments that were being carried out in Germany and France, and making use of its autonomy guaranteed by the fueros, the provincial government created this establishment in order to train the first agricultural professionals and facilitate the application of the latest scientific knowledge to the different fields of agriculture. The Granja Modelo was a pioneer in the Spanish state and a model that was to be followed by later institutions. Its first director was Eugenio Garagarza y Dugiols. He was from the Basque province of Gipuzkoa, where his father was a pharmacist in the town of Tolosa. Eugenio was one of two students who received scholarships endowed by the provincial government of Gipuzkoa to study agricultural engineering for two years in France, specifically at the famous Grignon Agricultural School, which had been in operation since the end of the 1820s. After finishing his studies, Garagarza left Gipuzkoa to join the Granja Modelo as director, replacing a French expert who had been hired for a short time to start up the school. It is worth noting that Garagarza embodied the first important scientific transfer from the more advanced France to the province of Álava, a transfer which would prove to be

The Médoc connection


crucial in the development of the Medoc Alavés experiment. Using his prestigious position as head of the School for Agriculture, Garagarza was to become one of the main promoters of the innovative project. His drive was matched by Álava’s determination to spare no effort in its newfound mission to improve the situation of the wine-growing sector in the Rioja Alavesa. When, in 1860, the parliament decided to purchase guano from Peru as a fertilizer to be distributed at cost price among the winegrowers, it was Garagarza who was commissioned to draft a report with instructions on its use.9 Furthermore, there were other developments in addition to these that were conducive to the success of the Migueloa and Sotés proposal. The deputies’ motion also coincided with the private initiative of a few winemakers who had decided to try their own hand at improving the production of their wine and open up new markets by specializing the product. Thus, at the Agricultural Exhibition held in Álava in September 1861, we meet two of the winemakers who will appear more than once in the pages of this book: José María Olano, from the village of Samaniego, and Francisco de Paternina, from Labastida. Following the path laid down by Quintano and Murrieta to a degree, both had been introducing innovations into the production of their wines for some time, looking for new wines that were capable of standing out from the panorama of classic Rioja wines. From the description that Garagarza offered of these products in his report on the exhibition, it is clear that both winemakers were not yet focusing their innovative approaches exclusively on red wine, or even always on types of wines that were common in the Rioja Alavesa. Olano presented wines from the 1858 and 1859 vintages that were praised for their “good conservation” and their “qualities”: “Made with tempranilla grapes alone, they have a very good bouquet with sufficient alcohol, great cleanness of color, and a pleasant aroma that has developed especially since bottling, a year after its permanence in barrels.” Olano also exhibited a dry white wine, aged for five years, that was said to have “a clear and transparent color, is rich in alcohol and has a very pleasant taste, being recommended for its good circumstances to the palate of those who are better accustomed [to quality wine].”10 Paternina’s red wines from the poor 1860 vintage were labeled “pretty good,” although the expertise in its production was likely to elevate them to the level of “very good” in the years of normal vintages. More than Paternina’s reds, the jury admired his fortified white muscatel wine, which “brings together all the qualities of a good dessert wine.”11 It was in this atmosphere of innovation mixed with concern for Rioja’s future that the Migueloa-Sotés motion was taken up by a special committee, which proposed three concrete measures that were later approved in parliament: 1

The importation from abroad of some vine varieties in order to carry out tests “which could modify and improve the quality of the grapes currently grown in the Rioja.”


The Médoc connection


The distribution of these vines among owners on the condition that they would provide grapes from these vines for trials and later propagate the use of the varieties recommended as a result of the trials. To urge the director of the Granja Modelo to travel to the localities of the Rioja Alavesa to guide in situ the production of the wines according to the methods he considered appropriate.12


Garagarza himself later explained the rationale behind the idea of bringing vines from abroad, which sprang from a problem he had detected with the predominant grape in the Rioja, the tempranillo (or tempranilla). This variety was typical of Rioja vineyards in which there were also smaller plantations of other varieties such as “graciana, garnacho, mazuelo, blanca-roja or rojal, jaen, torrontés, malvasía.”13 The trouble with tempranillo was that “the amount of alcohol it produces is low, undoubtedly due to the low sugar content and perhaps to an excess of nitrogen [‘materias azoadas’].”14 Therefore, the aim was to identify those plants which produced “fruit with a high proportion of sugar” in order to blend it with tempranillo and “add alcohol to the wines, and thus acquire the qualities of conservation which they lack.”15 However, tempranillo should continue to be the basis of production due to its “quality of ripening perfectly and giving a good yield in the Rioja.”16 It is interesting to note that during this initial phase of the project the classic recipe for “improving” wines, which consisted of increasing the alcohol level to ensure better preservation during transport and hot summers, had not yet been completely abandoned. Garagarza confessed in this 1860 report that “our aspirations have been limited for now to giving mainly a bit more of conservation capacity to the wines that are obtained.”17 In a sense, this important report can be considered a transitional text since, in addition to its more classical elements, there are also references that go beyond classicism and suggest the project of a complete transformation of traditional methods of production. These, in the opinion of the director of the School of Agriculture, should adhere to basic and elementary rules that were not being respected by the majority of winegrowers, whose anarchic practices were said to frequently lead to pernicious results for the wine. Garagarza’s list of what he considered errors and deficiencies was long: many winegrowers treaded the grapes with their stalks before putting them into the vats; the duration of fermentation was more or less fortuitous; there was no relationship between the grape variety and the type of wine produced; not all grapes that were cultivated were suited to the local climate (for example, many winegrowers preferred the Jaén grape for special wines, although this grape rarely matured well in the Rioja). The director of the School of Agriculture concluded that this chaotic lack of scientific know-how significantly impaired the quality of the wine. But there was a solution: “There can be no doubt that reasoned and repeated trials can lead to the

The Médoc connection


establishment with some certainty of the rules that should guide a good production process.”18 Soon the 9,000 vines of nine different varieties arrived (1,000 per variety). They were as follows:       

Johannisberg Riesling, from the then already internationally renowned German vineyards of the Rheingau and, since 1816, owned by former Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich. Cabernet-Sauvignon, probably the best known and most widely used grape worldwide and the core of Bordeaux wine. Sémillon blanc, a white grape from Bordeaux. Tokay/Furmint, the famous grape for Hungarian white wine from the region of the same name. “Moissac,” which most likely refers to the Mauzac blanc grape, a white grape planted in southeastern France. “Pieponille,” which is probably an erroneous transcription of the word “picpoul” or “piquepoul,” a generally white grape planted in the Rhône Valley and Languedoc. Pinot noir, the heart of Burgundy red wine, as well as its white mutations pinot gris and pinot blanc.

The Samaniego landowner José María Olano, already mentioned as one of the protagonists of the Agricultural Exhibition of Vitoria in 1861 and president of the regional government of Álava between 1852 and 1855, was in charge of distributing the 9,000 vines to growers throughout the Rioja Alavesa.19 It is noteworthy that among these were the deputies José María Migueloa and Valentín Sotés, authors of the 1858 motion. The three well-known men joined the handful of owners who decided to participate in the trials with the imported vines, all of whom were prominent members of the social and political elite of Álava (and the Basque Country) at the time.20 One name on this list of landowners who received the foreign vines imported by the government belonged to the aristocrat who would be of crucial importance to the success of the experiment: Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga y Zubia, the Marquis of Riscal. It was the Marquis, along with his son, Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, who would establish the Médoc connection and exploit it to the benefit of Álava. Guillermo was a prominent member of the Spanish high aristocracy, landowner and a multifaceted businessman “who operated as a trader, depositary of funds, a stockbroker, a money changer, and even as a lender in his personal capacity.”21 Although Guillermo was the central actor during the initial phase of the Medoc Alavés project, the acquisition of the 9,000 vines was carried out by Camilo.22 How did an aristocrat from Biscay get so deeply involved in an innovative wine project in the Rioja? A brief look at the biography of both men, father and son, provides some answers.


The Médoc connection

Figure 5.3 Grape reception at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

Guillermo’s relationship with Álava came from birth: he was born in Vitoria, Álava’s capital, in 1794, the city where his mother came from. His marriage to Gertrudis de Balmaseda y Mateo, a native of Santo Domingo de la Calzada in 1824 – the wedding took place in the capital of Álava – strengthened his family ties with Rioja. Another link in his biography was his move from Spain to Bordeaux in 1836, in the midst of the first Carlist War. Guillermo would never leave this great wine capital and he died in Bordeaux in 1878 at the age of 84. The transfer of his residence to France has usually been interpreted as the “escape” of a wealthy businessman and enlightened and liberal aristocrat in the face of the Carlist danger. However, it seems that there were also other motives, such as a father’s concern over the successive epidemics of morbid cholera in Madrid and, above all, business considerations brought on the Marquis’s deepening ties with London and French banks. This is how his biographer describes the atmosphere in Bordeaux upon the arrival of the Hurtado de Amézaga family: Bordeaux was an ideal place to carry out his financial activities that were increasingly developing at the European level. The opulent neighborhood of bankers and merchants, installed between the New Theater, the newly built facades of the Place des Quinconces and the famous docks “des Chartrons,” through which all the wine trade passed, will be the center of the activities of Guillermo and Camilo … And in the nearby streets, the

The Médoc connection


great bankers and merchants Johnston et Fils, Barton et Guestier, or the more traditional Lafargue, Salefranque, Samazeuilh et Fils, who will manage the funds of the Marquis Guillermo, his children and grandchildren, along with the Parisian and London bankers.23 While Guillermo continued to run his multifaceted business from Bordeaux, his son Camilo – he had another brother, José Carlos – spent his time studying law in Paris and traveling around the world to establish professional contacts that would later help him in his business and journalistic endeavors. Both continued to cultivate family ties with Álava, and especially with the small wine-producing village of Elciego, where Guillermo’s three sisters had been living for some time. One of them, Marceliana, was employed by the landowner Juan Ruiz de Ubago, whose properties she inherited when he died in 1847. After Marceliana died in 1858, some of the winemaking facilities in Elciego were passed on to Guillermo, including several vineyard estates, totaling about 36 hectares according to the Property Register of Laguardia.24 Thus, in the same year in which Migueloa and Sotés presented their motion to the Diputación, the Marquis of Riscal became one of the largest landowners in the Rioja Alavesa. Meanwhile, his son Camilo seemed to prefer exploring other professional avenues. In 1858, he founded the liberal newspaper El Día in Madrid at his father’s expense. This experience, however, was short-lived because Camilo was forced to step down as the newspaper’s editor in October 1859 due to a harsh polemic against the government presided over by General Leopoldo O’Donnell.25 While his father increasingly devoted himself to his new wine business in Elciego, Camilo seemed to move definitively away from his interest in wine. After managing the acquisition of the vines, he began a diplomatic career in 1862 that took him to London. A few months later, however, the new embassy attaché asked for a three-month leave of absence in order to return to Spain and recover from health problems. This leave of absence was denied and, although the sources are vague, from this moment on they indicate that Camilo had successive stays in London, Madrid and Bordeaux. What is certain is that he did not return to his post and was expelled from the diplomatic corps in 1865. Still, these years were not unproductive, for Camilo found the time to write the 320 pages of his book, entitled Ensayo sobre la práctica del gobierno parlamentario (“essay on the practice of parliamentary government”), a book in which he defends a moderate constitutional parliamentary system based on the principle of free trade and the English model of the “quiet revolution,” as well as on an interpretation of the Basque foral system as an ancient yet simultaneously modern example of the management of the res publica. A year later, in 1866, he married Juana Zavala y Guzmán, scion of the Guzmán de la Cerda lineage, a family belonging to Spain’s high aristocracy. These new familial ties helped Camillo increase his wealth significantly and would give him “the financial autonomy and the first capital needed for his agricultural and industrial projects.” It was from this moment


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that Camilo gradually began to take over the reins of the Elciego business. After the death of his other son José Carlos in 1875, Guillermo named Camilo heir to all his Elciego properties. Camilo was now the official owner of the Elciego business, which was centered around the recently constructed winery that his father had commissioned to the engineer Ricardo Bellsolá, a native of Logroño who completed his work at the end of 1868 after drawing inspiration from several trips to the Médoc. The senior Marquis de Riscal soon became a point of convergence for the nascent constellation of groups and individuals involved in Rioja’s wine experiment. The personal ties he had formed within the Bordeaux wine world during his residence there, combined with his extensive economic interests in the Rioja Alavesa, made Riscal an ideal person to consolidate the Médoc-Rioja Alavesa connection. He acted as an intermediary in the transfer of necessary technical know-how from the world center of quality wine to a small Spanish province, where a few daring people were considering the Bordeaux example as a remedy for the crisis that the traditional wine sector was suffering. In order to achieve this aim, however, it was necessary to go a step further in the philosophy that inspired the Álava project and bet more decisively on a new wine and a new clientele, thus relinquishing the classic idea of stabilizing the wine through an increase of alcohol as the main way out of the crisis. The gourmets and lovers of fine wine who were emerging in the most developed countries of Europe desired bouquet, not alcohol. We have seen above that it was the search for stronger wines that had inspired the director of the Granja Modelo to acquire vines from France. After determining that it would take time for experimentation with the new varieties to yield results in Rioja Alavesa’s vineyards, Garagarza also took steps to advance the project in the short term. Given it would be “many years before the current vineyard could be changed,” he concluded that it was advisable “to use the existing elements, improving the methods followed in the production of wines, which are undoubtedly susceptible to very advantageous modifications.” And these modifications should no longer be aimed at producing wines with a higher alcohol content, since the Rioja Alavesa was located “at the limit of vine cultivation” and therefore “does not lend itself to the production of wines rich in alcohol” comparable to those of Aragón, Navarre and, in general, to all Spanish wines produced in warm regions under the influence of the Mediterranean climate. To avoid competition from these wines and to prevent “a crisis with fatal consequences,” it was necessary to go for wines “of good quality, which would be received with great appreciation by wealthy people who wished for low-alcoholic beverages.” It would be a matter of making wines “of good aroma and pleasant taste that can be drunk in sufficient quantity without tiring the stomach and without damaging the head,” a wine, in short, that “will be sought after by consumers willing to pay better than those they have today.” It is worth noting that Garagarza, who had been trained in France, had already internalized the new concern of

The Médoc connection


Figure 5.4 Vats at Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

the emerging new middle classes for a healthy diet, a topic that we have developed in one of the previous sections. From all these reflections Garagarza came to the conclusion that achieving the new objectives involved learning from the Médoc, but not copying the famous Bordeaux wines to present a plagiarism of them on the market. The idea was different: to acquire the scientific and technical knowledge developed and perfected so successfully in the world metropolis of quality wine in order to use and adapt it to the specific conditions of the Rioja and thus achieve “a wellmade Rioja wine.” In the opinion of the director of the School of Agriculture, this transfer could only take place through investment in human capital, or, in other words, by recruiting an expert who would bring with him all the winemaking secrets, which for many years had been the basis of success in Bordeaux: For the trials that must lead to this result we consider it indispensable to have the experience of a practical man accustomed to all the work of manufacture at a place where it is well understood, and it seemed to us that a person well acquainted with the methods followed in Bordeaux might be the most suitable not to try to make in Rioja wine of the Medoc, Château Lafite, Château Margaux and the like, but well-made Rioja wine.26


The Médoc connection

As can be seen, Garagarza already had things clear. He had abandoned the classic idea of increasing alcohol and replaced it with the proposal to create a new wine in the Rioja. He was so sure that this was the way forward that he began to calculate the cost of hiring an expert and acquiring the equipment that this person might need to carry out his task: he arrived at the sum of twelve to fourteen thousand reales a year. Said and done. Now all that was left was to give these ideas the appropriate legal and official garb. First, it was necessary to convince the highest representative of Álava, the president of the regional government Ramón Ortiz de Zárate. In April 1862, Ortiz de Zárate received the proposal from Garagarza on the measures to be adopted in order to carry out the decision of the parliament (“Juntas Generales”) with respect to the improvement of wine production: For this purpose it would be essential to have the cooperation of an experienced person, accustomed to the work of [wine] manufacture in a foreign place where it is well understood, and as the Department of the Gironde in the neighboring Empire is distinguished by the good methods used in the elaboration, I went to Bordeaux in order to find out the conditions that would be imposed by the person who would be in charge of carrying out the tests …. The permanence of that person in Rioja should be extended for two or three years. His fees and the cost of the equipment he might need would amount to some twenty-four to thirty thousand reales in two or three years. The owners, convinced of the usefulness that these tests could bring them, are willing to contribute as much as is necessary for their execution, placing at the disposal of the Province the fruit that it might need as well as their cellars and wine presses [lagares]: consequently, the expenses would be limited to those indicated above. In view of these arguments, the president had almost no choice but to give his approval to the proposal: the budget was affordable and the owners were willing to collaborate. Furthermore, Garagarza added one further argument just in case, calling attention to the “forthcoming opening of several railroad lines.” This new infrastructure would create “new commercial conditions” for which the province had to prepare itself and he considered it “of utmost importance” to start with the new processing methods in the following vintage.27 Garagarza was referring to the construction of the Tudela-Bilbao railway, which would be inaugurated in 1864. This new railroad linked the main wine-growing areas of Navarre and La Rioja with both the port of Bilbao, which meant access to the world market, and the Madrid-Irún line in Miranda de Ebro, which wended its way to the French border. This new means of transport would revolutionize the wine trade, which until then, as we have already mentioned, had been transported mainly in large leather pipes on carts pulled by mules or horses. After the president’s placet, the issue still had to go through parliament, which happened at the meeting of May 5, where the president received the

The Médoc connection


go-ahead to carry out the hiring of an expert. With this endorsement, Ortiz de Zárate was now in a position to take the final decisive step that remained. Early in June, he sent a letter to the Marquis de Riscal in Bordeaux to urge him to mediate in the hiring of an expert oenologist willing to move to the Rioja under the following conditions: The person who comes will be under the orders of the government [Diputación] and will be in charge of all the work on wine, vineyards and cooperage entrusted to him. He will also be obliged to provide all the information required on how to carry out the operations and teach them to those who wish to study them and learn about them. In the same letter, the president also reveals that it was Riscal who, at Garagarza’s request, had calculated the budget for this operation. Therefore, although the sources do not allow us to know more details, it can be assumed that the Marquis had already been preparing the ground and selecting a person to whom to make the offer as soon as the formal authorization arrived from Vitoria, Álava’s capital city. There was a sense of urgency, as there were only a few months left until the beginning of the vintage. The person selected would have to move to Rioja as soon as possible to begin all the preparations required for the production of the new wine and, above all, to begin instructing the winegrowers who would participate in the experiment. The “mayordomo,” or enologist in today’s parlance, that Riscal chose was Jean “Cadiche” Pineau. He was born in 1823 and had a long professional career, initially alongside his father, as the head of all winemaking and cooperage tasks at Château Lanessan, located in the village of Cussac-Fort-Médoc in the HauteMédoc. The estate was acquired in 1793 by the Bordeaux-based shipowner and wine merchant Jean Delbos. His son Louis inherited the property and Riscal, as he comments in one of his letters to Ortiz de Zárate, knew Louis’s brother-in-law, who had recommended Pineau to him. At the time, Château Lanessan was not formally among the absolute top wineries in the Médoc, as it was not included in the famous 1855 Grand Crus classification. Apparently, Louis Delbos decided not to submit his wines to the 1855 classification considering it “bureaucratic nonsense.”28 Yet in the mid-nineteenth century, the estate stood out for its technologically advanced production methods, as corroborated in a famous 1846 guide. Mr. Delbos, “to whom gold medals have been awarded by the Agricultural Society,” was praised for altering his cellar “by the introduction of machinery, at a considerable outlay, and thereby have brought the pressoir on a level with the cuve or vat. The saving both of time and wine is said to be great.”29 In its French 1850 edition, Cocks & Féret listed Lanessan/Delbos as a principal winemaker in Cussac, with about 100 barrels at that point.30 One year later, in his Observations sur la culture du Haut-Médoc, Alexis Joubert also singled out Delbos and Lanessan:


The Médoc connection The commune of Aveins does not offer a vineyard to be mentioned; the wines are without bouquet and without finesse, as well as in Lamarque and Cussac; there are in this last commune vines whose quality relates to those of SaintJulien, from which they are however separated by a vast marsh; they are those of M. Phélan in Sainte-Gême and of M. Delbos in Lanessan.31

In 1855, the very year in which the first official classification of Bordeaux wines was published, Armand d’Armailhacq also highlighted the innovative technological designs that Louis Delbos had applied to various tools that were utilized in the winemaking process at his estate. He did not, however, label Lanessan wine as one of the top “crus-classés,” but rather as a “bourgeois supérieur,” “which sells for almost as much as the fifth classified growths [les cinquièmes crûs classés].”32 This was very much in line with Jullien’s praise of Delbos’s wines in 1866, which he described as “mellow and very pleasantly flavored.”33 Even if it means entering into the realm of speculation, it does not seem far-fetched to advance the thesis that Château Lanessan’s standing as a prestigious, yet second-tier winery – not belonging to the small elite club made up of Lafite, Margeaux, Latour, etc. – made it easier and cheaper for Riscal to sign the winemaker he was looking for. After having found an expert who, according to the reports gathered by Riscal, met all the necessary conditions to successfully carry out the tasks entrusted to him, the rest was simple. The Marquis himself drew up a draft contract that was authorized by the President of the Diputación, who only asked for the inclusion of a clause that would allow both parties to terminate the contract if deemed necessary. Here is an extract from the contract: 1 2


Mr. Cadiche Pineau is obliged to be in Vitoria next August [1862], under the orders of the aforementioned Deputy General. The object being that he intends to introduce and henceforth practice in the province of Álava the same method followed in the department of Gironde for everything related to the vineyards, the grape harvests, the manufacture of the wines and then the operations for their conservation for several years (as is the custom in this country). Mr. Cadiche Pineau, who assures us that he possesses all the necessary knowledge that he has acquired over a long period of practice, undertakes not only to put it into practice in the villages that will be designated, but also to communicate it to the persons who will be chosen for the purpose so that all the knowledge he has will be spread throughout the Province of Álava and also among the administrators [“mayordomos”] of the various owners of that country, from whom he will have to draw good disciples. He will also communicate to the cooperage workers … and will do all that is necessary himself. Mr. Cadiche Pineau’s residence will be in the vineyard country of the province of Álava, called Rioja Alavesa, which includes different towns and villages that are not far from each other and which will be designated

The Médoc connection



to him at the appropriate time either by the Deputy General or by the person he designates for this purpose. The fees of Mr. Cadiche Pineau are fixed at the sum of three thousand francs per year. Travel expenses from Bordeaux to Vitoria and from Vitoria to the Rioja Alavesa will be reimbursed to him.

On July 17, 1862, Cadiche Pineau arrived in Vitoria.34 He brought with him a treasure trove of knowledge and experience that he was ready to hand over to his new employers. But, as stated in clause five of his contract, he was not entirely sure that he would be successful.35 He did not know if all his knowledge and long experience would be worth anything in an environment completely unknown to him and different from Médoc. Everything would depend on his ability to establish a fruitful and reciprocal relationship between his wisdom, the expertise of local winemakers and decision-makers, and the opportunities offered by the new geological and climatological context. Pineau knew that he was going to be an important actor on a new stage. More than that, he would be the protagonist. But the success of the play would also depend on the local actors with secondary roles who nevertheless were essential to develop the script. If it did not work, the Frenchman would return to his homeland at the end of the year. The key was to try, and the 3,000 francs, a sum three times the salary he would have earned in Lanessan, was well worth the effort.36 The adventure of preparing the first vintage in the Rioja according to the Bordeaux method could begin. While Pineau was still on the road, Riscal again insisted to his Diputado General, the president of Álava’s regional government, that “it is absolutely necessary that the trials begin this year,” reminding him that it would be essential for the participating growers to acquire “a certain number of barrels of those used here [in Bordeaux].”37 This suggestion was immediately accepted and Riscal himself purchased some American oak barrels in Bordeaux, while the owner and industrialist Manuel Gortázar was commissioned to buy another batch of barrels in Bilbao, these made of local oak, in order to compare the results of the two. The cost of the barrels was to be reimbursed by the owners who participated in the project. Gortázar acquired nine and Riscal eight at the price of 100 reales each. After his arrival, Pineau wasted no time in making a first tour around the villages of the Rioja Alavesa in order to establish contact with the winemakers, see the facilities and learn about the state of the vineyards. In fact, it was not at all clear whether the existing infrastructure for winemaking in the Rioja would satisfy the Médoc expert who, in addition, had another problem: he did not speak Spanish. In order to solve this problem, another protagonist of this innovative cross-border project appeared on the scene: Francisco de Paternina, a large landowner and at the time MP of Labastida. As soon as Pineau arrived in Vitoria, Paternina received a letter from the Diputado General asking him to accompany the


The Médoc connection

cellar master on his tour of the Rioja. This tour was necessary for Pineau to “take charge of the vineyards and especially of the wineries, cellars, caves, vats and presses that are in use” so that he could inform those in charge of the Diputación of “the needs” that he observed and the Diputación could act “with due anticipation” of the grape harvest. Since Paternina had a good command of French and, as a vineyard owner, he was also familiar with the details of winemaking, he was the ideal person to accompany Pineau and act as his interpreter. Paternina accepted and, upon returning from the visit, waived the reimbursement of expenses that Ortiz de Zárate had offered him. Apparently, Pineau was satisfied with what he saw, since the documentation does not contain any information about the purchase of winemaking tools in France. In November, the Deputy General commissioned Riscal to purchase a series of objects (cooperage tools, tools for cleaning and preparing the vats, wicks for sulphuring vats, racking pipes, pruning shears, glucometers, etc.) that were destined, according to Ortiz de Zárate, for a wine museum that was to be created. Regardless of this stated purpose, however, it is likely that some of these objects were later used for the production of the new wine. Otherwise, it is hard to understand why, for example, Ortiz de Zárate ordered “half a dozen” each of different tools, such as glucometers. One single glucometer would have sufficed for a museum. In fact, in the Memoria de la Escuela de Agrícultura corresponding to the year 1862 that we will quote below, Garagarza mentions the acquisition of different “instruments” used in Bordeaux. As a matter of fact, Álava’s particular mid-nineteenth-century Médoc connection encompassed much more than museum items.38 After Pineau’s return from his first trip through the villages of the Rioja Alavesa, and on the basis of the information provided by him, it was urgent to decide who would be the owners who fulfilled the essential conditions to be able to participate in the project. To this end, the government set up a “Commission for the improvement of wine production” made up of the deputies of the Rioja Alavesa, Garagarza as secretary and the Deputy General as chair. In mid-August, this commission met in Laguardia, where Pineau had already settled, to make a series of important decisions. In the first place, it was necessary to establish a successive order to the grape harvests, since Pineau had to be present and personally direct the operations in all the villages where there were growers participating in the experiment. Based on the experiences that had been gained regarding the foreseeable date on which the fruit ripened in each area, the following successive order was established for the beginning of the vintage in the six villages chosen, namely Elciego, Laguardia, Yécora, Samaniego, Labastida and Salinillas. Secondly, the influence of different sorts of casks on wine quality was to be measured. For this purpose, it was determined that different casks would be utilized in order to compare the results. Specifically, American oak barrels

The Médoc connection


Figure 5.5 A wagon advertising products of Bodegas Bilbaínas (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

acquired in Bordeaux would be used along with others made of local oak and, in addition, vats of 50 or more cántaras “of the type found in Rioja.” The aforementioned decision was formalized according to which the Diputación would be responsible for supplying the barrels, but the owners had to reimburse the amount of the purchase price. Finally, a list of the owners who were to be invited to participate was drawn up.39 A week later, these decisions were communicated to the selected owners, who were formally invited to participate. If they accepted the invitation, each of the growers had to comply with a series of conditions. As one of the main objectives was improvement through comparison, the owners were free to use the casks they considered appropriate, as well as to determine “the blends in different proportions of the most important grape varieties grown in the Rioja.” However, they had to allocate at least three barrels of American oak and another three of local oak for the experiment, each with a capacity of approximately 14 cántaras [225 liters], which was the size of the barriques used in the Médoc. Furthermore, the growers were also allowed to use “a vat of the type used in the locality with a capacity of 50 cántaras [805 liters] or more.” The wine resulting from these trials would be the property of the growers, who had to supply the grapes, provide the necessary equipment and pay the laborers for the harvest. It was not, however, an unconditional ownership, as they were to follow Pineau’s instructions at all times, i.e., they


The Médoc connection

would be obliged to take care of the wines “so that no one would touch them except the person who should understand the successive operations to be carried out with them.” The letter ended with praise for the “patriotism” of the recipient and the “painstaking zeal with which he looks after the interests of the winemakers.”40 All the owners who had been invited accepted the invitation with pleasure. Everything was now ready for this historic first vintage in the Rioja Alavesa aimed at the production of a new wine, whose philosophy sought a pairing between the rich winemaking tradition of the country and the breath of innovative air coming from the Médoc. We do not know the exact dates on which the grape collection began in the selected villages. Nor is there a detailed account of the development of the operations in each of the sites. This absence of precise descriptions on the development of the collection of the grapes and their transformation in the winery was also due to the caution of those in charge who, after the first vintage, were still rather reluctant to draw more definitive conclusions. Instead, they preferred not to publish any instructions or recommendations to the growers in order to avoid the risk of having to revise or withdraw them later. The only thing Garagarza recommended, therefore, was “patience”; this was not the moment to proffer “risky assessments” that would be detrimental to the realization of the experiment: “There may be a need to modify the method that has been tested, and once the opinion has been misled, it would be very difficult to accept what is really useful.”41 However, the sources do allow us to reconstruct some facets of the process and its outcome. The first impression that stands out is that the operations were seemingly carried out to everyone’s liking. There is no critical voice or observation in the sources of the time, which are marked not by euphoria, but by a clear and cautious optimism. The Deputy General informed the parliament that “we have taken a great step forward in the improvement of winemaking.” This was not a show of public self-praise on the part of the political leader of the experiment, but rather what Ortiz de Zárate genuinely thought in private as well. In a letter to Riscal he repeated this statement in a similar way: “We have been satisfied with the first tests that have been carried out, and we hope that the subsequent results will lead us to ensure the important modifications that will considerably improve Rioja wines.”42 The most restrained was Garagarza, the local technical manager and chair of the School of Agriculture. In his aforementioned report he spoke in glowing terms of the work done, but warned that, despite recognizing the “wines have turned out well, promise a lot and have generally pleased all those who have tasted them,” it was not yet the time for “enthusiasm.”43 The second point underlined in practically all the sources is the good reception that the innovative experiment had on the part of the growers. An indicator in this sense was not only the fact that all those invited to participate accepted, but also the reaction in Laguardia, where sixty growers prepared a large vat to voluntarily participate in the trial. As can be seen,

The Médoc connection


circumstances had changed since Quintano’s time because the chronic crisis had been affecting the sector and its people for many years and, above all, because innovation was no longer just the whim of a certain individual. It was now the result of a great transformative operation, prepared calmly and patiently in consultation with prestigious experts by the highest institution in Álava, itself charged with watching over the welfare of all citizens. In addition, the General Deputy gave another important argument in his aforementioned address to parliament. Ortiz de Zárate asserted that it was not an elitist experiment because the proposed improvements in the manufacture of wine were, in principle, within the reach of all winegrowers: Every innovation is, as a general rule, destructive of vested interests. In this case, the opposite is true, since the new system uses the old elements of cellars, caves, vats and other equipment that constitute an important capital … Moreover, the manipulations are so simple that intelligent operators have already been trained who will facilitate the trials, in a greater number of villages, for the following vintage. Among these operators were the students of the School of Agriculture who witnessed the operations in La Rioja. Yet the assessment by Ortiz de Zárate did not correspond entirely to reality, since not all the growers were able to acquire Bordeaux barrels, nor could they assume greater expenses in labor and, much less, renounce the sale of their product for a couple of years or more, the time that the aging process would last. But it was true that there was no criticism or protests in 1862, perhaps also because the production of the new wine was still an extremely minor phenomenon. Although the few sources that are available are contradictory, the amount of the new wine after the 1862 vintage was “more than 2,000 cántaras,” which corresponded to about 145 Bordeaux barrels according to the Diputado General, and 20,000 cántaras according to Garagarza’s report, which was also the approximate scale of the production in the years to follow.44 If we recall the data offered earlier on the usual production in villages such as Labastida (170,000 cántaras) or Elciego (81,000), it is clear that the first vintage of the new wine was still quite modest. If, as Álava’s president indicated, the “manipulations” with the new method were so “simple,” what did they consist of ? Of this first vintage we have a brief description drafted by Garagarza and published in the aforementioned Memoria de la Escuela de Agricultura corresponding to the year 1862. Here is the most relevant excerpt from this unique historical document, which probably contains the only reliable chronicle of the different steps in the production of this first new wine of 1862: The separation of the stems and the treading of the fruit before placing it in the vats, are easy operations that do not require any expense and are of


The Médoc connection recognized utility for the equal fermentation of the juice and the acquisition of good conditions of part of the manufactured product. The prolongation of the alcoholic fermentation [“el trabajo tumultuoso”], more than is custom in the country, gives the wine less body. Yet it gives it other very appreciable qualities. The separation, although not complete of the stems, undoubtedly reduces the amount of tannin, a substance which works so favorably for its preservation. But as the grain of the fruit produced in Rioja has it in sufficient proportion, the wine will lose its natural roughness, without diminishing any of its recommendable conditions. Furthermore, the disappearance of azotized material contained in the stems, which, acting as yeast, too often reinitiate fermentation, will contribute to the extinction of this destructive element, which is perhaps the cause of its difficult preservation. Although the wine has been placed in barrels made of wood, which are considered the best for this purpose, all the common casks have been used, making use of everything available in the country’s wineries. For the racking and other successive operations, as many instruments have been brought as are used in the places where this industry is most advanced, and their acquisition is of too little cost to be beyond the reach of all those who wish to adopt them. The fruit used in the first trial has been of rather poor quality; but we believe that this will not be an obstacle for the results to be appreciated.

Other important elements in the process of winemaking that had been in place in Bordeaux for a long time, such as the scheduled collection and vinification of the grapes according to their quality or the sulfuring of the barrels, remain unmentioned in Garagarza’s report. We can assume that Pineau would not have allowed the vintage to develop without also respecting these practices. The French expert left quite precise instructions on fermentation and racking in French. We do not know what use was made of these instructions, but perhaps they were written for Garagarza, who knew French and could pass them on to the owners who were participating in the experiment. It is a unique document from this initial phase of the project because Pineau, a practical man not much given to putting his ideas and recommendations on paper, left almost no trace in the archives. The manuscript focuses on the most diverse aspects of the winemaking process. Based on his experience at Lanessan and its technical advances, which had already been praised by the first Médoc wine guides, as we have seen above, Pineau began by describing the characteristics of the vat, on which he placed a portable destemmer. He insisted that fermentation does not have a fixed duration and that the wine must be bled without interruption until the end as soon as fermentation has finished, for which the pipes and hoses must be absolutely clean. Afterwards, the vat must always be full, which could be achieved with a topping up every 8 days. When the wine was already resting in the vat, three rackings should be carried out in the first year, with two rackings being sufficient for the following years.45

The Médoc connection


Rather than writing theoretical treatises on winemaking, Pineau practiced by example, giving advice on site or instructing students in his cooperage workshop in Laguardia. Thus, in Garagarza’s words, “well-made barrels made from wood suitable for the purpose” would prevent defective casks from “communicating [to the wine] tastes that would be rejected by many palates.”46 Thus, in the fall of 1862, the seed was already sown and had successfully taken root, although the resulting tiny sprout was hardly noticeable in an environment that was still dominated by tradition and quietism. Everyone involved seemed happy, and the best proof of this was the fact that the Diputación, Álava’s government, and Pineau agreed to sign a new three-year contract that would expire on January 1, 1866, with the possibility of extending it at a later date by mutual agreement. This contract no longer contained the cautionary clause that allowed Pineau to terminate it earlier.47 The new contractual commitment was logical because the first results of the cooperation with the Médoc expert had been satisfactory and because it was known from the outset that at least two or three years would be needed for the development of the innovative project, since the new wine to be produced was an aged wine that would only unfold all its virtues with time. The prospects were encouraging: Pineau told Riscal he had no doubt that “next year almost all the owners will make Bordeauxstyle wine.”48 Everything was ready, then, to finish the job. Now it was time to adjust and perfect what had already been set in motion, to take care of the aging of the first wine, to prepare the following vintages and to start making the new product known. It was a fascinating task, but not without its problems and obstacles.

Notes 1 Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015 [original German edition: 2009]). 2 Decreto de la Junta General en su segunda sesión ordinaria del día 7 de mayo de 1829, ATHA, 49, 12–17. 3 Circular del Diputado General, September 7, 1829. 4 Juan Pan-Montojo, La bodega del mundo. La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994), 64–75. 5 Actas de las Juntas Generales de Álava celebradas del 4 al 7 de mayo de 1859, ATHA, I-40. 6 My own calculations according to the data on wine production used for taxation. Archivo Municipal de Elciego [different books]. 7 Handwritten motion by José M. Migueloa and Valentín Sotés, Vitoria, November 21, 1858, ATHA, DP-120-19. 8 Ibid. 9 Actas de las Juntas Generales, November 18–25, 1860. For the history of the Granja / Escuela see Memoria de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de Álava correspondiente al año 1912, ATHA, I-40; Francisco Carreras y Candi (dir.), Geografía General del País Vasco Navarro, vol.: “Provincia de Álava” (Barcelona: Alberto Martín, no year), 149–152; on Garagarza’s biography see Enciclopedia General Ilustrada del País Vasco, vol. XV (San Sebastián: Auñamendi, 1983), 166;


10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

20 21


23 24 25


27 28

The Médoc connection Serapio Múgica, Geografía de Guipúzcoa, ug202/m429486.htm (440–443) (accessed March 8, 2021). Eugenio Garagarza, Memoria sobre la exposición agrícola de la provincia de Álava celebrada el 5 de septiembre de 1861 (Vitoria: Imprenta de la Viuda de Manteli e Hijos, 1861). Ibid. Libro de Actas de Reuniones de las Juntas Generales de la Provincia de Álava, 1859, Junta Particular del 2 de mayo de 1859, ATHA, I-40. Garagarza, 28. Ibid., 29. Ibid., 28. Ibid., 28. Ibid., 30. Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de Álava, No. 3, Vitoria 1860, 27–30. “Distribución de las nueve mil plantas de vid extranjera que por disposición de la Diputación general me ha remitido el Director de la Granja modelo D. Eugenio de Garagarza, para ser ensayadas por diferentes propietarios,” Samaniego, 1 de Mayo de 1860 (signature: José María Olano), ATHA, DH-120–19. The names and further details about their social and political background in Ludger Mees, El Medoc Alavés: La revolución del vino de Rioja (Madrid: La Fábrica, Cía Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, 2018), 40–41. Simone Saillard, “Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, Marqués de Riscal (1827–1888),” in: Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 37–74, quotation p. 40. This work is the most complete biography of the Hurtado de Amézaga family. Camilo inherited the title Marquis of Riscal from his father in 1879, one year after the death of his father Guillermo. The following information is largely based on this text by Saillard. In the Riscal business archive there is a letter dated May 19, 1860, written by Eugenio Garagarza to Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga, in which the director of the School of Agriculture thanks him for the consignment of vines which were to be distributed among the owners of the Rioja Alavesa. Letter quoted ibid., 48. Saillard, 41. A copy of that register in Iñigo González Inchaurraga, El marqués que reflotó el Rioja (Madrid: Lid, 2006), 201–204. For the trajectory of the newspaper, re-founded by the Marquis de Riscal in 1881, see the “Estudio preliminar” by Simone Saillard in Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), El hambre de Andalucía: Edición crítica, estudio preliminar y notas de Simone Saillard, (Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2001), 15–142. All quotations are from a source that I consider crucial for being one of the first in which not only are the basic ideas that would later mark the Medoc Alavés project clearly expressed, but also the need to hire a French expert is raised. See Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la Muy Noble y Muy Leal Provincia de Álava, No. 5, Vitoria 1861. This is a handwritten document kept in the documentary collection of the ATHA, DH-120-19, contrary to the other Annals of the School that used to be published. In fact, there are other typescript Annals from 1861 that have already been cited and in which the alcoholic solution still prevails. Nothing better than these two documents from the same year and by the same author to reflect the situation of uncertainty and transition between traditional quietism and innovative open-mindedness. The documents cited below come from this same document collection, unless otherwise indicated. Letter from Eugenio Garagarza to the “Diputado General,” Granja Modelo, April 26, 1862. David Peppercorn, Bordeaux (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2003), 267–268.

The Médoc connection


29 Charles Cocks, Bordeaux: Its Wines and The Claret Country (London: Longman, 1846), 146. 30 Charles Cocks, Bordeaux: ses environs et ses vins (Bordeaux: Féret Fils, 1850), 213. 31 Alexis François Joubert, Observations sur la culture du Haut-Médoc (Paris: A. Joubert, 1851), 87. 32 D’Armailhacq’s classification included three categories of bourgois wines: superior, good and ordinary. From his point of view, the bourgeois wines were “wines of very good quality, although inferior to the classified growth.” Below the bourgeois, the bulk of the wines were “ordinary wines.” See Armand d’Armailhacq, La culture des vignes. La vinification et les vins dans le Médoc (Bordeaux: J. Delmas, 1855), 8–9, 528. 33 André Jullien, Topographie de tous les vignobles connus (Paris: Buchard-Huzard, second edition, 1866), 209. 34 Date according to a letter from Riscal to Ortiz de Zárate, Bordeaux, July 16, 1862, in which the Marquis announced to the Deputy General the arrival of Pineau “who should arrive this morning according to the reports I have been given.” Riscal advanced him 80 francs for his travel expenses. 35 “Mr. Cadiche Pineau, who does not know whether he will be able to carry out the assignment entrusted to him as required, does not commit himself definitively until December 31 of the current year.” 36 Michèle Mas, Courants et échanges entre Bordeaux et La Rioja dans la segonde moitié du XIX siècle. Travail d’Études Ibériques. Université de Bordeaux III, Bordeaux 1984, 25–27. 37 Riscal to Ortiz de Zárate, Bordeaux, July 16, 1862. 38 See the unsigned letter (Ortiz de Zárate) to the Marquis of Riscal, Vitoria, November 27, 1862; unsigned letter (Ortiz de Zárate) to Francisco de Paternina, Vitoria, July 17, 1862; letter from Francisco de Paternina to Ortiz de Zárate, Labastida, July 22, 1862. 39 This list contained the following names: the Marquis of Riscal (Elciego), Manuel Gortázar (Laguardia), José María Olano (Samaniego), Francisco Paternina (Labastida), Vicente Payuesa and Domingo Laseras (Salinillas). It was decided to look for a suitable person for Yécora, but, as this village no longer appears in the documents, it seems that this search was unsuccessful. See Acta de la reunion de la Comisión, Laguardia, August 13, 1862. 40 Carta de la Comisión a los seis propietarios, Vitoria, August 18, 1862. 41 Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la M.N. y M.L. Provincia de Álava, 6, 1862, Vitoria 1863, 24–25. 42 Letter from Ortiz de Zárate to the Marqués de Riscal, Vitoria, November 27, 1862; address of the Diputado General to the parliament in Libro de Actas de Reuniones de las Juntas Generales de la Provincia de Álava, Vitoria 1862, 7. 43 Anales 1862, 24. 44 The figure of 2,000 cántaras is from the above cited address by Ortiz de Zárate, Libro de Actas, 1862; the figure of 20,000 cántaras in Anales de la Escuela de Agricultura (1862); the information about the volume for the following years until 1865 comes from a report drafted by Garagarza and published in Balbino Cortés, Tratado teórico y práctico de vinificación o arte de hacer el vino (Madrid: Librería de la Sra. Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta, 1866), 163. 45 See the document Fabrication des vins, ATHA, 120-19. 46 Anales, 1862, 25. 47 Contract signed by Ortiz de Zárate and Pineau, Vitoria, July 15, 1863, ATHA, DH-120-19. 48 Letter from Riscal to Oriz de Zárate, Bordeaux, November 22, 1862.


The Médoc connection

References Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de Álava, no. 3, Vitoria 1860. Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la M.N. y M.L. Provincia de Álava, no. 6, Vitoria 1863. Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la Muy Noble y Muy Leal Provincia de Álava, no. 5, Vitoria 1861. Carreras y Candi, Francisco (ed.), Geografía General del País Vasco Navarro, vol. “Provincia de Álava” (Barcelona: Alberto Martín, no year). Cocks, Charles, Bordeaux: Its Wines and The Claret Country (London: Longman, 1846). Cocks, Charles, Bordeaux: ses environs et ses vins (Bordeaux: Féret Fils, 1850). Cortés, Balbino, Tratado teórico y práctico de vinificación o arte de hacer el vino (Madrid: Librería de la Sra. Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta, 1866). D’Armailhacq, Armand, La culture des vignes: La vinification et les vins dans le Médoc (Bordeaux: J. Delmas, 1855). Enciclopedia General Ilustrada del País Vasco, vol. XV (San Sebastián: Auñamendi, 1983). Garagarza, Eugenio, Memoria sobre la exposición agrícola de la provincia de Álava celebrada el 5 de septiembre de 1861 (Vitoria: Imprenta de la Viuda de Manteli e Hijos, 1861). González Inchaurraga, Iñigo, El marqués que reflotó el Rioja (Madrid: Lid, 2006). Joubert, Alexis François, Observations sur la culture du Haut-Médoc (Paris: A. Joubert, 1851). Jullien, André, Topographie de tous les vignobles connus (Paris: Buchard-Huzard, second edition, 1866). Mas, Michèle, Courants et échanges entre Bordeaux et La Rioja dans la segonde moitié du XIX siècle, Travail d’Études Ibériques (Bordeaux: Université de Bordeaux III, 1984). Mees, Ludger, El Medoc Alavés: La revolución del vino de Rioja (Madrid: La Fábrica, Cía Vinos Telmo Rodríguez, 2018). Múgica, Serapio, “Geografía de Guipúzcoa,” ug202/m429486.htm (accessed March 8, 2021). Osterhammel, Jürgen, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015 [original German edition: 2009]). Pan-Montojo, Juan, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994). Peppercorn, David, Bordeaux (London: Mitchell Beazley, 2003). Saillard, Simone, “Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, Marqués de Riscal (1827–1888),” in: Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 37–74. Saillard, Simone, Leopoldo Alas (Clarín), El hambre de Andalucía: Edición crítica, estudio preliminar y notas de Simone Saillard (Toulouse: Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2001).

Figure 6.1 Disgorging of Bodegas Bilbaínas Lumen champagne (1915–1920) Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas


Conquering the Queen’s palate

The transnational flow of knowledge and human capital, what we have called here the Médoc-Connection, had borne fruit. After the 1862 vintage, a new wine was resting in the barrels in order to undergo a long and calm maturation process that would ideally lead to the elegance, finesse and roundness that its inventors hoped for. However, any new wine, no matter how excellent its quality, needs to be known. It needs consumers who know of its existence and are willing to pay for it, even if its price is higher than that of the wine they are accustomed to consuming. It should be remembered that the driving force behind the innovative wine project in the Rioja was the sales crisis, low prices and competition from other wines. Therefore, once the first objective of launching the production of a new wine was achieved, a wine which, if everything went well in the ageing process, would be called upon to compete with the best wines of the Médoc, the leaders in charge of the project set about designing a publicity campaign to make this wine known in the distinguished circles of potential customers. There was, however, a couple of problems. On the one hand, there was the obstacle of ageing: it was indispensable to wait until the wine had finished maturing before presenting it. Would everyone involved be willing to be so patient? On the other hand, there was a structural problem that would condition the project from its very beginning: the complicated mix between public and private interests. The government of Álava had to look after the well-being of all the winegrowers in the province, but would the winegrowers resist the temptation to take advantage of the project’s success for their own business? For the moment, in the aftermath of the historic 1862 vintage, the first news published in the Spanish capital of Madrid concerned Pineau’s modernizing impact on the work at the vineyards, and more particularly on the prevention of vine diseases such as powdery mildew. Indeed, a good wine, like the one they were about to produce in the Rioja Alavesa, did not only depend on the method used during the vintage, fermentation and ageing. Just as important, if not more so, was the preventive control of fungal diseases, which had caused so much havoc in the 1850s. The practice of sulfuring vines had been slow to establish itself in Spain and the Rioja as the most effective means of preventing powdery mildew, partly due to the fact that, as DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-6


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mentioned above, this operation increased the final price of the product considerably and was therefore not within the means of all winegrowers.1 When Pineau arrived, sulfuring vines was not yet a common practice in the Rioja Alavesa, so the Frenchman got down to work in this area and travelled through the wine-producing villages of the territory to preach the benefits of the procedure and give specific advice. This news must have been striking, given that even the Madrid press reported on it. In what is probably one of the first journalistic accounts about the new wine and the whole project, the important evening newspaper, La Correspondencia de España, informed its readers that the governing authorities in the province of Álava were keen to “complete” the “protection” they were providing to the wine industry and that, aiming to achieve this goal, they had ordered Mr. Pineau to instruct the growers on the use of sulfur as a means to fight powdery mildew. Although the new wine was not yet ready, the article concluded by certifying its extraordinary quality and auguring a magnificent future: All the wines produced according to the Medoc system were far superior to the ordinary wines of the same fruit, and left no doubt as to the great progress that the wine industry of Álava is going to make in this very important branch of public wealth. For the first campaign [next campaign?], in addition to the villages that were already designated, a large quantity of new wine will be produced throughout the entire Rioja, and it can be reasonably expected that before a few years have passed, the Álava will appear on the tables of good taste, in preference to the Bordeaux. 2 Regardless of the then still very adventurous projection of the new wine from Álava as a winner over Bordeaux, there is one fact in this article that deserves to be highlighted: the categorization of the new wine as “the Álava.” Even seen from faraway Madrid, the political center of the kingdom and residence of the royal court, the experiment had ceased to be mere anecdote. The Medoc Alavés label had yet to be invented, the first vintage and the production of a tiny quantity of the new wine was its only modest accomplishment, but the new wine was already conceived as a novelty with a vocation to stay and to form a brand, which is yet another indication of its still young success. The reactions of the growers seem to corroborate this success. In view of what happened in 1862, a year later more landowners were encouraged to participate in the trials, as is reflected in the documentation found in the archives. Thus, in August 1863 the deputy of Lanciego informed the Diputado General that for the following vintage the harvesters of that locality were willing to make between 300 and 400 cántaras of the new wine “for which several growers will put the vats, as was done in Laguardia last year.” In order to avoid mistakes, the deputy added that “it will be very convenient for Pineau to visit these towns and see the vessels [‘lagos’] and vats that are most appropriate for the elaboration of the wine.” In the same letter, he reported

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that in Yécora they wanted to produce 300 cántaras. A week later, Melitón Eguilaz, an owner from Lanciego who had already participated in the distribution of the imported vines, confirmed this information about his town, in which, besides himself, different growers were going to participate “with the greatest pleasure. When the time comes, we will therefore allocate a portion of grape loads for its elaboration.” Eguilaz also informed the Deputy General that Pineau had already inspected the facilities planned for the trial in Lanciego. The place chosen for the winemaking, it seems, had not entirely convinced the Frenchman: “It is good, but we will see if a better one can be provided.”4 Around the same time, one of the main protagonists of the experiment, the Marqués de Riscal, was reflecting on his future involvement in the project. As one of the figures who had contributed most to launching the experiment, it was to be expected that once the first test had been successfully passed he would align his own wine production with the new method. And indeed, Riscal informed the president Ortiz de Zárate that he had initially thought of dedicating the entire 1863 vintage to the new wine. However, in the end he went only partway and ordered Garibay, the manager of his estate in Elciego, to make the necessary preparations to dedicate half of the harvest to the new wine and half to “the old and defective [method] which unfortunately is in use.” What was the reason for this surprising change of heart? In addition to the foreseeable infrastructure problems, Riscal pointed to one of the big problems that was still going to weigh for quite some time like a slab on the new wine, especially in the domestic market. This was none other than the imbalance between the advances in winemaking innovation, on the one hand, and the slower evolution of consumers’ palates, on the other. Mid-nineteenthcentury Spain was a backward, mostly agrarian society where the impact of capitalist industrialization and its revolutionary social consequences was still extremely weak. The emerging urban middle and upper classes, with their new cultural and gustative preferences, were still a project in the making that would not materialize until decades later. When the Medoc Alavés was invented, the gourmet was already a well-known social and cultural phenomenon in Paris and in London, but not really in Madrid. When Riscal decided to slow down his initial ideas of dedicating his entire grape harvest to the new wine, he was very well aware of the problem: I have desisted from my purpose, fearing that I will not be able to sell my wine, and lacking vessels for the 1864 vintage. It is regrettable that consumers are not convinced that the Medoc wine, or model wine, is healthier and has more aroma and more alcohol and strength giving it preference over the old one.5 We do not know very well if these fears were the result of a specific experience and if the Marquis had already sold – or tried to sell – part of the 1862 vintage without finishing the aging process. It is more likely that


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Figure 6.2 Bodegas Bilbaínas, label Castle Pomal, vintage 1904 Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

he came to this conclusion about consumer taste from his knowledge of the market in general, and the Spanish market in particular. At this early stage of the project it would have been very unrealistic to speculate that the new wine could be immediately placed on the international market and reach the “tables of good taste,” where the revolution of the palates had already taken place. In any case, although we do not have concrete data from other vineyardists at that early stage, the decision to allocate half of the vintage to the new wine was quite a daring decision that was probably not shared by the majority of the owners who were participating in the trials. Garagarza’s report on the 1863 vintage, the second according to the new method, confirmed the impression of a sort of domino effect that had been triggered by the previous year’s successful vintage. In 1863, the quantity of the new wine produced increased tenfold, now approaching 20,000 cántaras, if we consider realistic the figure of slightly more than 2,000 cántaras that the Diputado General had given for the 1862 vintage. Along with this encouraging figure, however, the director of the School of Agriculture, faithful to his characteristically cautious optimism, did not forget to mention a rather disturbing observation. On the one hand, he insisted on praising the zealous and industrious growers who, in order to safeguard their good reputation, sold the defective wine almost

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“secretly” because “the reputation of their winery worries them much more than the abundance of their harvest.” On the other hand, Garagarza regretted that not all the growers had acted in this way and, “in order to get a few pennies more per cántara,” they had sold inferior wines using the Médoc name. These were wines whose owners had respected the first steps of the new method (destemming and treading the grapes), but had neglected everything that followed, such as permanently filling the vats “with wine that has ceased to undergo the slightest alteration” or the rackings in February, June and September. In fact, from the document written by the director of the School we know that some of the wines from the 1862 vintage were quickly sold “with much esteem and at a very high price.” And this haste meant that some of these wines had been put on the market in a very defective state, which was detrimental to those of good quality. This is why Garagarza considered it necessary to recall what an authentic wine produced according to the Médoc method was: “Wines made by this method are not considered finished before they are three years old and have received two rackings in each year in addition to the three rackings given in the first one.” This account by Garagarza points to a problem that in later years was to become chronic: due to the success of the experiment with the new wine, not more than a year passed before the first fraudulent imitations appeared, usurping the prestigious name of the Médoc for personal profit. The director of the school closed his report by mentioning another of the great obstacles to the generalization of the new method in the context of a rural society such as that of Álava in the 1860s, characterized by the great fragmentation of agricultural property and the absence of capital for investments aiming at modernizing winemaking. The problem consisted of the incompatibility between, on the one hand, the three-year aging of wine as an indispensable quality requirement and, on the other hand, the need for the great majority of small winegrowers to sell the product of their work every year in order to ensure their daily sustenance. For Garagarza, the solution to this dilemma was the division of labor: We understand that the producers cannot keep them [the wines] for such a long time, because neither the means at their disposal nor the capacity of the caves allow it. But in order to make those wines known, they need to have their qualities developed, and if they become what we fundamentally expect, those who understand about their care as long as they are not considered finished will come to buy them even in must. This will avoid the need for the grower to accumulate his products.6 This was already a much more realistic discourse than the official thesis, according to which the Médoc method was in principle accessible to all winegrowers without major investments, an assertion that probably had been propagated in order to reassure small winegrowers and overcome their reluctance to abandon their traditional routine and embrace innovation. This


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assertion may have been true for some of the operations involved, but others clearly required capital investments that were beyond the financial capabilities of a majority of growers. This was true not only for the lengthy aging process mentioned by Garagarza. In addition, the acquisition of barrels or other equipment, as well as the sulfur and the labor needed for this process or the differentiated harvesting of the grapes according to their quality, were unexpected budgetary burdens that were difficult for many to assume. This report on the 1863 financial year is the first contemporary source that clearly identifies one of the central problems that, a few years later, would contribute to the temporary failure of the Medoc Alavés project. Garagarza sensed it, but in 1863 or 1864 this moment had not yet been reached. These were not years of pessimism and failure, but of optimism, hope and illusion, although also, as we have seen, of realism and caution. The illusion that prevailed went beyond the borders of the province, whose leaders were convinced that they had initiated an innovative process whose benefits others should also have the right to enjoy. Thus, Álava’s president, Ortiz de Zárate, wrote to the president of the neighboring province of Navarre, whose wines competed with those of Rioja in the traditional market, to invite all interested Navarrese winegrowers to attend the trials. The Navarrese were grateful for the invitation and announced that they would publish it in the province’s official gazette.7 And there was no lack of positive news to increase the enthusiasm of those responsible for the new wine who, when the possibility of introducing it to the international market arose, momentarily forgot the rule of three years of aging to obtain a perfect final product and decided in 1864 to present a selection of wines from different winemakers to the International Exhibition in Bayonne. This presentation was made collectively. Several bottles were submitted in the name of the province of Álava in order to receive the judgment of the tasters who had come from Bordeaux, the Mecca of quality wine that had inspired the Álava experiment. The new wines from the Rioja Alavesa, still without having finished the three-years aging period to develop all their qualities, triumphed in Bayonne and obtained a gold medal, “the greatest triumph they could wish for,” in the words of the regional president. Garagarza described the feedback received from the Bordeaux experts as follows: After consulting the intelligent tasters from Bordeaux in order to introduce the appropriate modifications in the manufacturing process, we had the high satisfaction of being told that the quality and good conditions of these wines had left them completely satisfied, that they had no observations to make about the methods used and that by continuing in the same terms we would obtain products that would be very much appreciated.8 After this first international endorsement, and with the wine of three vintages in the vat, the time had come to make known some of the analytical results

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that the technicians of the School of Agriculture had been collecting. On the one hand, let us remember that the importation of foreign vines had been motivated mainly by the idea of testing whether any of them, and the high alcohol content of their grapes, might be suitable to accompany and improve the local varieties, especially the tempranillo. It should be recalled that a high alcohol level was considered one of the basic conditions for a better preservation of wine. Here Samaniego’s pinot noir came out on top, with 14.5% alcohol and a sugar content of 26.31%. It was followed by Grenache (14% alcohol and 26.31% sugar). But the classic tempranillo was not far behind, reaching 13.5% alcohol and between 23.8% and 24.7% sugar in both Samaniego and Laguardia. Moreover, those in charge of the project were aware that alcohol level was a double-edged sword. Although it was true that it facilitated conservation, it was no less true that, if one wanted to penetrate new markets and conquer the palates of newly educated and more sophisticated wine lovers, it was necessary to make a wine that was not too alcoholic, but rather light, elegant and healthy. And here the analysis of the different Médoc wines of 1862 and 1863 showed that all of them had achieved a good state of preservation without having to increase the alcohol level significantly. The Médoc wines produced in Samaniego, Labastida, Laguardia and Elciego – there are no results for those of the other towns – averaged around 12.5%. The lowest end of the spectrum was 11.7% for the wine that Galo Pobes produced in Labastida with the Graciano variety, while the highest was 16.5% for the wine Manuel Gortázar produced in 1863 in Laguardia with, as the report states, “somewhat superior grapes.” It is also interesting to note that most of the growers preferred to make their wine with blends of “grapes of various kinds” (which were not specified in the report), and only José María Olano in Samaniego dared to produce a single-varietal wine based on tempranillo or Graciano. In any case, although Garagarza announced the continuation of the analyses in order to “shed much light on the types of grapes whose cultivation should be extended,” these initial analytical results were extremely important. The data helped to relativize the classic paradigm about alcohol as the main stabilizing agent in wine, demonstrating that it was also possible to produce high quality wines in Rioja which not only kept well, but even improved during the ageing process without the need for a high percentage of alcohol.9 And if it was true that the new wines from Álava gained by maturing in oak, once finished the three-year ageing period, it was time to take the next step for their international recognition. Brimming with confidence, the institutional leaders of the province commissioned the Marqués de Riscal, resident in Bordeaux, to repeat the adventure of the Bayonne exhibition and present a batch of Médoc wines from Álava in October 1865 in the lion’s den (i.e. in Bordeaux, the capital of quality wine). The occasion was the international exhibition organized by the prestigious Société Philomatique. Formally, Riscal attended as the official delegate of Álava’s provincial government. He presented wines from different winemakers, including his own. The idea was


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to participate collectively and not individually, so that if any of the awards were won, the honor would go to the whole province and all the winemakers who were participating in the experiment. A draft of the report that Riscal presented to the French jury survives. Its contents provide us with an interesting additional piece of information about the evolution of the new wine production in Álava. According to the data highlighted by Riscal, the annual production of this wine ranged between 12,500 and 14,280 barrels (“tonneaux”), a barrel being equivalent to 56 cántaras. If these data are correct, they reflect a spectacular growth in production, which, let us remember, had reached some 20,000 cántaras just two years earlier. Now it was between 201,000 and 230,000 cántaras. The Marqués presented 15 bottles from seven winemakers. Six of them delivered different bottles of Médoc-style wine, while another from Laguardia submitted wine “made according to the country’s method.” The surprise came when the jury refused to evaluate them collectively, not even the new wines, awarding their prizes individually. Thus, two growers (Gortázar and Olano) obtained a Bronze Medal, and Riscal, the official representative of the province and resident in Bordeaux, won the only first-class Silver Medal. The rest of the winemakers were not even mentioned. The Diputación’s objective, which was none other than to receive a general endorsement for its innovative project, had not been achieved. As was to be expected, these awards generated a great deal of controversy among those affected. Although nobody said it – or expressed it in the sources – in a direct way, there was suspicion that Riscal had received favorable treatment. Riscal himself said he felt “sensitive” to the commotion caused by the fact that he was the owner who had obtained the highest distinction precisely in the city where he had been living “for so many years.” In order to resolve the problem, he asked the jury to bestow a collective award, claiming that “all the improvements that the owners of the Province of Álava had achieved in the production of their wines have been due to the measures and financial sacrifices made by the Diputación General.” This initiative remained without effect, since, as stated in the minutes of a meeting held by the Board of the School of Agriculture that had been convened to deliberate on this issue, the French jury “understood that it was better to stimulate the zeal of the winegrowers by awarding the three aforementioned prizes to them in particular.” At this same meeting, the Diputación’s position was defended, which did not want individual awards, but rather a general endorsement of the new method adopted in the winemaking process: “It would have been desirable if the Bordeaux Jury had limited itself to stating, as it did, that the Medoc manufacturing method has produced very satisfactory results in Álava.” In the opinion of those in charge of the project gathered at the Board of Directors of the School, Álava’s supreme institution could not have acted otherwise “because the province could not make arrangements to favor certain individuals, being, as they were, its duty and its purpose to procure a general benefit to all those who with a zeal that can only be praised have

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adopted the new method full of excellent will, or would like to apply it in the future.” The fact that a few private winemakers could now depict the award obtained in Bordeaux on their labels when competing on the market with the rest of the wines officially presented by the Diputación worried those present at the meeting, and the insinuation to Riscal’s residence reflected that they at least understood the criticisms that had arisen. In short, however celebrated it may have been, the verdict of the Bordeaux jury had complicated the overall objective of working for the common good of all the winemakers involved in the experiment: It will be a great obstacle to the achievement of such a noble objective, that on the same market where the Medoc wines, sent through the mediation of the province, are presented, others of the same origin can now compete, indicating on the labels of their bottles the names of the winemakers and the sign of the special award that they have deserved outside the kingdom, which happened precisely at the usual place of residence of [Álava’s] commissioner, favored with the first class silver medal. Upon learning of these deliberations, Riscal was very upset and, despite the fact that the Diputado General reiterated his full confidence in him and the gratitude of the entire province, he chose to return the medal.10 This verdict of the Bordeaux jury, as well as the controversy that arose, were important for two reasons. On the one hand, the awards were a powerful demonstration that the new wine from Álava’s Rioja was capable of passing the scrutiny of the experts in the world capital of quality wine with flying colors. Thus, what the Bayonne award had announced on a smaller scale was confirmed. On the other hand, however, a problem emerged that would continue to accompany the Medoc Alavés in the following years, namely the relationship between public initiative and private interests. Álava’s authorities were right in arguing, as Riscal himself did, that the new wine was the result of a public initiative implemented by the Diputación. Without its intervention and involvement it is unlikely that the growers would have achieved such a positive result. But it was also true that not all the winemakers were in a position to provide optimal conditions for the production of their wines. Nor were everyone’s soil and vineyards the same. In short, despite respecting all the indications provided by Pineau, it was more than likely that, after bottling the wine, differences in quality would appear between the bottle of one producer and that of another, and these differences had been highlighted by the jury in Bordeaux. The issue became even more complicated if we add the problem of wines appearing on the market that fraudulently used the reference to the Médoc method on the label. It was therefore urgent to take the next step in the development of the project, which was to achieve two objectives: one, to ride the wave and promote the new wine on a large scale in new markets; and two, to control and ensure the quality of the product in order to combat fraud. As on other occasions, the driving force behind this most


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recent step was the Diputación. In October 1865, it published a circular in which it invited the producers of the new wine to participate in a campaign aiming at the promotion of “the trade of Medoc wines made in the Rioja.” The circular added that only “completely good wines, with all their qualities fully developed,” would be accepted. This warning seemed necessary because, before even a year passed, some winemakers had begun selling wine under the name of Medoc that was “of bad taste and without the necessary clarification,” a consequence of the “poor conditions of the vats used and the lack of the indispensable racking.” This circular of October 1865 was also the result of a decision adopted by the Board of Directors of the School of Agriculture at the request of its director Eugenio Garagarza. In light of the competition from the wines of Navarre and Aragón, at the end of September the Board stated the urgent need to “procure a safe and advantageous sale for the wines produced according the Medoc method, now that those produced in 1862 were already three years old and had developed all their qualities.” Another important decision taken at this meeting concerned the question of where to look for these new markets and consumers. In the opinion of those present in the meeting, during that initial phase of the innovative project it was not yet advisable to aim too high and go to foreign markets where, up to that date, only “limited steps” had been taken to promote the wine, especially in Cuba. Perhaps also because of the advantages that the French Médoc wine had in those markets, where it had already been well established for many years and lacked any real competition, the promoters of the project in the Rioja Alavesa came to the conclusion that “the domestic market of Spain and the Royal Court could be extraordinarily important for this product.” It seemed reasonable to think that a triumph in the kingdom’s capital would also open the doors to other more distant markets. Only two owners who responded to the call made public by the circular were willing to leave their wines in the hands of the Diputación (Olano and Gortázar). Riscal was surprisingly absent, which could perhaps be a consequence of his anger at the controversy caused by his award at the Bordeaux exhibition. Pineau and Garagarza tasted the wines of both winemakers and chose only wine from the 1862 vintage, even though stocks of wine from this vintage were much scarcer than those of 1863. Pineau and Garagarza selected the only remaining barrel from 1862 provided by Olano, and three more produced by Gortázar.11 After choosing the wines for promotion, the Board of Directors of the School also decided to “prepare a classification of the wines made in Álava by the Medoc method,” a classification that was to be presented to the jury of the “first provincial exhibition to be held.” The first phase of the experiment, the creation of a new quality wine, had been successfully completed, although it was necessary to continue perfecting it. But this success had generated new problems, including fraud and the complicated relationship between the common good and the legitimate private interests of those who had dared to get involved and

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invest in the experiment. The leaders of the Diputación had initiated the project and now wanted to bring it to a successful conclusion. Everything was ready for the beginning of the second phase, which was as fascinating as the first. Taking advantage of the successful publicity provided by the Bayonne and Bordeaux awards, now it was a matter of making the new wine known and fashionable among those sectors of society that appreciated its outstanding qualities and were willing to pay the price. It was impossible to foresee the outcome of this second phase. Those in charge knew and agreed on only one thing: their conviction that the challenges, problems and obstacles would be no less than those that had arisen during the initial phase. In nineteenth-century Spain, long before the dissemination of mass media and social networks, there was one essential and indispensable condition for gaining access to the refined tables of distinguished gourmets with demanding palates and ample wealth: the brokerage of someone who knew those distinguished social circles and their cultural habits perfectly and, if possible, was part of them. The Marqués de Riscal had played this role in establishing and consolidating the Médoc-Connection. Now, during the second and final phase of the experiment, a new protagonist emerged: Pedro Egaña, Álava’s Diputado General since 1864 and Ramón Ortiz de Zárate’s successor at the head of the regional government. Egaña came from an illustrious family with origins in the Basque province of Gipuzkoa and settled in Álava’s capital city of Vitoria. Born in 1803, by the mid1860s he had enjoyed a long and brilliant professional and political career as a moderate liberal, serving as a member of the Cortes several times and twice as a minister. His position as General Intendant of the Royal Household and Patrimony also led him to become one of Queen Maria Cristina’s closest confidants. In 1864, the same year he assumed leadership of the Diputación, Egaña took to the senate floor to deliver one of his most impassioned speeches in defense of the Basque fueros and the home rule they granted, a cause for which he advocated in line with the liberal Basque fuerista movement. Being “one of the most outstanding Basque parliamentarians of the century,”12 he became a key actor in Spanish politics in the nineteenth century. And thanks to his dense network of political and personal contacts, Egaña knew the political, social and cultural mechanisms that reigned among the elite in the capital of the kingdom perfectly, and this elite knew and respected him. Here is just one meaningful example of this esteem: When Egaña entered into wedlock for the second time in 1847, Fernando Muñoz, Duke of Riánsares, acted as godfather; a role that entailed significant personal and social obligations for the man who, between the death of king Ferdinand VII in 1833 and 1845 had been Maria Cristina’s secret lover and, since then, by decree of the Cortes, official husband of the former regent, mother of Queen Isabella II. There could not have been a better broker between the new wine of Álava and the political and social elites of the Spanish Kingdom than


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Pedro Egaña, a popular and influential man at the peak of his political life. It would not take him long to put all his prestige and relations at the service of the Medoc Alavés. Given that cases of fraudulent sales of wine of inferior quality marketed under the name of Medoc Alavés quickly emerged, one of the first problems to be solved before launching a major publicity campaign was the need to shield the new product with a quality label. To this end, the trio formed by the Deputy General, Garagarza and Pineau decided to design an official label to distinguish Álava’s new wine before it was distributed in Madrid. In fact, some confusion had already arisen because a few of the winemakers who won awards in Bayonne and Bordeaux had begun to use the reference to the medals obtained to sell their wine. As not all of these wines met the high quality requirements imposed by the regional government, or were even deemed ready for consumption, there was an obvious risk that their hasty marketing strategy might harm the real Medoc Alavés sponsored by the Diputación. In order to avoid this danger, Egaña published a circular on April 6 that was addressed to the growers in question, forbidding any reproduction of the collective medal obtained in Bayonne on the labels of their wines, as well as the province of Álava’s official coat of arms. The reason for this decision was apparent. At a crucial moment in the promotion of the new wine, the collective good had to be defended against the short-term material interests of each of the participants in the experiment: The Diputación believes it is necessary to warn the gentlemen winegrowers in good time, in order to avoid them, and the Diputación itself, further displeasure, because it is not fair that the feverish impatience of a few will compromise, risk or spoil the fruit of so many sacrifices, now that the province is, it can be said, at the critical moment in which the market of the kingdom’s capital will decide sovereignly on the future of an industry that can contribute so much to the welfare of one of the most important regions of Álava.13 And in case any of the growers alluded to were still reluctant to implement this order, a few days later a personal letter arrived from the Diputado General, in which Egaña admitted that the idea of creating a quality label stemmed from the impossibility of imposing “on anyone obligations of purely general convenience.” In other words, the government could not interfere in the private business of each grower, but it could offer incentives – the use of the official label – to those who were willing to respect the rules of the game, and these rules required requesting permission to use this label and subjecting the wine to a previous quality test.14 This official label, reproduced below, bore “the arms of Álava, with the medals obtained by this wine at the Bayonne and Bordeaux exhibitions, and the dry seal of the province.”15 Obviously, here the Bordeaux medals had been depersonalized for the benefit of the product, which received with this label its official baptism under the denomination of Medoc Alavés.

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Figure 6.3 The Medoc Alavés label (1866) Source: Archivo del Territorio Histórico de Álava, 120, 19.

In another official provision of April 1866, Egaña defined the exact procedure to be followed prior to granting use of the label. We find ourselves here before what may be considered a first regulation (still embryonic) of what would much later be known as a Control Board of Rioja’s Qualified Designation of Origin (“Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja”) avant la lettre. It is a unique document on a pioneering initiative that deserves to be quoted extensively: In order to prevent the improper use of the label adopted by the province for its wines of Medoc manufacture, examined and approved by the Commission delegated for this purpose; and in order to be able to prosecute in justice those who do not comply with the prescribed formalities, as counterfeiters of a mark that no one has the right to use without the competent authorization: this Diputación General resolves as follows: 1 2 3

The Examination Commission will keep two bottles of each of the wines that obtain the right to be sold with the official label. If the examination refers to wines of different years or different from one and the same wine, two bottles of each class will be kept. These bottles shall be sealed and stamped in the presence of the interested parties, and the quantity of wine of their class that the


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grower is authorized to sell with the date of the day on which the examination is carried out shall be placed on the label and recorded in the minutes. All the bottles of wine collected in accordance with the aforementioned formalities will be stored under the supervision and responsibility of the cave master Mr. Pineau.16

Once the label had been designed and the procedure for its authorization had been formalized, the next step had to be taken: the establishment of an operations center in the capital of the kingdom. Another key figure appears on the scene during this second phase of the experiment; a character about whom, unfortunately, the sources of the time do not reveal much information. His name is Gregorio Torrecilla. Torrecilla was born in the Rioja province of Logroño. Before getting involved in the wine business, he graduated in pharmacy and worked as a mathematics teacher in Vitoria, where he probably got to know Pedro Egaña. He must have been a person very close to the Deputy General, with whom he corresponded extensively in a tone that indicated a certain personal proximity. Torrecilla had started in the wine business in the mid-1860s and owned a large wine office on the central street Carrera de San Gerónimo, number 11. It was located in the true political center of Spain, since it was practically next to the palace of the Cortes, inaugurated in 1850 to house the Congress of Deputies. In the spring of 1866, Torrecilla acted as de facto personal delegate to the Deputy General of Álava and his office became the official warehouse and store for the Medoc Alavés, although (as we shall see) this action would end up being very controversial. In fact, this particular synchronization between private business and institutional promotion of a product that was considered a public good generated problems from the very moment that the Ferrocarriles del Norte railway company transported the selected barrels from Rioja to Madrid, where Torrecilla was in charge of bottling them. The bottles were meant to be labeled and provided with a capsule for identification as the official Medoc Alavés. But along with this “official” wine, separate consignments of Rioja also arrived at Torrecilla’s store that were sent by private individuals who wanted to take advantage of the situation to promote their own wine. Among these wines were some which, according to Torrecilla, “were indistinguishable from the most ordinary” and which, in one case from an owner in Laguardia, “seemed to be only must.”17 Manuel Gortázar, whose wine was, as indicated above, among those approved and selected by the Diputación officials for the publicity campaign in Madrid was one of the winemakers who also shipped other wine to Madrid. What was to be done with the wine that Gortázar took to Madrid on his own? Being the same producer, should it be assumed that all the wine produced by him met the official quality criteria? Was he, therefore, entitled to carry the official label? And, although the particular consignment might not reach the quality level of the other wine tasted and approved, should the

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Diputación not act with a certain generosity in the case of this owner, who had supported the innovative experiment with enthusiasm from the beginning, had obtained some of the new barrels for ageing and had ceded part of his wine for the campaign? Consulted on the subject, Egaña’s answer to his man in Madrid was categorical: the approved Gortázar wine could of course carry the label, but this labeling was not to be done “with any other, not even with subsequent submissions from Gortázar himself if they do not go through our channels and with our permission.” The label was only to be placed on bottles containing wine “of complete confidence,” and for this all those who wished to carry it had to ask for authorization and go through the quality tasting.18 And this quality tasting was no joke. The documentation found in the archives suggests that it was a serious exercise, in which there was no room for cronyism and personal preferences. Thus, after receiving the indicated response, Gortázar decided to submit his 1863 Laguardia wine to the quality test organized by the Diputación in order to be able to market it later as an authentic Medoc Alavés protected by the official label. The Diputado General wished to be personally present as president of the tasting board, made up of Garagarza, Pineau, as well as other owners and experts from the Rioja.19 At the beginning of the meeting, Egaña explained to the attendees the context in which this meeting had been convened, which was none other than to “prevent bad or average products from being confused in the market with good ones,” for which the official label of the province had been designed. Appealing to the “high duty of patriotism” of those gathered, he urged them to proceed with the tasting of Gortázar’s wines. As the text of the minutes shows, the tasters did not take their task lightly: They examined them with the utmost scrupulousness, finding them perfectly elaborated and cared for, clean and of brilliant color, but slightly rough, and of not very pronounced aroma, slight defects that will undoubtedly disappear with some more racking and the passage of time necessary for the bouquet that is peculiar to them to develop, and which unfolds very notably in the third year. … For all of the above reasons, and using the strict impartiality with which it should proceed in the performance of its duties, the Jury was of the opinion that the time had not yet arrived for the wines of the year eighteen hundred and sixty-three of Mr. Gortázar to be sold with the official label of Álava, as it considered them susceptible of acquiring qualities that they still lacked … [Mr. Gortázar is asked to] reserve for some time without giving for consumption the wines still remaining from the year eighteen hundred and sixtythree, so that once all their qualities have been developed they may be received in the market with greater appreciation. It was, therefore, a denial wrapped in the cellophane of praise, and it was a temporary denial, since the jury had attested that the wine was developing in the right


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direction. Egaña himself informed Gortázar of this decision, which the Bilbao businessman must not have been too happy about. The result of this tasting was not surprising, as it ratified the verdict issued by Pineau and Garagarza when they had chosen the wine for promotion in Madrid. Let us remember that all the barrels (one from Olano, three from Gortázar) had been from the 1862 vintage and the 1863 wines from both owners had not passed the test, despite being more abundant. As can be seen, those in charge of the Diputación were not willing to lower the bar for measuring the quality of the wine, even in the case of eminent individuals like Gortázar, who had been one of the protagonists of the Medoc Alavés from the very beginning. Nor did they want to be pressured by the risk of running out of wine to sell and, eventually, be unable to meet the demand that the publicity campaign was supposed to provoke. However, there was additional problem that was not yet completely solved: for which public should the quality canon of the new wine be defined? If there was a consensus that the objective was to conquer the tables of the dominant elites who possessed more selective tastes and financial capacity, perhaps the hypothetical market for Medoc Alavés was being excessively limited, since the segments of high society in Spain in which these two criteria converged were still very much in the minority. There were other more or less affluent sectors with palates still influenced by more classic taste patterns and thus a preference for stronger wines. The customers that passed through Torrecilla’s store were a good example of this

Figure 6.4 Bodegas Bilbaínas, label Rioja Pomal cepa Borgoña Source: © Bodegas Bilbaínas

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sociological reality in nineteenth-century Spain. Referring to Gortázar’s 1863 vintage, for instance, Torrecilla informed Egaña that, in general, “it was more popular than the ’62.” This did not mean, of course, that the wine was objectively better than its older counterpart. On the contrary, Torrecilla was convinced that the ’62 wine “will be appreciated more by all people who are wine lovers” [“todas las personas de gusto en vinos”]. But there was a problem: “There are still few of them in Spain.”20 Even though gourmets with fine palates were still few and far between in nineteenth-century Spain, there was another social reality that was to the benefit of the new Rioja Alavesa wine: in Spain, even among the socially welloff, there were sectors that were not willing or able to pay the high price of wine imported from France. A year before the start of the big publicity campaign, the newspaper La Correspondencia had already emphasized this problem by praising the “Spanish Bordeaux” sold in a Madrid wine store. According to the newspaper’s review, this Medoc was a wine that, although it was not as “fashionable” as the imported French wine, “is the one called to preside over the tables of the well-to-do class that, on the other hand, cannot bear the high prices set by foreign wines, more than for any other reason, because of the quality of being foreign.”21 Both this reference to prices and the observations on the link between social status and the evolution of palates pointed to a debate that had yet to take place: the debate on the social and cultural profile of future consumers of the Medoc Alavés. For the time being, president Egaña and his people were betting that the best new clientele to conquer were the most select segment of the Spanish wealthy classes, knowing that the relatively moderate prices of the new wine from Álava, at least in comparison with the great Bordeaux wines, would also continue to be attractive for consumers from the upper-middle classes. They were therefore unwilling to interpret more flexibly the rigorous quality standards that the jury had set for the wines called to participate in the great publicity campaign planned by Egaña, although they were aware that the selfimposed limitation on wines with three years of aging could soon cause shortages in supply. In fact, as we shall see, the stocks of the 1862 vintage were soon exhausted and there was little choice but to wait some time before they were able to market the 1863 vintage, always with the prior approval of the jury. Thus, to start the publicity campaign, the delegate in Madrid had at his disposal a little over 1,000 bottles of Olano y Gortázar wine, which consisted of some 800 initial bottles and another 220 that Egaña sent to Madrid to complete the first consignment. The Diputado General also commissioned him to produce 4,000 labels and the corresponding capsules for the bottles at a lithographer in the capital. The rich correspondence preserved in the archives shows that president Egaña made an effort to personally lead and control the entire campaign down to the smallest detail, negotiating the price of the labels or ensuring that only labels in perfect condition would be used for the bottles of the Medoc Alavés. When he found out, for example, that part of the labels had been soiled, he immediately sent a letter to his delegate


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urging him “not to deliver any bottle with a stained label and to replace all those found in that state.”22 This wine, duly bottled, labeled and encapsulated, was to be distributed as a gift in lots of two, one or half a dozen bottles among the cream of Spanish high society, as well as to personalities related to the political, economic or cultural life of the Basque Country. For this purpose, the Diputado General drew up an initial list of 116 personalities, including the Royal Family, the most prominent representatives of the high aristocracy, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo and the Nuncio, the political elite, the ambassadors of France, England, Austria, Prussia and Russia, as well as the editors of the most important newspapers. This initial list was later completed thanks to Torrecilla’s suggestions, who recommended incorporating some renowned doctors and pharmacists to the list. This focus on health care professionals was no coincidence since, as we have seen, the concern for a healthy diet was a feature that distinguished the emerging urban middle and upper classes of bourgeois society all over Europe, a cultural trend whose echoes were also resonating in Spain: The former will be able to recommend the wines themselves in an infinite number of houses every day. The others will be able to talk to almost all the doctors and surgeons of Madrid who almost daily go to their pharmacies. You can calculate the propaganda that they will be able to make in a short time.23 The delegate himself was busy identifying the most important doctors and pharmacists who he determined should be members of the Royal Academy of Medicine, prioritizing those “who have more visitors among them, although all will have enough, and people of good standing.”24 Egaña, for his part, prepared personal letters explaining the purpose of the gift, which Torrecilla was to deliver to the most prominent people. To reach the royal family, with which Egaña, as we have seen, had several channels of communication, the Deputy General chose Atanasio de Oñate, inspector of offices of the royal house. In his letter he reminded him of the king and queen’s visit to Álava’s Granja Modelo, later School of Agriculture, in the summer of 1865, when “they expressed their desire to taste the wines of the country that we had begun to produce using the Medoc system.” At the time, those in charge of the Diputación, with Egaña at the head, wanted to fulfill this royal wish at the lunch following the visit. But the thing went wrong: “A regrettable mistake led to the presentation that day as our wines at the Royal table, wines that were not part of the trials, and were a real concoction.” This serious error had to be corrected, hence the dispatch of the wine announced by the Deputy General in his letter: Our honor, and above all the truth, were interested in undoing such a mistake. That is what we do today, sending to you two dozen bottles of

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wine from Álava made by the Medoc system, which has won gold and silver medals at the exhibitions in Bayonne and Bordeaux. Now you may present them to your Majesties, asking them to kindly admit them (and taste them if their kindness reaches so far) as a slight token of respect that this province, and in particular its current Deputy General, professes for them.25 Now everything was ready for Gregorio Torrecilla to start distributing the letters and the wine. Egaña asked him to speed up the delivery to journalists, since “it is convenient that the newspapers start talking about our wines.” As it had been agreed that the most important people living in the capital should receive Egaña’s letter by hand, after which the wine was to be sent or deposited in a nearby store, the delegate spent a good part of April 1866 touring the elegant districts of Madrid. In his reports, or “wine diaries,” as he called them, he provided the Diputado General with detailed chronicles of his adventures. The delivery of the missives was not easy for an unknown man like Torrecilla, for whom not everyone wanted to open the door of his home. Some simply believed that he wanted to sell the wine, closing their door with the argument that there was already enough wine at home. In many other cases, the operation had to be repeated once or twice due to the absence of the tenant. The bad weather did not make the task any easier either. Egaña was impressed by the enthusiasm with which Torrecilla was carrying out his task. When he found out that Torrecilla was also spending money out of his own pocket, Egaña told him that he should not make any “pecuniary sacrifice” and that he should send a note with his expenses to the Diputación.26 This praise for the delegate in Madrid, however, was soon eclipsed by admonitions because confusion between private business and public interest surfaced once again. Egaña learned that much of Torrecilla’s enthusiasm resulted from his efforts to promote his own wine business by taking advantage of his access to the homes of the selected personalities. In all the houses where he delivered Egaña’s letter, he also left a card with his name, the address of his store and information about the wines he sold. According to the information relayed to Egaña by the initiator of the project, Ramón Ortiz de Zárate, his predecessor at the head of Álava’s government and now deputy in the Cortes, the card was problematic because “the province of Álava disappears completely and both Riojas are confused,” while the Medoc wine was presented as just one more wine without distinguishing it from beverages of inferior quality.27 Torrecilla was managing to kill two birds with one stone by carrying out Egaña’s order to distribute the gifts while at the same time achieving enormous free publicity for his store. The damage Ortiz de Zárate had warned about had been done. When the first reviews of the new wine appeared in the press, some newspapers seemed to give all the limelight to Torrecilla and the Diputación’s decisive public initiative was diluted. In an effort to alert Egaña once again, the former Deputy General, together with MP Genaro


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Echevarria, sent a clipping from the newspaper La Iberia to his successor in office, warning him that the article “attributes to Mr. Torrecilla the glory of having introduced in Spain this manufacturing system (Medoc).” The deputy’s fears may have been somewhat overblown given that the text is full of praise for the Diputación, but his criticism of the supposed pioneering role attributed to Torrecilla was not without foundation: The zeal and activity of the Álava Provincial Council and its general deputy to promote the wealth of the province are worthy of the highest praise, protecting by all means at their disposal the manufacture of wines by the Medoc system, which has ensured that the wines of the Rioja Alavesa, which previously could not be preserved for a year, acquire great ease of conservation for many years, and leave little or nothing to envy to the renowned Bordeaux wines, both in transparency and purity, as well as in good taste and aroma. At the same time, Torrecilla received the paper’s congratulations “for having introduced this manufacturing system in Spain,” which was, of course, a colossal exaggeration.28 Egaña’s displeasure was enormous and the reprimand that immediately fell on Torrecilla was resounding. In a telegram, he prohibited the distribution of Torrecilla’s personal business cards together with the wine, while in a five-page letter he expressed his anger: I must manifest to you, with the frankness that characterizes me, that with much feeling I have seen the haste of you in mixing your mercantile business with our works, stifling and completely distorting the true expression and nature of the steps taken by the province.29 The repetition of similar warnings in the correspondence of those days shows the great concern this problem must have caused the Deputy General. The fact that he did not break with his delegate seems to indicate that eventually he managed to straighten out the publicity campaign. In fact, Torrecilla was very submissive in his answers, although he was willing to defend his honor and claimed that everything he was doing was done in good faith. He ended by expressing his desire not to depart from Egaña’s instructions one iota in the future, once what he considered to be misunderstandings had been cleared up. In the end, the enormous public and private echo generated by the campaign almost caused these controversies to be forgotten. In fact, both in the many letters of thanks that reached Egaña and in the reviews published by journalists who had received bottles of the new wine, there was high praise for the new product promoted by the Diputación. Towards the end of April, practically all the newspapers in the capital published articles about the new wine. Many of these reviews mentioned the natural and healthy character of the wine from

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Álava, reflecting, as we have seen previously, one of the central concerns of the wealthy classes who wanted a lighter wine, not only for reasons of palate, but also for medical indications. Thus we read, for example, in La Época the following commentary: The new wines of the Rioja Alavesa will achieve great success, because they combine delicate taste and lack of mixture or composition with the spiritual vigor that produces good digestion, without causing dizziness or any kind of disturbances.30 La Iberia added that these wines leave “very little or nothing to envy to the renowned Bordeaux wines, both in transparency and purity, as well as in good taste and aroma.” Like other newspapers, El Español also resorted to comparison with the famous Bordeaux wines: “It has all the most appreciable conditions of good Bordeaux, it is completely pure, and very suitable for people engaged in mental or law firm [‘bufete’] work, and for delicate health.” Comparison to the wines of the authentic Médoc was recurrent, as were references to the excellent “hygienic conditions” – this was the technical term used at the time to describe the dietary qualities of the wine. As a final example of this journalistic praise, here is an extract from an article in La España. This article is of special interest because it reveals one of the great problems that the new wine from Álava had to face, namely the prestige that the authentic Médoc had acquired among Spain’s well-to-do. As we have explained in a previous chapter, good Bordeaux wine was no longer just a drink of great quality; it had become a beverage of social distinction and a marker of prestige among the nineteenth-century European (and American) elites and new gourmets. The fashionable wine was the Médoc, and transforming the cultural habitus that reigned among the wealthy classes required patience. At fine tables, a mediocre Médoc was still worth more than an excellent wine from another region, and this was a cultural reality that a major publicity campaign could perhaps challenge, but certainly not alter from one day to the next: These wines are four years old [sic], when before, with great difficulty, the best could be kept for just one year. They are fine, light, well colored, quite bright, fresh and completely pure; they have been preserved and purified by dint of care and repeated rackings: to a special taste and bouquet (which, it has been observed, develop from the third year without adding any substance) so similar to the good Bordeaux, and very little to the bad, the palate gets used easily … We can assure you that in another country less subject to the influence of foreign fashions, these wines would be a real competition to the wines of Bordeaux, in terms of merit, and a victorious competition in terms of price. It is sad, but it must be said: if these Rioja wines came from the


Conquering the Queen’s palate other side of the Pyrenees, we would pay much more for them, and it is likely that to certain people they would seem better. We recommend that our readers try them, not with a French palate but with a palate that knows how to distinguish the good from the bad and the best from the worst.31

Thus, the Medoc Alavés and its promotors were faced with a difficult dilemma to solve: the Spanish elites at whom the new wine was aimed formed a very tiny social group that, in addition, was quite Francophile in its wine preferences. On the other hand, a hypothetical expansion of the market beyond the reduced educated and well-to-do circles clashed

Figure 6.5 Winery and residence of founder Rafael López de Heredia in Haro with its tower called Txori-Toki (“Place of the Birds”), 1886 Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

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with the taste habits of traditional consumers who were more accustomed to drinking stronger wines. Miguel Rodríguez Ferrer, a famed writer, geographer and humanist who had also held several public offices as Civil Governor in different provinces, including Álava, described this dilemma perfectly in a letter to the Diputado General, whom he thanked for sending six bottles of Medoc Alavés. Rodríguez Ferrer had already become acquainted with the wine as a curator at the Bayonne Exhibition, where, as mentioned above, the wine had won its first award. After praising the excellent quality of the wine, he ended his letter with the following reflection: All that remains to be done now is to open its doors to export, make its quality known and generalize its taste. Unfortunately, the latter cannot be improvised. The taste for these light wines is formed by the most delicate classes who can feel it and who can most afford it; and among us there are still few of them, remaining most of the people accustomed to the common wines of the Rioja and the more alcoholic wines of Navarre. They describe the fine wine as watery [“aguilla”]. Their dull palate perceives nothing else.32 In any case, the first step in eroding the strength of the authentic Médoc among these “more delicate classes” was to make the new wine known and gain prestigious followers for its promotion. In light of the many personal letters of appreciation that Egaña received, it can be affirmed that at least this step was crowned with success. Among the senders were counts, dukes, ambassadors and other prestigious personalities. As the press had already anticipated, in almost all these letters the comparison with Bordeaux appears, but only a minority expressed their decision to change their usual drinking habits and, from then on, to serve Medoc Alavés at their tables. One of those few was the Countess of Montijo: All the people who have drunk it find it exquisite and of such qualities that they confuse it with true Bordeaux wine. I truly congratulate the province of Álava for its progress and I congratulate you for your untiring zeal in contributing to it. And also wishing to make a little personal contribution, I have given orders so that at my table there will always be wine from Álava.33 Among these letters, there was a very special one, the letter Egaña had been waiting for with impatience. It came from the royal family, written in this case by the Duke of Riánsares, whom we have already introduced as the husband of María Cristina, the queen’s mother, and the best man at Egaña’s wedding. This is his account of the first Medoc Alavés tasting at the table of Queen Isabella II: During the lunch [the wine] was given the honors it deserves, and Her Majesty was the first to taste it, without saying her opinion until the


Conquering the Queen’s palate expert D. Pedro Rubio tasted it once and twice, after having looked at it in the light as many times. It so happened that at the table was D. Alfonso Chico de Guzman, who has a great wine harvest in Murcia, is intelligent, and was also invited to give his vote. They were unanimous in that it was an exquisite wine, well made and of excellent taste and color, all finding much more strength in it than in all French wines.34

This reference to the “strength” of the new wine, however, was not exactly a compliment. If good Bordeaux wine was appreciated for its finesse and delicacy, and if these were the characteristics to which the Medoc Alavés also aspired, highlighting its “strength” placed it in dangerous proximity to the classic Rioja wine. And indeed, the Duke of Riánsares explained in his letter this reference to “strength” by reproducing the comment of the expert Pedro Rubio, who had pointed out that this “strength” was reflected in the fact that “one could not drink a bottle at every meal with impunity, as one could do with Bordeaux wines.” Despite that comment, the queen found the wine “good” and reserved six of the twelve bottles for her own table. For the moment the queen considered this “more than enough,” for she drank “every day no more than a glass after the roast.”35 The Deputy General did not want to leave this dangerous assertion about the “strength” of the Medoc Alavés unanswered. In a personal letter to the Duke of Riánsares, whose content he also wanted to extend to the expert Pedro Rubio, he made an elegant effort to recover for the Medoc Alavés the label of the exquisite wine, comparable to the best Bordeaux and without any relation to the ordinary Rioja wine. He therefore made use of the comparison with the wine of Burgundy, which, it is interesting to state, was considered a normal yet successful table wine: Indeed our Medoc is a little more alcoholic than the good Bordeaux, but the difference is so narrow that it allows the same use and in equal quantity, having the advantage of being less acid, a circumstance for which it has been and is perfectly received by delicate foreigners. Our Medoc has but 11 to 12% alcohol, and while good Bordeaux has 10 to 11, Burgundy, so often used as a table wine, contains 13 to 14%.36 In other words, according to the Deputy General, despite having slightly more alcohol, the new Rioja wine was just as good or even better than Bordeaux, and certainly Burgundy, because it had less acidity. It was therefore very healthy, and the expert’s criticism that one could not drink a bottle of Medoc Alavés with “impunity” at lunch was unfounded. Egaña did not need to invent anything when advancing this line of argument, since he was in good company not only of journalists, dukes and counts, but also of experts of great reputation. One of them was Balbino Cortés. This writer, politician and military man had such a colorful biography

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Figure 6.6 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

that several episodes of his life served the famous Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdos as motifs for his novels. Among Cortés’s many professional activities, the one that stood out was his work as a tireless writer and editor of a large number of pamphlets and books aiming at the popularization of different scientific issues related to the most diverse branches of agriculture. Thus, public praise from this prestigious personality was probably worth more than a hundred private letters from aristocrats and diplomats. After receiving the gift of wine, Cortés sent a long personal letter to Egaña thanking him for the gift and adding that it had given him a special pleasure, as it reminded him of his first exile in France between 1828 and 1830, which he had used to study “in the cellars of my good friends and protectors Santiago Lafitte, in Medoc, and Jacob Jules, in Reims, the careful manufacture of their delicious gift, table and sparkling wines.” There he had become a connoisseur in the making of good wine and had learned that the basis of all good wine was not “blind and routine empiricism,” but “art and an enlightened experience.” The person who was pronouncing these words was hardly a nobody on the subject, and therefore the final judgment delivered in his lengthy writing, later published verbatim by the newspaper Iberia, carried special weight. And, again, this judgment was highly favorable to the wine from Álava, even in comparison with the original Médoc:


Conquering the Queen’s palate I would be lacking in justice and impartiality if I did not state and record, with good reason, that neither at the Agricultural Exhibition of 1857, where I was awarded as an exhibitor and took an official part, nor subsequently have I seen, tasted, or judged a wine which, having the great ease of conservation, has the transparency, purity, good taste and natural aroma of the wines of Álava produced by the Medoc system. In my humble opinion, they have little or nothing to envy to most of those wines that under the names of Bordeaux and Medoc are sold at a fabulous price in Spain and so cheap in the Indies and in America.37

When Egaña received this important endorsement for the Medoc Alavés, a problem that has already been mentioned before was worsening: the only wine that had received authorization to be sold under the Medoc Alavés appellation and to carry the official label (i.e. the four 1862 barrels) was running out of stock. The success of the publicity campaign had created an enormous demand, which the suppliers could no longer cope with. This is what Egaña himself communicated in his aforementioned letter to the Duke of Riánsares. The stocks of 1862 had been exhausted “in a jiffy.” And before being able to satisfy at least a part of the “infinite demands that are addressed to us,” it was necessary to wait at least half a year before the wine of 1863 acquired all the qualities to enter the market. This situation was giving rise to numerous cases of fraud, committed with other inferior wines that were sold as Medoc Alavés at the same high price. In fact, as the Deputy General reported in his appearance before the regional parliament a year later, the new wines were “broadening” their market day by day, and this despite the fact that they were being paid “at prices almost triple those paid for ordinary wines.” The only way that those in charge of the province could think of to stop the fraud was the publication of a circular for consumers, a circular that was published by practically all the Madrid newspapers at the end of May and the beginning of June 1866. The circular warned of the sale of wines that, although made according to the new Médoc method, were “premature and imperfect” because they did not yet meet the conditions for sale. These wines were not authorized to carry the official label of the province. The text ended with a warning to the customers: [This Diputación] also wishes that the good faith of consumers, inside and outside the country, is not surprised, for which reason it must state that there is NO LONGER ANY STOCK OF THE 1862 VINTAGE and that the wines of the later ones that have so far been subjected to examination, have not been considered so completely finished, that they deserve by now the authorization to be sold with the aforementioned official label.38 If it was already utopian enough to think that through an official circular it was possible to prevent the abuses committed in the free wine market, things became

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even more complicated when Egaña received information that not even Gregorio Torrecilla, his man in Madrid, the only one authorized to sell the wine and the one who had taken care of all the details of the great publicity campaign, was respecting the indications given in the circular. Apparently, and in spite of all the previous reprimands, Torrecilla continued with his particular sales policy that had been criticized by Egaña. President Egaña had learned that Torrecilla was also selling “bad Medoc wines” with the official label, wines that had not been previously authorized for sale. This might have fatal consequences: “After all the sacrifices made for the province, and before definitively securing the great market that this government expects and prepares for Rioja, we lose everything in four days due to the eagerness to make profit.” But the problems did not end there. There was another one of special relevance, whose remedy was more than a little complicated. It was again Pedro Egaña who was the first to realize the seriousness of the problem. As we have seen, since he assumed the responsibility of General Deputy at Álava’s Diputación, Egaña followed with great enthusiasm the evolution of the modernizing wine project initiated by his predecessor in office. He was perfectly aware of the social reality that prevailed in the Rioja Alavesa during the second half of the nineteenth century. While the project was making progress, he realized that, to a large extent, the idea of producing Rioja quality wine and its materialization clashed with the reality of a backward agrarian society. On this occasion, the traditional reluctance to accept any kind of proposal aimed at breaking with long established conveniences and habits had not aborted the experiment, as had happened in the case of Quintano at the beginning of the century. Yet, half a century later, the space for innovation had not really broadened. The Medoc Alavés was, therefore, a project that was way ahead of its time. One thing was the good will of a few well-to-do and enlightened individuals, and another was the rather precarious situation of the large number of small winegrowers who had to produce the new wine required by the markets. As Egaña explained to Torrecilla, “we knew that it was impossible to require growers to set aside two and three consecutive vintages, because they generally lack the means to do so.” Hence, once the product was sufficiently known and demanded in the markets, it was necessary to create businesses to do this job: I consider, therefore, that the continuation of the work of improving wines … requires the formation of a company that has its cellars in the Rioja, buys grapes, musts made according to instructions to be communicated, or wines already made that have had one or two rackings.39 There was, however, an obvious problem which momentarily impeded the materialization of the idea that the Deputy General had in mind: the industry that Egaña wanted to attract to take charge of the ageing of wine and its commercialization simply did not exist. The only case in Spain where a similar idea had been successfully implemented was, as mentioned above, Jerez


Conquering the Queen’s palate

Figure 6.7 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

wine, whose success in international markets was largely due to the significant involvement of British capital, which was nowhere to be seen in Rioja. As will be explained later, this capital would only appear two decades later in the iron ore mines and the first blast furnaces in Bizkaia, giving rise to the industrial revolution in the Basque Country. It was only then that there was sufficient Basque capital available, and part of it was to be invested in the Rioja wine sector. In the times of Deputy General Egaña, on the other hand, there was neither capital nor people interested in investing in a business that was still very young and insecure, with perhaps only one exception: the Marquis of Riscal. In fact, precisely in 1866, when Egaña identified the problem and proposed the creation of a large commercial enterprise as a remedy, two important decisions had been taken in the Marquis’s house: one, to commission the Logroño architect Ricardo Bellsolá to build a new winery in Elciego, which was inaugurated two years later; and, two, as discussed at a family meeting in Bordeaux, that his first-born son Camilo, who had shortly before abandoned his diplomatic career, would manage the family business in the future, including the production and marketing of fine wine at the La Torrea estate in Elciego.40

Conquering the Queen’s palate


But Riscal was the exception that proves the rule: there was no other entrepreneur in the Rioja Alavesa who met the necessary conditions to become a major player in the new wine business, namely, a strong personal interest in the business (like Riscal since his inheritance in 1858), sufficient capital to invest, social prestige to promote the products and a solid knowledge of modern winemaking through close connections to Bordeaux. Thus, we can conclude that the moment of maximum success was also a turning point in the history of the new wine. A new product had been successfully created; this wine had conquered the palate of the queen and other gourmets in Spanish high society; the press was full of praise for the Medoc Alavés; the scarce stocks were sold at very high prices; and, finally, the appearance of fraudulent wines with the Medoc Alavés label showed that a new brand had already been created and was highly appreciated on the market. All this had been a triumph patiently worked out by the protagonists of the innovative project. It was yet another example of human creativity that, as so often in history, manages to move mountains. But Egaña and his people had to recognize very soon that this creativity had limits which the cold reality of the historical process was in charge of defining. In the Spain of the 1860s it was possible to create a new wine, a modern wine made according to the most advanced methodology that existed at the time. But what was not possible was to transform traditional Spain, still very much anchored in the political, social and economic structures of the ancien régime, into a country like France or the British Empire, both much more advanced along the path of the “double revolution.”41 In this story about the invention of the Medoc Alavés, the year 1866 was the incarnation of this double-folded reality. It was the year of splendor and triumph, but it was also the year of decline and frustration.

Notes 1 Juan Pan-Montojo, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994), 64–75. 2 La Correspondencia de España, May 19, 1863. 3 Letter from the deputy of Lanciego to the Deputy General, [no place], August 16, 1863. 4 Letter from Melitón Eguilaz to the Deputy General, Lanciego, August 26, 1863. 5 Letter from the Marqués de Riscal to the Deputy General, Bagnères de Bigorre, August 24, 1863. 6 Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 7, 1863, 25–27. 7 Letter from Javier María de Azcona to Ortiz de Zárate, Pamplona, October 9, 1863. 8 Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 8, 1864, 31–35. 9 Ibid., 33–35. 10 Quotations taken from Particulares del acta de la sesión ordinaria celebrada por la Junta Directiva de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la Provincia el 31 de enero de 1866. This, like the other documents related to the episode of the Bordeaux awards, can be found in ATHA, DH-120-19. The statistics on the production of Médoc-style wine are in a handwritten report signed by Riscal in Bordeaux,


11 12

13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Conquering the Queen’s palate

October 15, 1865. The renunciation of the medal according to Michèle Mas, Courants et échanges entre Bordeaux et La Rioja dans la segonde moitié du XIX siècle, Travail d’Études Ibériques (Bordeaux: Université de Bordeaux III, 1984), 33. It is not known to what extent this renunciation was definitive, as the Bordeaux medal appears today on the wine labels produced by the Heirs of the Marquis of Riscal. See the aforementioned meeting minutes, Particulares del acta de la sesión, January 31, 1866. Joseba Agirreazkuenaga et al., Diccionario biográfico de los parlamentarios de Vasconia (1808–1876) (Vitoria: Parlamento Vasco, 1993), 333–341, quotation 339; Coro Rubio, Pedro Egaña: Discursos y escritos (Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco, 2019). Circular de Pedro Egaña, Vitoria, April 6, 1866. Letter from P. Egaña to the growers, Vitoria, April 19, 1866. Extract of a document signed by the secretary of the Diputación, Vitoria, May 25, 1866. Order signed by P. Egaña, Vitoria, April 11, 1866. Letter from Torrecilla to Egaña, Madrid, April 12, 1866. Letter from Egaña to Torrecilla, Vitoria, April 11, 1866. Minutes of the meeting, Vitoria, May 12, 1866. The following quotations are from the same document. Letter from Torrecilla to Egaña, Madrid, April 12, 1866. La Correspondencia, September 17, 1865. Letter from Egaña to Torrecillas, Vitoria, April 22, 1866. Letter from Torrecilla to Egaña, Madrid, April 18, 1866; Lista de personajes de Madrid a quienes se hace regalo de vino (no date, no place). Letter from Torrecilla to Egaña, Madrid, April 14, 1866. Letter from P. Egaña to Atanasio de Oñate, no place [Vitoria], April 3, 1866. Letter from Egaña to Torrecilla, Madrid, April 23 and 24, 1866. Letter from R. Ortiz de Zárate to P. Egaña, no place, April 26, 1866. La Iberia, April 29, 1866; letter from R. Ortiz de Zárate and G. Echevarria to P. Egaña, Madrid, April 30, 1866. Telegram from P. Egaña to Torrecilla, Vitoria, April 27, 1866; letter dated April 28, 1866. La Época, April 29, 1866. La España, April 26, 1866; La Iberia, April 29, 1866; El Español, April 29, 1866. Letter from Miguel Rodríguez Ferrer to P. Egaña, Vitoria, April 20, 1866. Letter from la Condesa de Montijo to P. Egaña, Madrid, April 30, 1866, ATHA, 120–23. The documents mentioned below are from this same document collection, unless otherwise indicated. Letter from the Duque de Riánsares (Agustín Fernando Muñoz) to P. Egaña, Irumendi, May 6, 1866. Ibid. Letter from P. Egaña to Duque de Riánsares, Vitoria, July 2, 1866, ATTH, 120– 24. Iberia, May 2, 1866. Cortés does not explain his somewhat surprising thesis that French Bordeaux was so expensive in Spain and so cheap overseas. Circular, May 25, 1866, published in the Madrid newspapers, quoted here according to La Lealtad, May 30, 1866. Letter from P. Egaña to G. Torrecilla, Vitoria, May 29, 1866. Simone Saillard, “Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, Marqués de Riscal (1827–1888),” in Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 58; Iñigo González, Rafael Uriarte, Jesús María Valdaliso, “Vinos de los

Conquering the Queen’s palate


Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, S.A. (1858–2008),” in Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal. 150 aniversario (1858–2008) (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 89–146, reference to the new bodega on p. 101. 41 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 (New York: Vintage Books, 1996).

References Agirreazkuenaga, Joseba, et al.Diccionario biográfico de los parlamentarios de Vasconia (1808–1876) (Vitoria: Parlamento Vasco, 1993). Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 7, Vitoria, 1863. Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 8, Vitoria, 1864. El Español, April 29, 1866. González, Iñigo, Rafael Uriarte, Jesús María Valdaliso, “Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, S.A. (1858–2008),” in Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal: 150 aniversario (1858–2008) (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 89–146. Hobsbawm, Eric J., The Age of Revolution: 1789–1848 (New York: Vintage Books, 1996). La Correspondencia de España, May 19, 1863. La Época, April 29, 1866. La España, April 26, 1866. La Iberia, April 29, 1866. La Lealtad, May 30, 1866. Pan-Montojo, Juan, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994). Rubio, Coro, Pedro Egaña: Discursos y escritos (Bilbao: Universidad del País Vasco, 2019). Saillard, Simone, “Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, Marqués de Riscal (1827–1888),” in Vinos de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal (Alcobendas: TF, 2008), 37–74.

Figure 7.1 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA


Thwarted Too modern for the time

After the remarkable success of the great publicity campaign, the hangover soon followed. One of the most significant proofs of the gradual decline of the Medoc Alavés is the fact that, more or less from the end of 1866, the volume of documentation related to the project started in 1858 decreases drastically. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – we shall stay for a few moments in that prodigious year of 1866, a year of culmination and transition in which the new wine from Rioja Alavesa received its official baptism under the presence of a select audience. It was the year of another great success, perhaps the last one, that was also the result of the publicity campaign in part. This success consisted of the publication of a new book by the aforementioned popular scientific writer Balbino Cortés who, in a total of 274 pages, published in Madrid his Tratado teórico y práctico de vinificación o arte de hacer vino (“theoretical and practical treatise on vinification or the art of making wine”). This book, which has already been quoted above, deserves special mention here because it reproduces a unique document, the original of which seems to have been lost. It is a long report written by Eugenio Garagarza, at the time the Director of the Practical School of Agriculture and, as we have seen, together with Jean Pineau, the person in charge of the technical-scientific aspects of the Medoc Alavés project. This document is certainly the most complete and detailed report on the development of the project initiated by Álava’s Diputación that we know of. Written in December 1865, a few months before the beginning of the publicity campaign, it constitutes a unique testimony of great historical value. The fact that a man as renowned as Cortés reproduced it verbatim was a new triumph for the project, which thus saw its innovative character and its quest for excellence recognized. It is a testimony written in the ascending phase of the project, but it can also almost be considered the final testament of the Medoc Alavés, which barely a year later would enter its slow agony. For all these reasons, it is worth rescuing it from oblivion and devoting our attention to it.1 Garagarza’s report begins with the affirmation of an essential principle that served as the starting point for the whole experiment. The director of the School of Agriculture was persuaded that “the finesse of the wine stems essentially from the good quality of the fruit.” In other words, there is no DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-7



good wine without good grapes. And since some grape varieties that were grown in the Rioja Alavesa did not ripen sufficiently due to the fact that in summer the temperature did not rise much, it was decided to import varieties from abroad to see which would be the most suitable for growing and producing fruit in optimum conditions. However, it soon became clear that the results of these experiments would take years to arrive, and since no time could be lost in trying to improve the sector’s complicated situation, it was decided best to halt them. Instead, a new strategy was put in place that focused on the available varieties, while innovating and improving all those steps in the winemaking process that lent themselves to this goal without having to waste time or make large investments, other than hiring the French expert and acquiring tools and equipment customarily used in the Médoc. Yet, as early as the first vintage of 1862, there were major obstacles to following Pineau’s advice. The first rule Pineau had imposed was the selective harvesting of the grapes. This new practice implied, of course, abandoning the classic system according to which the beginning of the vintage in a given locality was determined by a municipal ordinance. The reason for this break with tradition was obvious: due to geological and climatological differences, grapes in different plots had different ripening times and, therefore, had to be harvested in a staggered manner. However, the great division of the property did not allow for the application of this new system of staggered grape collection according to the degree of ripeness. Nor was it easy to organize a selective vintage, separating the good grapes from those in poorer condition: Although persuaded of the convenience of proceeding to the selection of the good and ripe fruit, the conditions in which the harvest is made, imposed by the great division of the property, have not allowed us to fulfill this precept. So we had to be content with just separating some bunches that had not matured sufficiently as well as those that had been attacked by powdery mildew as the grapes arrived at the cellars. However, we have occasionally succeeded in having grapes from selected vineyards used for this [new] method of production, although the procedure has also been applied to fruit of poorer quality, produced by the most disadvantageous soil and location.2 Hence, this was the first essential difference in the new wine’s process of elaboration: a more careful and selective treatment of the grapes, although with the indicated impediments and limitations. Once the grapes – ripe and unripe, healthy and infected – arrived at the winery, other long established winemaking traditions had to be changed in order to give the wine greater stability and prevent premature spoilage. According to Garagarza, even the best of the traditional wines were not able to survive more than one year in 1860s Rioja. In order to correct these deficiencies in some way, plaster was added to the wine in many parts of the Rioja as a means to stabilize it somewhat more and give it more color, because this is “how the mule drivers who buy the wines




generally prefer it.” So what was to be done? The head of the School of Agriculture summarized his proposal as follows: The new method differs in that the grapes are completely destemmed and crushed, separating a large part of the stalk before placing it in the vat. Furthermore, the tumultuous fermentation lasts longer, some meticulous care is given to the wines during the slow fermentation and racking must be repeated.4 The best place for destemming and crushing the grapes was a “stone floor” [“suelo de piedra”] that was higher than the upper edge of the vat, so that through the conduits provided for this purpose the must and the crushed fruit could fall into the vessel for subsequent fermentation. In the cellars that did not have this installation, the operation had to be carried out in the vat itself after installing a platform inside it. This allowed treading -by “barefoot men with clean feet”- and destemming -with destemming machines- to be carried out, retaining the stalk while the must ran to the bottom of the vat. The total separation of the stem or stalk was recommended, except in those “places where the grapes have little tannin and a part of that contained in the stem or stalk should be added to the wine.” During the process of treading and filling the vats, it was convenient to regularly stir the contents inside and submerge the cap that was formed with the solid parts in the upper part of the vat. Once fermentation had begun, determining its duration was not to be left in the hands of the growers who “have no other rule than their whim to consider the tumultuous fermentation terminated.” This process lasted between six and ten days, and its end was to be decided by a combination of science and personal tasting, between the use of the hydrometer to check whether the yeasts had done their job of transforming the sugar in the must into alcohol and the expert palate of the winegrower: When the gleucoenometer [sic] or must-weigher [“pesa-mosto”] marks 0 in the must extracted by means of a spigot in the center of the mass, and when the liquid loses temperature and its sweetness, taking on a vinous taste, the moment to extract the must has come.5 At this time, the best wine was transferred to the barrels. The wine from a second pressing was of inferior quality and should not be blended with the good wine. It is interesting to note that for the ageing process Garagarza does not exclusively recommend Bordeaux barrels with their 225-liter capacity, but rather opts for larger containers – clean and sulfurized – made from a specific type of oak: The extracted wine is placed in vats or barrels that are well cleaned, sulphurized, free of all odor and taste. Experience has already shown that


Thwarted barrels of 15 to 30 cántaras [241–483 l] made of good quality oak wood should be preferred: the observations and studies made to date show that among the woods subjected to a careful examination, those of oak from Northern Europe are the best, for which reason we have preferred them. The vessels or barrels must remain completely filled with the liquid that naturally and without any pressure whatsoever comes out of the vat and produces first-class wine.6

Once in the barrel, the winemaker had to follow the evolution of the wine attentively, tasting it and refilling the barrel every 24 to 48 hours for the first eight days, then once a week. After two months, the barrels were sealed with corks wrapped in canvas. The first racking took place in February, followed by the second and third in June and September. Through communicating pipes, the wine was transferred from one barrel to another with the help of pumps. In the second year, the wine was racked again in February, when the work of continuous refilling could be considered finished. The second racking of the year had to be carried out in September. The months for this same operation during the third year were March and September. Only then was the wine ready for bottling, “an operation that should not be done until three years of age, because before that the wine does not have all its qualities developed, unfolding its aroma or bouquet mainly after two years.”

Figure 7.2 A woman harvesting at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA



Another somewhat surprising comment in this detailed Medoc Alavés production handbook is the reference to the clarification of the wine prior to bottling. Garagarza emphasizes that the wine that ends up in the bottle has to be “perfectly clarified.” The system he recommends consists of heavily stirring the wine with an iron brush in order to eliminate impurities. On the other hand, clarification with egg whites appears here only as a last resort for cases in which the other system has not given the expected result.7 By scrupulously respecting all these new rules in the winemaking process, the result could not fail: an elegant, pure and light wine that measured 13.5% (“tempranilla grape, the most common in the country”), 12.5% (“graciano, rojal”) and 12% (“Jaén”) alcohol on the glucometer: Once the wines were perfectly preserved, both in large and small vats, after racking, they acquired a cleanliness and brilliance that left nothing to be desired, developing a pleasant aroma and the remarkable qualities that we had expected when proposing this method of production.8 For Garagarza both the awards won at the Bayonne and Bordeaux exhibitions, as well as the opinion of many experts who had predicted a great future for the Medoc Alavés on the market, were facts that proved this success. However, the Director of the Agricultural School was already aware, even well before the Deputy General raised, as we have already mentioned, this subject at the end of May 1866, that the property structures in the Rioja Alavesa constituted an insurmountable obstacle which prevented the transformation of what had begun as an experiment of innovation into a new branch of business on a large scale. The small winegrowers could not carry out the entire winemaking process according to the new rules, including the ageing of the wines, due to a lack of means and the consequent need to sell their wine as soon as possible. What was needed, therefore, was the division of labor and the involvement of the industry in the elaboration and commercialization of the new product: Now that the time has come to seek the [wine] export on a large scale, the Diputación is taking the necessary steps to make them known and promote their trade. We hope that eventually it will be achieved that industrialists will come and place their focus on the country and start taking care of the wines that they themselves make with grapes that are provided to them or must that they buy. This is necessary if the wealth of the winegrowing sector in Rioja is to be properly exploited, since no more should be demanded of the growers than the production of the fruit, or at most the first elaboration of the wine. For everything to go well, it is essential that the forces of the grower, the industrialist and the merchant concur, each working separately in their respective realms.9 But there was also yet another problem to be solved “for everything to go well.” It was Gregorio Torrecilla who, in his treatise published a year later,



added it to Garagarza’s account: the tremendous burden of custom and tastes that could not be changed from one day to the next. Egaña’s friend therefore proposed the gradual application of the new system “because it is not possible for the consumers of most wines to suddenly change their taste, nor for the winemakers to transform the system of making them.” This “gradual” transformation would consist in the coexistence of three different winemaking systems in the cellar of the same winemaker. The latter had to decide how much of his vintage he wanted to dedicate to winemaking according to the new system, including ageing, while he could continue to make his usual wine according to the traditional method. As a third alternative he could introduce in the elaboration of this wine all those improvements that, “without changing those qualities that most appeal to its present consumers, modify nevertheless its conditions of conservation (a matter of such importance for the wine wealth), making them at the same time more pleasant and healthier for consumption.”10 This idea of a three-dimensional winegrower was rather utopian. Yet the reflection on the difficulty of changing habits – of winemaking and tastes – acquired over centuries, as well as Garagarza’s call to promote the division of labor and the necessary involvement of the “industry” in the wine sector, were the result of a very realistic interpretation of the socioeconomic and cultural context in which the Medoc Alavés experiment was evolving. The decisive intervention of a public institution as prestigious and, thanks to the high level of self-government derived from the foral system, influential as the Diputación, managed to defy this adverse context. It was crucial to break the immobilism and set in motion a process of innovation, whose most brilliant result was the creation of a new product and its popularization among the elites of Madrid. It was an achievement that was not within everyone’s reach. In this context it is worth mentioning that there were attempts in the Spanish Rioja to emulate Álava’s example and set up something similar. In May 1867, we find information on the 1866 vintage in the Official Gazette of the province of Logroño, which reported that the Provincial Council had appointed “two intelligent winemakers subsidized from provincial funds to improve the wines by means of the Medoc system.” According to an attached list, seven growers had made a total of 2,270 cántaras [36,547 liters] of the new wine. Apparently, the qualification of the new wine as “Medoc wine” was very relative, as it did not include the three years of ageing, which in Álava was considered essential to achieve the necessary purity and bouquet of the wine in all its splendor. However, the “Medoc wine” which was put on sale in the Spanish Rioja achieved a much higher selling price than ordinary wine. While the wines “made by the old methods hardly sell for one escudo per cántara,” the wines which had been made according to the Medoc process “have sold for three, four and even five escudos.”11 Nevertheless, and in spite of the optimism spread by the Official Gazette, it does not seem that this initiative was crowned with a success



similar to that obtained by the Basque province. In his aforementioned treatise, Torrecilla, a native of Logroño, regretted not being able to write a text with similar praise for his province to that which he dedicated to Álava, despite the fact that “two intelligent winemakers” had been brought to Logroño to direct the winemaking operations. Contrary to what had happened in Álava, in Logroño “the province still does not enjoy any benefit.” Private initiative, formed by innovative owners such as José Elvira or Joaquín Francisco Campuzano, who even brought a winemaker from France on his own and sent a young man to Bordeaux to learn the wine trade in situ, could not fill the gap that, at least in Torrecilla’s opinion, had been left by Logroño’s Diputación: “These noble efforts have had few results, because private individuals, however powerful they may be, can never provide all the movement that a province, which almost entirely is dedicated to winegrowing, needs.”12 While in Logroño the joint venture between private initiative and institutional policy did not bear the expected fruit, in Álava the new wine continued gaining honors and awards which, nonetheless, were unable to resolve the structural problems. In September 1867, a large agricultural exhibition was organized in Vitoria, Álava’s capital city, bringing together all kinds of agricultural products, animals and farming tools from the province. Six winemakers presented their Medoc wines of different vintages and some of them were even younger than those considered “finished” with three years of ageing. Three of these winemakers were awarded medals for different of their Medoc wines.13 It is worth noting that among these six growers who presented their Medoc wines, there were still two who also submitted ordinary wine, as did other winemakers who had not even begun to make new wine. The fact is that the commitment to the Medoc Alavés generated advantages, but also entailed risks. In this respect, the report of the exposition is very explicit: The wines produced by this system are received with appreciation in different parts of Spain and America by those people who fancy wellprepared, slightly alcoholic, aromatic and clarified beverages. However, as exports outside the country cannot yet provide an outlet for the considerable quantities that Rioja has the means to produce, it was hoped that this type of wine would be accepted by consumers in the neighboring provinces, who have resisted for some time due to unjustified reservations or a spirit of opposition to innovations. However, it was to be hoped that they would finally be given the preference they deserved, and so it has happened: the intelligent tasters of the country that the Qualifying Board consulted to make their appraisals recognized the superiority of the Medoc wines of 1866 over all the best they had tasted in the different wineries of Rioja, although they stated that they wanted them in that state and without them becoming older.14



In other words, the creation of the new product had been a total success, but the market of consumers who were really in a position to appreciate it in its state of purity and final fineness was still a long way off. And in the closer and more accessible territory of the Basque coastal provinces, not even the palate of the “intelligent tasters” had evolved sufficiently to give priority to the more elaborate and sophisticated version of the Medoc Alavés based on the costly three-year ageing. These “experts” preferred the young wine of barely one year, still much more similar to the classic Rioja wine, than the older wine, subjected to many rackings and in search of its perfection during its stay in the barrel. It should be remembered that Torrecilla had observed the same phenomenon among the customers who frequented his wine store in Madrid. The conclusion was obvious: for the vast majority of the growers, even the wealthiest who had participated in the Medoc Alavés experiment from the beginning, the decision to direct their entire business towards the production of the perfect Medoc, the wine that had conquered the fine tables of Madrid, including the Royal Family, would have been a suicidal gamble. Hence, despite the enormous effort those in charge of the Diputación exerted to preserve the Medoc Alavés label for wines aged three years, very different wines with little or no oak ageing gradually proliferated under this appellation and were only presumed to have followed the new methodology during the first stages of vinification. And this young Medoc wine was achieving good sales at good prices. The author of the Memoria dedicated to the Exposition concluded that “the more intelligent consumer” already preferred the Medoc wines from Álava to the “most selected wines of the region,” even though one had to pay about 20 reales per cántara instead of 8 to 10 in case of the traditional wine. However, it is interesting to note that for the author of the Memoria the immediate future did not necessarily involve a total transformation of the winemaking system through the implementation of the Medoc system, a vision that, for the reasons mentioned above, was still quite utopian for the times. This realism led to a proposal that aimed to alleviate the precarious financial situation of the growers. Under it, a gradual transformation would be set in motion that exploited young Medoc Alavés as a transitional product and useful instrument of capitalization. The idea was to convince progressively more winegrowers to make a good part of their wine according to the Bordeaux method, to sell this new in-demand young wine on the markets at a good price and thus accumulate the necessary capital to allow them to finance the ageing of the most select part of the vintage and thus complete the entire process of making the Medoc Alavés: Increasing the presence of these wines in the ordinary consumption, it is possible to obtain considerable advances and ensure an advantageous outlet for large quantities, allowing the grower to reserve those that most suit him so that once they have acquired all their qualities in three or four years, they can be sold as finished wines of Medoc manufacture.15



Months later, in June 1868, Garagarza himself insisted on these ideas. In a long letter sent to the President of the Valencian Agricultural Society, the director of the Álava School of Agriculture noted the incipient and gradual change that was taking place in the tastes of Rioja’s traditional customers, consumers in the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia. It was difficult to absorb the initial total rejection of the mule drivers and wine traders, who had not even wanted to try the new wines. But once overcome, young Medoc wines gained ground in the local market because they were more in line with the notion of good wine that a traditional palate transmitted to this Basque clientele: Wines that are only 10 to 12 months old and have had two or three rackings, are the only ones accepted by this local consumer: his palate, accustomed to quite full-bodied wines, rejects older wines, which are always drier and have aromas that are mistakenly attributed to the addition of strange substances.16 These young and cheaper Medoc wines with little or no oak ageing were the ones that were selling the most, reaching between 20 and 24 reales per cántara, while those with two years of ageing were priced between 30 and 40, and those with three years of ageing between 40 and 50. Therefore, and in case this consumer preference for young Medoc wine was consolidated, the recipe was very similar to the one formulated by the report of the exhibition: The growers will be able to change completely the method of production, adopting the one that has produced such good results: they will sell a large part of the vintage during the year for local consumption, and will reserve for export as good and completely finished wines those quantities that suit them according to the resources they have at their disposal.17 To achieve this goal, however, there were two major obstacles, apart from the uncertainty related to the evolution of palates. First, winemakers had to abandon the custom, deeply rooted in the Rioja, of “forming a single body” by blending wines of the lower class (“lágrima,” “prensado”) with the higher class must that resulted from the first treading. According to Garagarza, each of these three classes generated more or less a third of the total production. The new system, on the other hand, was much more selective. In addition to having carried out the destemming prior to treading, only the best quality wine from the first treading was to be used for the production of Medoc. This “first class” wine was the one that “comes out of the vat without any pressure” on its way to the barrel. The wine that came out after the second treading and pressing, which was “second class wine, which is usually divided into two, the inferior being the press wine,” was not appropriate.18 This discrimination between different types of wine and the differentiated production



of each required an adequate infrastructure (manpower, space, different containers, destemming machines, presses) that many of the small Rioja winemakers lacked. Hence, the assertion that transforming the classic winemaking method entailed hardly any additional costs, so often made by defenders of the Medoc system and its application in Rioja, was not a reliable description of the social reality in the region. It was rather a propagandistic argument that aimed to defend the benefits of the new system by removing suspicions and spreading its diffusion. And in the same letter of June 1868, Garagarza was aware that his thesis that “this method raises manufacturing costs very little” was not going to be shared by many of the small landowners of Rioja. In his missive, he was once again taking up an idea that had already been expressed by the Deputy General Pedro Egaña in 1866, when he invited his friend Torrecilla to draw up a project for a large commercial company in Rioja. Indeed, it was the same observation that Garagarza himself noted in his December 1867 report, when he predicted that the Medoc Alavés could not have a future without a greater division of labor and decisive intervention by the “industrialists” in the wine sector. Referring to the new wines and their long process of fabrication from harvest to ageing, he stated the following in June 1868: They have been very well accepted everywhere, but the means available to the winegrowers do not allow for a great development of the manufacture: they lack capital to have accumulated in their caves or cellars three or four vintages. They need to sell their products in the year itself to meet their necessities, and the generalization of this method, preserving the wines all the time convenient for their qualities to develop well, can only be achieved with the intervention of commercial or industrial companies, which receive the wines a few months after they are made, and attend to their successive care for three years, time that experience has shown necessary for them to acquire the aroma and other conditions that make them recommendable.19 For all these reasons, he concluded that six years after the project began with the 1862 vintage, at a time when the production of Medoc Alavés had already left “the spheres of trials,” and in the absence of greater involvement from commercial and industrial capital, the new method “has been adopted exclusively by a few winegrowers.”20 Hence, the Medoc Alavés project had already entered a phase of stagnation when Garagarza sent this balance sheet to Valencia. The owners who applied it were still only a small minority. They were very few, but apparently they took great care of their production so as not to squander the fame that the new wine had acquired. As an example, there is the case of Francisco Paternina from Labastida -we should remember that he was Pineau’s translator after the Frenchman’s arrival in Rioja- who, apparently by mistake, sold bottles as Medoc in two Vitoria wine stores that in reality



Figure 7.3 Harvesters at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

contained a liquid “which was undoubtedly not yet ready for it.” After realizing this mishap, he asked the city council to replace the 200 bottles that remained of the “bad wine” with another “good” one without having to repay the tax on the new bottles that had to be brought from Labastida to Vitoria.21 Although winegrowers involved in the Medoc experiment, such as Paternina, remained in the minority, the venture had in fact begun to transform the Rioja Alavesa’s wine sector. It now presented a much more heterogeneous and multifaceted idiosyncrasy than had been the case at the beginning of the 1860s. By 1868, the few owners devoted to the new system coexisted with a larger number of growers who had begun to utilize its first phase to produce young Medoc wine that could be sold to mule drivers who transported it to nearby markets. Neither the first group nor the second had totally renounced the production of traditional wine. And, finally, there was the bulk of the small winegrowers who continued to stick to the classic system for lack of resources. The Diputación, initiator of the project, remained vigilant and determined to improve conditions for the development of the sector, promoting, for example, the construction of a new bridge over the Ebro River in Elciego, the fief of the Marquis of Riscal and location of his cellar. The bridge, inaugurated in July 1867, facilitated the transport of wine, as it connected this area of Rioja with the railroad line between the city of Tudela in Navarre and the



port of Bilbao.22 The few merchants who continued to sell the aged and bottled Medoc Alavés tried to keep alive the momentum that the great marketing campaign of 1866 had sparked among the elites of the Spanish capital. Thus, Gregorio Torrecilla ran advertisements in the press that praised the “Rioja Medoc of three to five years,” which he sold in his store in Madrid as “wines of the aristocracy.”23 This reference to the aristocracy was a logical publicity tool. Contrary to what was happening in France and the United Kingdom, the social reality of Spain in the 1860s had hardly changed. The new urban middle and upper classes, from which the gourmet sectors in the other two countries were largely drawn, were still extremely weak, so that the aristocracy continued to be the point of reference for anything related to gastronomic habits. To say that a wine was “of the aristocracy” in Spain at the time was equivalent to saying that it was an elegant and fine wine. However, all these publicity strategies, efforts, impulses and energies, were not enough to reverse the clear downward trend in which the Medoc Alavés had already entered. The year 1868 would be its annus horribilis. In fact, the decline of the Medoc Alavés had already begun at the end of 1867. In November, Álava’s parliament met to receive and approve, if so decided, the mandatory chairman’s report that the Diputado General had to present to the deputies. At that time, the Diputación was in a serious economic crisis that forced the introduction of severe cuts in public spending. Egaña’s report reads like a string of different austerity measures in the most diverse sectors, including the elimination of different jobs. Nothing was spared, and Egaña reported that even the prestigious School of Agriculture “has also suffered the consequences of the savings system” that he had been forced to implement due to the “economic state of the province.” After listening to the Deputy General and following his proposals, the Treasury Commission agreed to draw up the budget for the following year, taking into account, among others, the decision to “eliminate the job of cave master, which is currently held by Mr. Pineau.” In addition, “the budget line for wine improvement” was also dropped.24 It is not clear whether Pineau would still be in charge of the 1868 vintage or whether he left his post earlier. In any case, he was not left unemployed, as he was immediately hired by the Marqués de Riscal to manage his estate in Elciego, where, as noted above, the new winery was ready to receive the grapes for the 1868 vintage. Pineau moved to Elciego together with his wife Petronila Seguin and his son Charles. His eldest son, Jean, remained in France. As cellar master and cooper, Cadiche Pineau had a long professional life in the service of Riscal. He died in 1889 at the age of 66.25 With this decision of the parliament, the Medoc Alavés project was not only left without one of its essential axes. It also lost the economic allocation that the Diputación had earmarked for its development. This was partly a logical decision due to the already mentioned stagnation of the project. In 1867/68, the problem was no longer a need to obtain the knowhow for the production of the new wine and to supervise its application to



the particular conditions of the Rioja Alavesa. Now the challenge was the generalization of the method and the marketing of the new wine, and here Pineau could contribute little. However, his move to Riscal did not leave the province completely orphaned in winemaking matters. The seed he had sown as a master cooper had taken root. In May 1868, two students who had been trained in the cooperage directed by Pineau for three years offered their services to the Diputación in the event that, despite Pineau’s dismissal, it was considered “appropriate to continue with such a beneficial project.” The two youngsters felt perfectly capable of directing the “manufacturing and racking of wines” according to the new method. If, on the other hand, the provincial council decided not to continue with the Medoc Alavés project, the two students requested the continued use of the cooperage’s tools which, as they indicated in their letter, were in a “state of deterioration.” Since in November of the previous year it had been decided to abandon the project, those in charge of the Diputación approved the second request. After making a detailed inventory of all the tools stored in the cooperage, and with the Diputación formally taking ownership of them, Pineau handed them over to his two former students at the end of July.26 As can be seen, and although we do not know the future professional career of these two students of Pineau, the Frenchman had achieved in the field of cooperage what is usually required of all true masters, namely, to train good disciples willing to continue their work. It goes without saying, however, that this continuity in the manufacture of the barrels needed for wine ageing could not make up for Pineau’s absence as the technical head of the winemaking project that the Diputación had developed throughout the 1860s. But this important absence of the French winemaker was not the only one that was to occur in this final phase of the project. By the time Pineau was no longer an employee of the Diputación, Pedro Egaña, head of the regional government as well as the political soul of the project and its most influential propagandist among the Spanish high society, had also been forced out of office by political enemies who accused him of abuse of power and misappropriation of funds.27 In a nutshell: Pineau, now in the service of the Marquis of Riscal, was missing. Egaña, the political head of the project, had been ousted. The Diputación had eliminated the budget line and closed the cooperage, although the transfer of the tools to the former students indicated a certain continuity of this activity. That left Eugenio Garagarza, the head of the Practical School of Agriculture, who had managed and directed the project behind the scenes. Garagarza had been closely identified with the Medoc Alavés experiment and, from his privileged position at the School of Agriculture, well-endowed and reputed throughout the state, he had enjoyed a certain budgetary freedom to push the project forward. This changed at the end of 1867 when the school suffered drastic cuts in the economic allocations that the Diputación reserved for it in its annual budget. It is not too far-



fetched to think that these cuts, in addition to the dismissals of Pineau and Egaña, motivated Garagarza’s decision to leave Vitoria and look for another job. This change also took place in the fateful year of 1868, when the agricultural engineer was appointed Director of the Avenues and Gardens of Madrid.28 Thus, within a few months the project of innovation that had been launched with such enthusiasm six years earlier had become an orphan. And the times were not exactly the most appropriate for the revival of daring and risky innovative projects. On the contrary. In September of the same year, La Gloriosa, the revolutionary movement unleashed by a coalition of progressives, democrats and republicans opened a long period of instability, uncertainty and violence in the contemporary history of Spain, which also greatly affected the Basque territory of Álava. The province became a main stage in the Carlist War (1872–1876) and a bastion of traditionalism in defense of the Old Regime, religion and the Basque charters of self-government, the fueros. As is well known, with the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy under the conservative leader Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, Álava, like the other Basque provinces, paid for its Carlist militancy with the abolition of the fueros. Although, as mentioned above, it was also granted fiscal autonomy (“Concierto Económico”), a deal offered to the Basque political and social elites to facilitate their incorporation into the new political system. In the midst of this panorama of adversity, the Medoc Alavés disappeared. It did not die however. Something very similar to what had happened so many times before, and still happens in the vineyards of Rioja, happened to it. When a merciless hailstorm or a relentless frost wipes out a good part of the year’s harvest, the root of the vine is capable of surviving, regenerating itself with new shoots that produce grapes for the next harvest. The multiple setbacks of 1868 had destroyed the fruit of the Medoc Alavés, but its root, which Ortiz de Zárate, Egaña, Pineau, Riscal, Garagarza and company had planted with so much effort, was now ready to regenerate the plant in its entire splendor. By the end of the 1860s, the revolutionary project of the Medoc Alavés had been aborted. The times were not ripe for sudden risky shakeups, as the protagonists of La Gloriosa and, a few years later, the unhappy and short-lived First Republic (1873–1874) would painfully realize. However, despite their initial failures and very different natures, both aborted revolutionary attempts left deep traces in their environment. In the same way that the claim for democracy and freedom that accompanied the revolutionary uprising of 1868 could no longer be silenced either by the Carlist reaction or the conservative monarchic restoration of Cánovas del Castillo, so the revolutionary ideas on the production of fine wine that the protagonists of the Medoc Alavés unceasingly sowed had come to stay. However, before the new fine wine from Rioja resurrected with splendor, it had to face a huge global problem: the phylloxera plague.



Notes 1 Balbino Cortés, Tratado teórico y práctico de vinificación o arte de hacer el vino (Madrid: Librería de la Sra. Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta, 1866), 153–164. All following quotations are from this publication, unless indicated otherwise. 2 Cortés, 155. 3 Gregorio Torrecilla, Elaboración de vinos (Madrid: Imprenta de Manuel Minuesa, 1867), 86. 4 Cortés, 156. 5 Cortés, 158–159. 6 Ibid., 159. 7 However, Torrecilla maintains in his treatise that in order to “purify” the wine before bottling, different substances are used, “but those generally preferred are egg whites for red wines, and fish glue for white wines.” Torrecilla, 73. 8 Cortés, 161. 9 Ibid., 162. 10 Torrecilla, Elaboración, 88. 11 Boletín Oficial de la Provincia de Logroño, 6.5.1867. The escudo was the official currency in Spain between 1864 and 1869. It replaced the real at a rate of 10 reales = 1 escudo. 12 Torrecilla, Elaboración, 76–77. However, the impact of the Medoc Alavés experiment on the Spanish Rioja winemaking was also generated by landowners who owned vineyards both in Álava and in the province of Logroño. Perhaps the most notable of these was Galo Pobes. He was related to the Quintanos of Labastida, whom we have already seen in their role as pioneers of Bordeaux-style wine in the Rioja. Pobes produced Medoc wine both in Álava (Labastida) and on his estates of Ollauri and Casalarreina in the province of Logroño. For the biography of this outstanding winemaker see Luis Vicente Elías Pastor et al., El Rioja a la luz de un archive familiar: Galo Lucas de Pobes Quintano Gómez de Gayangos, pionero del Rioja (Logroño: [no publisher], 2021). 13 The absence of Riscal wines among the awards is surprising. There are no references to this fact in the report. See Memoria de la Exposición agrícola de la M. N. y M. L. Provincia de Álava celebrada el 25 de septiembre de 1867, ATHA, DAIC 7287-0003. The quotations reproduced below are also taken from this same handwritten document. 14 Memoria de la Exposición, n.p. 15 Memoria de la Exposición, n.p. 16 Ibid. 17 Ibid. 18 Torrecilla, Elaboración, 69. It should be added that the reference to the wine coming out of the vat “without any pressure” was exaggerated because treading with the feet also created pressure, even if it was very gentle, as opposed to the pressure generated by the press. 19 Memoria de la Exposición, n.p. 20 All the above quotations are from this crucial document without signature, but written in Garagarza’s handwriting, addressed to Ricardo Stánico [illegible] Ruiz, chair of the Sociedad Valenciana de Agricultura, Vitoria, n.d., June 1868, ATHA, DH 120-26. 21 See the documentation on this case from June and July 1867 in Archivo Municipal de Vitoria, Fondo Hacienda, 43/012/028. 22 See the report presented by the Diputado General Pedro Egaña to the Juntas Generales de Álava, November 18–25, 1867, ATHA, I-44. 23 La Correspondencia de España, January 8, 1868. 24 Actas de las Juntas Generales de Álava, November 18–25, 1867, 175, ATHA, I-44.



25 Jesús Fernández Ibañez, “Jean Pineau, el gran padre del moderno vino riojano,” Euskonews, (accessed 1.9.2021). 26 See the letter of the students and neighbors of Laguardia Saturio Irazu and Andrés Bengoa dated May 1, 1868, as well as the rest of the documents related to this case in ATHA, DH 120–25. 27 See José María Ortiz de Orruño, “Del abrazo de Vergara al Concierto económico,” in Antonio Rivera (ed.), Historia de Álava (San Sebastián: Nerea, 2003), 355–409, especially 402–403; see also the letter from J. M. Zavala to F. Lasala, Vitoria, June 28, 1890, Fondo Duque de Mandas, Archivo General de Gipuzkoa. 28 Information according to Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 1869, Vitoria 1870.

References Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura, 1869, Vitoria, 1870. Boletín Oficial de la Provincia de Logroño, May 6, 1867. Cortés, Balbino, Tratado teórico y práctico de vinificación o arte de hacer el vino (Madrid: Librería de la Sra. Viuda e Hijos de José Cuesta, 1866). Elías Pastor, Luis Vicenteet al., El Rioja a la luz de un archive familiar: Galo Lucas de Pobes Quintano Gómez de Gayangos, pionero del Rioja (Logroño: [no publisher], 2021). Fernández Ibañez, Jesús, “Jean Pineau, el gran padre del moderno vino riojano,” Euskonews, (accessed September 1, 2021). La Correspondencia de España, January 8, 1868. Ortiz de Orruño, José María, “Del abrazo de Vergara al Concierto económico,” in Antonio Rivera (ed.), Historia de Álava (San Sebastián: Nerea, 2003), 355–409. Torrecilla, Gregorio, Elaboración de vinos (Madrid: Imprenta de Manuel Minuesa, 1867).

Figure 8.1 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1942) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA


Quantity beats quality The challenge of the phylloxera plague

The boom that took place in the early and mid-1870s in many Spanish winegrowing regions, including the Rioja and the entire Upper Ebro Valley, was closely related to the phylloxera plague that had gradually assaulted the vineyards of Europe, until it completely destroyed them. The parasite was first detected in France in 1863, but did not show its destructive capacity until after the record vintage of 1875. In that year, France produced almost 84 million hl. Four years later, production had plummeted, falling below 26 million. The 1889 vintage was the worst to date, with a yield of only 23.3 million hl. Thereafter, production statistics would register a slow improvement. Nevertheless, Warner estimates that the crisis caused losses to the French economy comparable to the debts inherited from the war against Prussia/Germany in 1871.1 In order to meet worldwide demand France was forced to import foreign wine, which was blended with the scarce remnants of its own production before finally selling under the label of French wine. This was how French merchants began to take an interest in Italian and Spanish wines. The massive importation of Spanish production required, however, a modification of French tariff policy. The Franco-Spanish agreement of 1877, which abolished the discriminatory regulation of Spanish with respect to Italian wines, was a first partial step in that direction. From that moment on, both countries would pay the same tariffs for imported wines. This facilitated imports, but not enough to satisfy French demand. The wine trade between France and Spain would not be definitively stimulated until after the signing of the new trade treaty in 1882, by which tariffs were further reduced. As was to be expected, the tariff reduction policy led to an unprecedented boom in wine exports in Spain, which increased yearly between 1878 and 1891, with the sole exceptions of 1884 and 1889.2 Although the available statistics do not allow us to calculate in detail the contribution of Rioja wine to this expansion towards France, there is no doubt that the region’s wine sector was one of its beneficiaries. The testimonies of the period coincide in underlining the strong dependence on the French market, which could be accessed once the new stretches of railroad had been completed to the port of Bilbao and the Irún/Hendaye border. A DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-8


Quantity beats quality

reliable estimate from 1885 calculated that 70.5% of the total production in the province of Logroño ended up abroad, limiting sales to the Spanish domestic market to only 8.5%. According to La Crónica Riojana, the figures for 1882 were even higher. France not only absorbed around 90% of the wine produced in the province, but also received entire trainloads of grapes for subsequent pressing. Exports from the province of Álava probably reached similar levels, with a local consumption of only around 5%. The rest went mainly to France and to the traditional clientele of the Basque coast, although the source consulted does not allow us to determine the respective market shares exactly.3 For all these reasons, high-quality Rioja wine benefited from the French crisis at most indirectly, since demand from beyond the Pyrenees was limited almost exclusively to ordinary wine, with high alcohol content and intense color, which was needed for blending. We do not have reliable figures in this respect, but even though everything seems to indicate that the decline of Bordeaux wine, the real king in international markets and darling of the gourmets, led to a greater dissemination and consolidation of Rioja wine in Latin America. Exports of Bordeaux to Argentina, for example, fell from a maximum of 500,000 hl in 1887 to 50,000 hl at the end of the century. While Uruguay imported 140,000 hl in 1873, by 1895 it would only buy 10,000 hl. The demand from other Central and South American markets evolved in a similar way, a fact that Italians and Spaniards were able to take advantage of. Thus, referring to the situation before the end of the century, Philippe Roudié gave a diagnosis that, although exaggerated, nevertheless pointed in the right direction: “Il fallut se rendre à l’évidence: l’Amérique du Sud avait disparu de l’horizon viticole bordelaise” (“one must surrender to the evidence: South America had disappeared from Bordeaux’s wine horizon”).4 The few producers of the new quality wine in Rioja who, even after 1868, were still committed to the innovation initiated with the Medoc Alavés project, made an effort to take advantage of this new favorable context generated by the phylloxera plague in French vineyards. They resumed the publicity campaign started in the mid-1860s, participating in several national and international wine fairs. At these fairs, they presented with notable success the fruit of their labor and even the techniques used. The fairs of Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876) and Paris (1872; 1878) welcomed different exhibitors and we find in attendance some of the veteran pioneers of the Medoc Alavés. Among the most successful participants it is worth mentioning Galo Pobes (Labastida, Álava), with wines from his Ollauri estate in the province of Logroño (Gold Medal 1878 in Paris, in addition to other awards), and, of course, the Marqués de Riscal (Silver Medals in 1872 and 1878, both in Paris, among others). The latter would also occupy a central place in the great national wine fair held in Madrid in 1877, where he presented wines of different types, including its most sophisticated Médoc-style creations. After the Vienna exhibition, the Marquis capitalized on the forum to cultivate his image as a modern winemaker open to technical progress. Four brochures

Quantity beats quality


described the winery, the presses in use, the soils, the types of grapes and the winery’s facilities located in Elciego. The success of that strategy was reflected in the prices that his wines attained on the market, more than in the distinctions awarded to Riscal by juries. A cántara of red table wine from the Riscal winery, that is, a young and simple wine, was priced at 75 pesetas, while its equivalents from Logroño and Navarre cost 18 and about 22, respectively. The barrel-aged Médoc even reached 128 pesetas per cántara.5 However, the strong French demand for cheap wine with a high alcohol content for blending soon dashed the hopes of all the producers who had bet on the new quality Rioja wine. What was happening now was that the French market was rewarding quantity over quality. Thus, with the exceptions of Riscal, Murrieta, Pobes, Paternina and a few others, wine made according to the French method, labeled as “vino fino,” did not seem to gain a presence in the Rioja during the golden years. In 1885, the reports drawn up by the various agronomists for the Ministry of Agriculture pointed to the fact that in Álava hardly any branded wines were known except the “famous wines of the Marqués de Riscal and Mr. Pobes, Paternina and others.” The vast majority remained anchored to traditional production techniques, even rejecting racking, which was motivated by the fear of spoiling the wine due to the oxygen supply. Years later in Elciego, a site known for its commitment to quality, winemaking according to the new standards still only accounted for a quarter of the total production. Something similar was also happening in the province of Logroño (“few registered brands”), although an incipient transformation was taking place: in 1885, sales of quality wine to the Spanish domestic market were twice as high as the usual table wine (30,000 hl versus 15,000 hl). Another 5,000 hl were shipped to international markets.6 The extraordinary level of orders was anything but an incentive for greater investment in the modernization of viticulture in Rioja. The press applauded the “abundant profits” obtained thanks to the “constant demand for our wines.” Businessmen in the sector could not keep up with demand, while their output climbed to figures that seemed astronomical in comparison with those of previous years.7 Strong demand kept prices high until the mid-1880s.8 As a result, growers planted vines wherever possible. The numbers speak for themselves: the area under vine in the Upper Ebro Valley, which included the provinces of Álava, Logroño and Navarre, increased by 79% between 1860 and 1890.9 If supply hardly managed to keep up with demand, if everything that was produced was sold, why spend efforts and resources on the production of the new quality wine? These were no good times for the Medoc Alavés and its successors. In general terms, this period of expansion for Rioja wine continued until 1892, a decisive year due to the drastic increase in tariffs by France. However, between 1885 and 1888/89 production experienced a sharp decline that anticipated some of the problems that would be experienced from the beginning of the following decade. The previously unknown downy mildew was first detected in the vines of the Upper Ebro in 1885. In addition


Quantity beats quality

Table 8.1 Vineyard area in Logroño and Álava (in hectares) Year



Logroño 24,586



1881 1884 1887 1889 1890 1891

11,112 10,508 15,770 13,293 15,535 20,201

33,548 34,684 31,608 52,392 60,199

Sources: Domingo Gallego Martínez, “La producción agraria de Álava, Navarra y La Rioja desde mediados del siglo XIX a 1935,” PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, statistical data in the annexes; Informe Álava (1885); Interrogatorio Logroño (1885)

to this plague, heavy frosts and hailstorms caused crop losses of between 50 and 75%. In that year, the largest wine-growing municipality in the Rioja Alavesa, Laguardia, did not exceed 13,000 cántaras, whereas only four years earlier there had been 199,389. In Elciego, production fell from 146,318 (1881) to 77,489 (1887).10 While the well-known “Bordeaux mixture,” a new copper sulfate compound, helped to quickly combat the disease, the machinery and labor required to spray the vines were quite expensive. Wine prices were growing too slowly to cover the sharp increase in costs of about 10%. The value of wine climbed to a peak in 1885, only to suffer an abrupt fall from which it would recover over the following years, although without reaching the levels of the middle of the decade. The newspaper La Rioja reported in 1889 that, although the commercial situation had improved, its intensity was far from that experienced before 1885. Although the large companies, which we will deal with in more detail in the following chapter, were better prepared than their smaller competitors to face crisis situations thanks to diversification and greater access to capital, they too registered significant reductions in their income, without, however, falling into the red. One example may suffice here. The profit registered by the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CUNE), one of Rioja’s largest wineries, fell from 67,500 pesetas in 1885 to 45,000 a year later. After a slight recovery in 1887 (56,250), they continued to fall until reaching 39,375 pesetas the following year, thus establishing a historical minimum that would remain unmatched for the next thirty years.11 The drop in prices was mainly caused by the adulteration of wine. Some merchants, eager for quick profits, blended it with water, alcohol obtained from the distillation of potatoes or cereals, and dyes harmful to health in order to improve its capacity for preservation and transport. This operation was frequently carried out in the very cities where the wine was sold. This helped avoid taxes, which were levied according to the level of alcohol in the

Quantity beats quality


Figure 8.2 Tilling in Viña Tondonia (about 1916) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

wine at the time it entered the city. The trade agreement between Spain and Germany allowed almost free entry of German spirits made from products such as potatoes or cereals. This favored the manufacture and commercialization of adulterated wine, especially when the natural alcohol of wine was three times the price of the so-called “industrial” one. So much so that, according to a well-informed witness of the time, most of the industrial alcohol that was introduced into Spain between 1882 and 1892, to the value of 371 million pesetas, went to the production of “wine.”12 The dramatic drop in prices in the Rioja was not due to a decline in demand, but to an excess supply of wine and wine-like beverages. The decrease in income led to the abandonment of unprofitable vineyards and growing debts among the winegrowers who were already heavily dependent on external financing. Those affected in Rioja began to discuss the question of (industrial) alcohol in public assemblies, without yet suspecting that this problem would accompany them for decades, as we shall see later on. The meetings dealt with the issue in a similar way, demanding an immediate halt to the importation of industrial alcohol in order to later stabilize the


Quantity beats quality

price of alcohol extracted from wine and, consequently, of wine production in general. This was an attempt to return profitability to distilleries in a context in which the excellent level of wine sales was threatening their survival. A clear division became evident at the assemblies, which we will analyze later: small producers were on one side, large wine and commercial companies on the other. The latter were blamed for the adulteration and, therefore, the acute crisis in the sector. This perception found its way into some popular songs known to this day: Los almacenes de Haro los vamos a quemar, que se muere mucha gente de vino artificial. [We are going to set fire to the warehouses in Haro, because many people are dying of artificial wine.]13 Controversies about overproduction were the order of the day, although the strong and constant demand from the French market helped to mitigate them. Even so, it was clear that the regeneration of the French vines and the increase in the supply of Algerian wine would greatly complicate an eventual extension, at least under the same conditions, of the ten-year treaty signed in 1882. French production hit rock bottom in 1889, but soon improved visibly thanks to replanting work. As a matter of fact, the year 1893 was a record year, only surpassed in the entire nineteenth century by those of 1875 and 1900. This marked the beginning of a new era for French viticulture, which from then on would depend less and less on foreign markets to satisfy its domestic demand.14 Within this context of increasing production, Paris reacted to the growing pressure exerted by wine associations by raising tariffs considerably in the new agreement of 1892. These new tariffs led to a rapid loss of influence for Spanish wine in the French market. From constituting four-fifths of imports with a total volume of 9.4 million hl in 1891, the Spanish share collapsed to 650,000 hl and a 20% quota of total French imports in 1901.15 Although the repercussions on winemaking in the Rioja were immediate, developments after 1892 show that overproduction had a structural character of global dimensions and was not a problem caused by French tariff policy. Still, the treaty of 1892 exacerbated the underlying issue. The collapse of prices affected the Haro market, for example. In 1890 a cántara sold there for 10 to 18 reales; by March 1892, with the new treaty already in force, the same amount was worth not more than six. Towards the end of the year, the price dropped even further, reaching four reales in Haro or, in the case of Cenicero, only two. From then on, prices would hardly recover, propped up only at times by particularly scarce vintages or incidental booms in French demand. The papers of those years are full of articles that speak of unsold wine dumped in the streets while waiting for the new vintage, of vineyards not harvested to save costs, or of small winegrowers who, cornered by uncertainty, were forced to abandon their businesses.16 A few years later, the phylloxera

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plague would turn the tables from a situation of excess to one of scarcity, just as had happened years before in France. It seemed that history had taken a step backwards. At the end of the 19th century, the problems of winegrowers in the Rioja had not changed substantially since the mid-1850s, when the Medoc Alavés project was originally initiated. However, although the phylloxera invasion did not solve the problem of overproduction, it was the starting point for a profound restructuring of Rioja’s wine sector, a restructuring which would eventually facilitate the revival of quality wine. From the time the plague was discovered almost simultaneously in England and France in the mid-1860s, the pest gradually devastated vineyards all over Europe, destroying them in the third year of infestation. Nor were Spanish vines spared: Phylloxera vastatrix was detected for the first time in Málaga in 1878, and then in Girona a year later. The government took measures early and began to lay the institutional foundations for a future agricultural policy through the creation in 1874 of the Superior Council of Agriculture and its respective provincial delegations. Nonetheless, the disease eventually spread from Málaga and Girona throughout all the wine-growing regions, something that not even the Central Commission for Defense against Phylloxera, established in 1878, was able to prevent.17 In the Upper Ebro, the parasite appeared for the first time in Navarre in 1892, that is, in the same year in which the new Spanish–French treaty was signed. From there it spread, passing through the Castilian Rioja to the Rioja Alavesa. The effects were devastating. Replanting with phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks helped to recover some of the lost land. However, viticulture did not rebound from the serious losses. Even at the beginning of the Second Republic in 1931 only 56% of the cultivated area corresponding to the year 1890 had been replanted in the three provinces of the Upper Ebro Valley. Despite the lack of rigorous cadastral studies, there is plenty of evidence that cereals were the crop that benefited most from the viticultural crisis: precisely during that period soil planted with cereals increased by 33%.18 Scholarly research has demonstrated the almost total uselessness of the measures taken by the state to combat phylloxera, especially those emanating from the laws of 1878 and 1885. Teresa Carnero goes so far as to assert that the great plague was by no means the starting point for a modernization process and, eventually, for the gradual solution of the problems that afflicted the sector. If anything, phylloxera had rather the opposite effect, further accentuating the deficiencies.19 We find a similar argument in Pan-Montojo’s work, where the historian identifies the fundamental problem by pointing to the discrepancy between the economic means available and the methods recommended to exterminate phylloxera. This translated, for example, into the fact that no compensation was foreseen for those winegrowers whose vines had been assaulted by the parasite and then, as a result, uprooted and destroyed by the anti-phylloxera brigades. According to Pan-Mantojo, a really effective policy in this regard would have required much more intense state economic intervention and support, which would only have been feasible


Quantity beats quality

through tax reform. This would have been opposed, however, by traditional elites who had no interest in losing their fiscal privileges. Is it reasonable, then, to apply this same thesis to the Rioja region?20 The fight against phylloxera in the Castilian Rioja (i.e., the province of Logroño) was characterized by the low effectiveness of the initiatives promoted by the Diputación.21 Although it is true that, in accordance with state legislation, both an expert commission and the first official nursery for the supply of American vines were established in Logroño in 1878, neither of these measures were actually put into practice. Even though the Haro Oenological Station was founded in 1892, the Diputación remained inactive over the years. One of the main reasons for this passivity probably lay in a fact pointed out by the contemporary press: the insufficient economic endowment of a government that, in contrast to those of Álava and Navarre, did not have fiscal autonomy.22 Due to this lack of means, the effectiveness of the services provided by the Oenological Station (soil analysis, experiments with American vines and grafts, etc.) was very limited. So much so that in 1905 the nurseries had no more than 50,000 vines resistant to the insect pest, a very low figure which, taking into account that the average density of vines per hectare was 3,000 units, was not even enough to replant 17 ha. It was a more than modest amount, especially compared to the 3,900,000 American vines put on sale that same year by the nurseries of the neighboring province of Navarre and bearing in mind that both regions, Navarra and Logroño, boasted a similar area of vineyards prior to the plague.23 This fact, complicated by the difficulties that the Diputación de Logroño had in collecting the anti-phylloxera tax, as well as the serious conflicts that arose between the small winegrowers and the agricultural and industrial elite, explains the failure of the official policy in the fight against phylloxera. While the former were skeptical about the “American solution,” the latter vehemently supported it.24 In short, Logroño’s Diputación had neither the economic means nor the prestige or political wherewithal to take the lead in the fight against the plague. Moreover, the public authorities showed blind faith in the modernizing intervention of the wine bourgeoisie, which was expected not only to save the sector, but also to free it from its archaic traditions.25 Yet this bourgeoisie, which we will deal with later, was not able to fully meet the high expectations placed upon them. They did, nevertheless, play an important role on at least one front. In 1903, one of the largest companies in the sector, the recently founded Bodegas Franco-Españolas, decided to give “our preferential attention” to setting up of a private nursery for American rootstocks, which in the future was expected to be “one more source of nourishment for our profits, as well as a stimulus for the growers of the country in the promotion of the vineyard replantation.” The initiative coincided with the almost total cessation of criticism against the “American” method.26 Up to that moment, and despite the efforts experienced in neighboring Navarre, Logroño’s political authorities had not managed to convince

Quantity beats quality


small producers of the advantages of replanting. But things apparently changed quickly. Not even two years later, the president of the company’s board of directors, the Frenchman A. Dupeyron, proudly proclaimed to his shareholders that the winegrowers were already convinced of the need to rapidly replant the vineyards, something that in his opinion was likely to increase the profits to be achieved by the nursery.27 As it would turn out, his forecasts were not empty words. Over the years, the company became the largest producer of American vines in La Rioja, with sales figures of 828,500 in 1905 and 700,000 the following year.28 The example of this industrial winery, as well as that of many other private nurseries, most of them Catalan, helped to silence criticism of the new and controversial strategy of replanting. Large wineries like the Franco-Españolas had a vested interest in replanting in order to ensure grape production in the future. However, they could not sell the rootstocks of their nurseries at low prices and forfeit the economic profitability that the cultivation of American plants was able to provide, even in the short term. Hence, and also due to the lack of public subsidies, replanting remained a very costly task for winegrowers.29 According to contemporary press reports, only those who had parallel income from other agricultural activities, such as cereal cultivation, or had access to credit lines from the Bank of Spain through the agricultural unions, were in a position to recover their devastated vineyards.30 Therefore it is unsurprising that the regeneration of Rioja vineyards progressed at a very slow pace during the first decade, with no more than 5,400 ha replanted in the province of Logroño at the turn of the century.31 It was becoming increasingly evident that, without greater mediation by the public institutions, it would be impossible to restore the traditional winegrowing heritage and mitigate the social and economic effects of the phylloxera plague. This led Logroño’s Diputación to abandon its laissez-faire policy in 1910 and to intervene directly in the replanting processes through the new Caja Vitícola Provincial. This happened after having considerably increased the production levels of the nurseries and provided the necessary capital for the purchase of machinery for work in the vineyards. The Caja Vitícola project presented by the president of the Diputación at the end of 1910 foresaw the creation of a credit institute, whose task would be to promote replanting, lend tools and money, as well as supply clients with fertilizers and seedlings. Winegrowers were to repay the loans after a grace period of five years in five annual installments and at an interest rate of 5%. This system operated for at least three years. From 1913 onwards cash loans were eliminated, but machinery continued to be provided and both fertilizer and seedlings continued to be sold. Political disputes and public debates about favoritism in the granting of loans damaged the Caja’s image among winegrowers.32 As the Caja’s archives have unfortunately disappeared, it is impossible to find out how much truth there was to the accusations made in the press. For the same reason, we also do not know whether loans were granted in accordance with the criteria that had been set. According to these, the measures initially


Quantity beats quality

benefited winegrowers who could guarantee the reorientation of their production towards quality wine. After various modifications to the statutes, however, priority was given to applications that were presented by both large and small producers, as well as agricultural unions. Yet, in spite of these measures, it is worth noting that with the closing of the credit tap, the advantages that small winegrowers could obtain from the Caja Vitícola were also significantly reduced. Nevertheless, replanting accelerated remarkably from 1910 onwards, which seems to suggest that the public initiative had a positive effect on the recovery of the sector in the Castilian Rioja. The decisive impetus came, however, from a commercial and productive bourgeoisie that was strongly rooted in the province prior to the phylloxera invasion. If this bourgeoisie did not completely fulfill the catalytic role that was expected, it was due to limits set by the free market. On the one hand, the eagerness of entrepreneurs to make the fight against the plague profitable was incompatible with the scarcity of means that made most winegrowers dependent on low-price solutions. On the other, the Diputación did not intervene until the possibility emerged that the phylloxera campaign would fail after a decade of laisser-faire policy. Once this shift in public policy occurred, the regional government had the support of the wine bourgeoisie. In fact, the main promotor of the Caja Vitícola was Félix Martínez Lacuesta, president of the Diputación between 1913 and 1915 and owner of a large winery.

Figure 8.3 Unloading grapes at the winery (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

Quantity beats quality


In Álava, the cradle of the new quality wine in Rioja, the political leaders made use of the historical singularity of the province in the Spanish context to mark distances with respect to the anti-phylloxera policy of the central government. In 1893, the Diputación’s Treasury Commission refused to comply with the royal decree promoted by the Spanish Ministry of Finance. This mandated the collection of a special tax for the phylloxera plague, whose proceeds went to national aid funds. According to the 1885 law, Álava was to contribute 6,646 pesetas for its 13,300 ha of vineyards. The commission justified its refusal to pay this amount on the grounds of the province’s traditional fiscal autonomy, arguing that without prior consultation with the Basque provinces the central government did not legally have the right to impose new levies.33 The Diputación entrusted the direction of the fight against phylloxera to Nicolás García de los Salmones, quite possibly the leading Spanish expert on the subject. Already at the head of the anti-phylloxera campaign in neighboring Navarre, the agricultural engineer presented a similar plan consisting of three pillars: establishment of municipal and provincial nurseries, analysis of soil tests and training of qualified personnel.34 The most immediate effect of this plan was the creation of the central nursery at Assa, near Laguardia. In addition to its approximate extension of twenty to twenty-five hectares, other smaller facilities were established in Elciego and Labastida.35 In view of the experience gained from the development of the Medoc Alavés experiment, it is somewhat surprising to note that, contrary to what happened in Logroño, the distribution of vines was not linked to an increase in the quality of the wine produced. On the other hand, the sources reveal a preferential treatment in the delivery of vines granted to small winegrowers as well as to municipalities for the creation of local nurseries.36 Unfortunately, the available data do not allow a direct comparison of this public-led initiative with the private ones of Riscal, Marqués de la Solana or Bodegas Palacios, including Riscal’s sale of seedlings at cost to all inhabitants of Elciego who were interested in buying them.37 Because the wine sector in the province of Álava as a whole still had a rather limited footprint, the Diputación did not wish to overcommit itself economically. Thus, the regional government decided in 1901 to completely suspend the purchase of American vinestocks in view of the fact that the nurseries of neighboring Navarre had exhausted stocks and the prices of plants provided by French nurseries were extremely high. To make matters worse, this decision was taken precisely the same year in which Álava was officially declared a phylloxera-infected area, that is, at the very moment when a strong impetus to assure a rapid replanting should have been made.38 Furthermore, the Diputación was apparently not willing to give up a considerable part of its tax revenue either. Contrary to Spanish legal regulations, and under the protection of its tax autonomy, it continued to tax even those winegrowers who were already suffering from the plague.39 Likewise, subsidies for public nurseries were scarce, resulting in unattractive high prices, as the press was quick to point out. Consequently, winegrowers determined to undertake the renovation of their vineyards turned mostly to private merchants.40 There were several other factors in addition to these that


Quantity beats quality

explain the slowness of the replanting process in Álava, such as the initial distrust with which local authorities received the arrival of foreign vinestocks. The high prices of wine, caused by low supply, also pushed many winegrowers to prolong as much as possible the productivity of their vines by means of chemical treatments. During 1915 and 1916, the spread of a new, albeit limited, phylloxera outbreak in a number of vineyards whose immunity had been erroneously taken for granted did not improve either the reputation of the American rootstocks or that of its defenders. Nevertheless, Álava experienced a spectacular increase in productivity shortly after overcoming the phylloxera crisis. Viticulture came out of the

Figure 8.4 No vineyard was safe from phylloxera Source: Punch, September 6, 1890

Quantity beats quality


crisis stronger, even though the cultivated area would never again reach the size it had before the plague. Improvements in preventive control of vine diseases, intensive use of fertilizers and, above all, the replacement of the Graciano and Mazuelo varieties by the more resistant and higheryielding Tempranillo, contributed decisively to the recovery of the sector. In Logroño, on the other hand, productivity barely increased. Once the plague was exterminated, producers had to be content with yields that rarely exceeded the average of the period prior to the phylloxera invasion.41 By 1916, both Logroño and Álava had finished their respective replanting work and the new vines were beginning to bear fruit. Production in the Upper Ebro Valley, which, as mentioned, also included the province of Navarre, recovered from the difficult years, reaching 62% of the total during the expansion phase (1884), although in this year only 46% of the vines productive in 1884 had been recovered.42 In the different territories of the Rioja, the phylloxera crisis now belonged to the past thanks to the measures taken both by the regional public agencies and by the wine bourgeoisie. As a result, the wine sector was “modernized” in two ways. First, the American vines demanded greater care than their predecessors. Grafting and pruning tasks required qualified personnel to carry them out, the soil needed to be plowed more frequently, and the new plants had to be regularly fumigated to avoid infestations caused by parasites and fungi. All this implied a greater use of machinery and chemical products, which led to an increase in costs and favored processes of rationalization. This was the second characteristic feature of the new winemaking in the Rioja, which had already begun in the “golden years” of the 1880s. Unprofitable plots were abandoned, while the large industrial wineries accentuated the separation between viticulture, in the strict sense of the word, and the tasks of winemaking and wine marketing. The phylloxera crisis had a definite negative effect on the attractiveness of investing in Rioja. Yet it neither completely paralyzed the wave of business creation nor forced existing companies to withdraw from the market. There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates Rioja wine enjoyed sufficient prestige at the beginning of the twentieth century to continue attracting investment, even in times of crisis. Apparently, the Medoc Alavés and the creation of a new brand of quality wine had succeeded in producing a narrative that was resistant to the negative impact of economic setbacks. Moreover, the new industrial wineries, to which we will dedicate the next chapter, finally seemed ready to solve the problem that had stymied the future of the Medoc Alavés many years before, namely, a lack of capital and infrastructure for the aging and marketing of wine. In short, quality wine in Rioja was about to enter a new era.

Notes 1 Charles Warner, The Winegrowers of France and the Government since 1875 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), 2–3. French production figures according to Brian R.


2 3

4 5

6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15


17 18

Quantity beats quality

Mitchell, European Historical Statistics, 1750–1970 (London: Macmillan, 1975), 278, 280; for the Spanish situation see Teresa Carnero i Arbat, Expansión vinícola y atraso agrario 1870–1900 (Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1980), 83, 86–101. Juan Pan-Montojo, La bodega del mundo: La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994), 139–156. Informe sobre producción, comercio y elavoración [sic] de vinos de la Rioja Alavesa (1885), Archivo del Ministerio de Agricultura (AMA), 79, 2; Interrogatorio contestado por el Consejo Provincial de Logroño (1885), AMA, 85, 1; Revista Agrícola, May 1, 1881; La Crónica Riojana, October 29, 1882. Philippe Roudié, Vignobles et vignerons du Bordelais (1850–1980) (Paris: CNRS, 1988), 178. Estudio sobre la Exposición Vinícola Nacional de 1877, 107–108, 1125, 1144, 1151– 1152. On the Vienna fair see Memoria, presentada al jurado sobre los tintos del Sr. Marqués de Riscal, propietario de Elciego, por su apoderado general D. Carlos Segovia, antiguo alumno de la Real Academia Sajona de Montes y Agricultura de Tharaud [sic!] (Exposición de Viena en 1873), Madrid 1873. The bulletin of the Ministry of Public Works [Ministerio de Fomento] paid particular attention to Riscal wines in the same year that the Madrid fair took place. See Diego Navarro Soler, “Elaboración de los vinos tintos del Marqués de Riscal en El Ciego (sic) de Álava,” in Gaceta de Agricultura del Ministerio de Fomento, IV, 1 (1877), 46–56. Informe Rioja Alavesa (1885); Interrogatorio Logroño (1885). In 1904, in Elciego (Álava) a total of about 156,000 cántaras were produced, corresponding 37,500 to wine of “French style.” Heraldo Alavés, February 20, 1905. Interrogatorio Logroño (1885); Revista Agrícola IV, 1, February 1, 1882. Carnero, Expansión, 257–258; María José Lacalzada de Mateo, “La crisis del 1885 en La Rioja,” Berceo, 103 (1983), 89–111. Domingo Gallego Martínez, “La producción agraria de Álava, Navarra y La Rioja desde mediados del siglo XIX a 1935,” PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, 1986, 528. Archivo Municipal de Elciego, Aforo de Vino; for Laguardia see “Los ayuntamientos de la provincia de Álava remiten a la Junta Provincial de Estadística de la Diputación el número de cántaras de vino y chacolí recolectado en su jurisdicción en los años 1875 a 1889 a petición de una circular que se les envió en 1890,” APA, D 362–7; figures about the total decrease in Mario Gaviria and Artemio Baigorri (eds.), El Campo Riojano, 2 vols. (Zaragoza: Cámara Provincial Agraria de La Rioja, 1984), vol. 2, p. 83. Libro de Actas de los Señores Accionistas de la Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, 23.6.1882–20.6.1919, Archivo de la empresa CUNE; La Rioja, January 17, 1889; Huetz de Lemps, Vignobles, 527. José Elías de Molins, Algunos datos y consideraciones sobre los trigos y vinos en España, (Barcelona: Imprenta Barcelonesa, 1904), 245. Quotation in Manuel Llano Gorostiza, Los vinos de La Rioja (Bilbao: Induban Editores, 1973), 74. Elías de Molins, 236. Roudié, 212; Angel Marvaud, “Douze ans de relations économiques avec l’Espagne, 1894–1902,” Annales des Sciences Politiques (21), Paris 1906, 317–336; José Manuel Bayo, La política de Francia con nuestros vinos y algunas orientaciones frente a la misma (Madrid: Minuesa de los Rios, 1922), especially p. 12. For more details see Andreas Oestreicher, “Die Reblausplage in der spanischen Provinz La Rioja. Sozial- und wirtschaftsgeschichtliche Untersuchung des Weinsektors der spanischen Provinz La Rioja zwischen 1860 und 1915,” bachelor thesis, Zurich University, 1991. Pan-Montojo, 315–348. Author’s calculations based on statistics provided by Gallego, “Producción,” 827–855.

Quantity beats quality


19 Carnero, 118–121, 159–160, 180–181. 20 Pan-Montojo, 347. 21 See Oestreicher, “Reblausplage,” and, from the same author “Iniciativa pública y privada en la replantación del viñedo riojano destruido por la filoxera (1900– 1918),” in Juan Carmona et al. (eds.), Viñas, bodegas y mercados: El cambio técnico en la vitivinicultura española, 1850–1936 (Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2001), 301–326; Jesús Provedo González, “La filoxera en la provincia de Logroño. Destrucción del viñedo y su reconstrucción,” in Zubia 5 (1987), 151–216; Ludger Mees and Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, “Wein und Politik: Reblausbekämpfung in Katalonien und der Rioja,” in Marcus Gräser, Christian Lammert and Söhnke Schreyer (eds.), Staat, Nation, Demokratie: Traditionen und Perspektiven moderner Gesellschaften; Festschrift für Hans-Jürgen Puhle (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 129–155. 22 La Rioja, February 2, 1905. 23 Oestreicher, “Reblausplage,” 70. 24 The provincial press from 1901 to 1903 reports multiple cases of conflicts caused by winegrowers, who expressed their disagreement with the replanting policy in demonstrations, public meetings and even through acts of vandalism. Many of them feared that the American rootstocks would cause the infestation of their still intact vineyards. Others condemned the replanting measures, recognizing in them, not without reason, a campaign designed to favor only the owners of large wineries and private nurseries. 25 Oestreicher, “Reblausplage,” 71. 26 Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria del año 1903, Logroño 1904, 8. 27 Ibid., Memoria del año 1905, Logroño 1906, 7. 28 Ibid., Memoria del año 1905, 9; Memoria del año 1906, Logroño 1907, 5. 29 Estimates of the time put the cost of replanting one hectare at approximately 1,000 pesetas, not including fertilizer. See Primo de la Riba, Desarrollo de la agricultura en la Rioja (Zaragoza, 1913), 21. 30 La Rioja, May 17, 1908. 31 Memoria General de las Sesiones del Congreso Nacional de Viticultura (1912) (Pamplona: Imprenta Provincial, 1914), XXXII. 32 Oestreicher, “Reblausplage,” 74–87. 33 Actas de las Sesiones de la Diputación de Álava, May 15, 1893. 34 Plan para la reconstitución de los viñedos destruidos por la filoxera en la provincia de Álava, elaborado por el ingeniero agrónomo Nicolás García de los Salmones (aprobado por la Comisión Provincial de la Diputación de Álava el 20.1.1904), APA, DH 5864–5. 35 Susana Revuelta Alonso and Conchita Sagastuz, La Filoxera en la Rioja Alavesa, ([Vitoria], [1987], Ms.), 51–55. 36 See the circulars published by the Diputado General, January 9, 1905, and November 6, 1906, APA D 820, 44 and 820, 47. 37 La Rioja, November 27, 1909. 38 Actas de Sesiones de la Diputación de Álava, May 4, 1901. 39 Heraldo Alavés, November 27, 1909. 40 Ibid., October 25, 1908. 41 Gallego, “Producción,” 522–532. 42 See the data for the yields in the three provinces in Gallego, “Producción,” 827–855.

References Bayo, José Manuel, La política de Francia con nuestros vinos y algunas orientaciones frente a la misma (Madrid: Minuesa de los Rios, 1922). Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria del año 1903, Logroño 1904.


Quantity beats quality

Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria del año 1905, Logroño 1906. Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria del año 1906, Logroño 1907. Carnero i Arbat, Teresa, Expansión vinícola y atraso agrario 1870–1900 (Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1980). Elías de Molins, José, Algunos datos y consideraciones sobre los trigos y vinos en España, (Barcelona: Imprenta Barcelonesa, 1904). Gallego Martínez, Domingo, “La producción agraria de Álava, Navarra y La Rioja desde mediados del siglo XIX a 1935,” PhD thesis, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, 1986. Gaviria, Mario and Artemio Baigorri (eds.), El Campo Riojano, 2 vols. (Zaragoza: Cámara Provincial Agraria de La Rioja, 1984). Heraldo Alavés, 1905–1909. Huetz de Lemps, Alain, Vignobles et vins du nord-ouest de l’Espagne, 2 vols. (Bordeaux: Féret et Fils, 1967). La Crónica Riojana, October 29, 1882. La Rioja, 1889–1909. Lacalzada de Mateo, María José, “La crisis del 1885 en La Rioja,” Berceo, 103 (1983), 89–111. Llano Gorostiza, Manuel, Los vinos de La Rioja (Bilbao: Induban Editores, 1973). Marvaud, Angel, “Douze ans de relations économiques avec l’Espagne, 1894–1902,” Annales des Sciences Politiques (21), Paris (1906), 317–336. Mees, Ludger and Klaus-Jürgen Nagel, “Wein und Politik: Reblausbekämpfung in Katalonien und der Rioja,” in Marcus Gräser, Christian Lammert and Söhnke Schreyer (eds.), Staat, Nation, Demokratie: Traditionen und Perspektiven moderner Gesellschaften. Festschrift für Hans-Jürgen Puhle (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001), 129–155. Memoria General de las Sesiones del Congreso Nacional de Viticultura (1912) (Pamplona: Imprenta Provincial, 1914). Memoria, presentada al jurado sobre los tintos del Sr. Marqués de Riscal, propietario de Elciego, por su apoderado general D. Carlos Segovia, antiguo alumno de la Real Academia Sajona de Montes y Agricultura de Tharaud [sic!] (Exposición de Viena en 1873) (Madrid, 1873). Ministerio de Fomento, Estudio sobre la Exposición Vinícola Nacional de 1877 (Madrid: Ministerio de Fomento, 1878). Mitchell, Brian R., European Historical Statistics, 1750–1970 (London: Macmillan, 1975). Navarro Soler, Diego, “Elaboración de los vinos tintos del Marqués de Riscal en El Ciego [sic] de Álava,” Gaceta de Agricultura del Ministerio de Fomento, IV, 1 (1877), 46–56. Oestreicher, Andreas, “Iniciativa pública y privada en la replantación del viñedo riojano destruido por la filoxera (1900–1918),” in Juan Carmona et al. (eds.), Viñas, bodegas y mercados. El cambio técnico en la vitivinicultura Española, 1850–1936 (Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2001), 301–326. Oestreicher, Andreas, “Die Reblausplage in der spanischen Provinz La Rioja. Sozialund wirtschaftsgeschichtliche Untersuchung des Weinsektors der spanischen Provinz La Rioja zwischen 1860 und 1915,” bachelor thesis, Zurich University, 1991. Pan-Montojo, Juan, La bodega del mundo. La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994).

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Provedo González, Jesús, “La filoxera en la provincia de Logroño. Destrucción del viñedo y su reconstrucción,” Zubia 5 (1987), 151–216. Revista Agrícola, 1881–1882. Revuelta Alonso, Susana and Conchita Sagastuz, La Filoxera en la Rioja Alavesa ([Vitoria], [1987]). Riba, Primo de la, Desarrollo de la agricultura en la Rioja (Zaragoza, 1913). Roudié, Philippe, Vignobles et vignerons du Bordelais (1850–1980) (Paris: CNRS, 1988). Warner, Charles, The Winegrowers of France and the Government Since 1875 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960).

Figure 9.1 Breaking up the soil of the vineyard with the Malacate plow (about 1913) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA


The comeback Shape and consolidation of a brand

From the end of the 1870s and the beginning of the following decade, winemaking, especially in the Castilian Rioja, was marked by a process of transformation, the main characteristic of which was the foundation of new wineries. These wineries not only rationalized and mechanized their production, but also took on the task of marketing. This evolution basically consisted of five factors. First, and despite failure in the short term, the campaign to promote Medoc Alavés at the end of the 1860s managed to present Rioja wine as a high-quality product for the first time, a fact that benefited the entire region indirectly. Second, the direct railway connection of Rioja Alta with the great commercial port of Bilbao and with the Spanish–French border led some of the most important wineries to settle in the vicinity of the Haro railway station (López de Heredia, La Rioja Alta, Gómez Cruzado, Bodegas Bilbaínas or CUNE, to name but a few), making that town the sector’s main commercial capital. According to calculations made in 1891 (i.e., a year before the new French tariffs came into force), Haro shipped wine in an amount worth no less than 10 million pesetas, most of it to France. This small Rioja municipality of barely 9,000 inhabitants came to occupy nineteenth in the ranking of the total value of products traded in the 306 stations belonging to the Ferrocarriles del Norte network.1 The third factor behind the profound process of transformation that Rioja winegrowing experienced was the incipient industrialization of the Basque coastal areas, specifically the province of Biscay. From the 1880s to the end of the nineteenth century, Biscay became the industrial and financial center of Spain. In the capital of Bilbao and its surroundings, banking giants such as the Banco de Bilbao (1857) and the Banco de Vizcaya (1901) were born, as were large steel oligopolies such as Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (1901). As we will later demonstrate, some members of the nascent industrial and banking bourgeoisie from Bilbao, a traditional place for the sale of Rioja wine, would later invest in the region’s wine business.2 This rapid industrialization led to the fourth factor that would strongly impact Rioja’s wine sector. I am referring to the rise of the new middle and upper classes of capitalist society in the two coastal Basque provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa. Industrialization drove urbanization and diversification DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-9


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of the labor force. Between 1877 and 1920, the resident population in Bilbao and its industrial hinterland almost quadrupled.3 Spain, or at least a significant, albeit peripheral part of it, had finally initiated the same process of socioeconomic modernization that other European countries had been developing for decades. As we have seen in a previous chapter, the new social structures created by the strong development of the urban middle and upper classes also shaped new cultural habits and taste preferences. The Medoc Alavés initially failed partly because it was a product far ahead of its time that fascinated many individuals, but lacked a sufficiently consolidated market to be economically profitable. This was changing by the end of the nineteenth century: among the new affluent urban classes wine ceased to be a necessary daily source of liquid energy and became a marker of social distinction. These new gourmets now had an advantage when it came to satisfying this desire for social distinction because a famous product called upon to fulfill this function was already available. Only it was no longer called Medoc Alavés, but rather Medoc-style fine wine, or something similar. And it came from Rioja, a region which, as we shall see, would gradually consolidate and increase its fame as a producer of quality wine. Finally, the strong commercial and personal ties between the Rioja and French wine sectors also had an important repercussion. Relations between the two were not new, as the cases of Riscal and Murrieta show. However, the invasion of phylloxera in France and the subsequent drastic reduction in French wine production led to a more intense link. French trading houses began to buy Rioja wine and, on occasion, establish subsidiaries in the region. Furthermore, almost all the new industrial wineries founded in Rioja adopted the neighboring country’s know-how, often by hiring their most expert winemakers, just as the Diputación of Álava, and later the Marqués de Riscal, had done with Jean Pineau. Michèle Mas has highlighted the correlation between the number of Bordeaux winemakers, merchants and coopers who requested a certificate of good conduct in order to travel to Spain and the size of the vineyards destroyed in Gironde. The number of travelers did not decrease until sales plummeted after the massive adulteration of wine with industrial alcohol became known.4

The protagonists I do not intend to detail here the founding history of each of the industrial wineries that were created in the Rioja, a task for which, moreover, many of the indispensable sources are lacking. Instead, my more limited goal is to provide a systematic summary of the data available to us and to give an overview that clarifies the dimensions and relevance of the industrialization process in the sector. In order to illustrate these findings in the light of concrete case studies, I will focus on the examples of some famous wineries. Most of the investments made in the province of Logroño between 1886 and 1960 went to the Rioja Alta and its wine-growing center Haro as well as

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to the area located on the banks of the Ebro, particularly to the provincial capital city of Logroño. The wine business was the most important economic sector in terms of investment during this period, even if we discount those of the large wineries that were headquartered outside the province in Bilbao.5 The turn of the century and the beginning of the phylloxera crisis clearly marked the beginning of a new period, since all the large companies with a high level of capital (in particular CUNE, López de Heredia, Franco-Españolas and Bodegas Bilbaínas) emerged before this crisis. By comparison, the year 1892, when France embarked on the protectionist policy that would spark a long period of overproduction, was not a particularly relevant milestone. Both CUNE (1879) and López de Heredia (1877) were launched earlier. The foundation of Bodegas Franco-Españolas was laid in 1890, financed with commercial capital from France, although it is true that it would not make the great leap towards the production of quality wine until its merger with Spanish capital and its conversion into a formally registered company (“Sociedad Anónima”) in 1901. This same year also saw the birth of the sector’s giant, Bodegas Bilbaínas. The wineries we have just mentioned, all founded before the phylloxera crisis, would control a large part of the Rioja wine business over the following years. Moreover, few of the leading companies in the sector were forced to declare bankruptcy, a stability that helped solidify their hegemonic position in the market and ward off other investors potentially interested in Rioja winemaking. This predominance was only reinforced by the great plague and the problems of overproduction, which did not seem to augur great economic returns. New ventures, such as that undertaken by Ángel Santiago in Haro (1904) shortly before production reached its lowest point, were an exception. What was the secret behind the success of the industrial wineries located in the Rioja region? First of all, success resulted from the strategy of diversification of production and markets, since it was thanks to this strategy that the wineries were able to survive even in the most difficult times. Each company had its own particular features. However, they also showed certain similarities in terms of their typology. Thus, none of them, not even those of Riscal or Murrieta, based their business exclusively on fine wine aged and produced according to the French method, although all those wineries resorted almost exclusively to branded wines to promote their respective companies. It was precisely the prestige gained through their fine wines that paved the way for the sale of other wines which, although young and simple, bore the brand “Rioja” and had been made using the most modern procedures. Some wineries, such as CUNE or the Bilbaínas, also dedicated part of their business to the production of sparkling wine and cognac. The diversification of production went hand in hand with the diversification of markets: the French market lost importance after the 1892 treaty, but the interest of French merchants and businessmen in the simple and cheap varieties from the Upper Ebro, very suitable for blending, coupage, did not cease. The markets that did gain importance for the Rioja commercial networks


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were those of Central and South America and, to a lesser extent, those of northern Europe. However, the greatest triumph recorded by the wineries was the consolidation of sales on the domestic market after the implementation of severe protectionist policies in Europe during the first decade of the twentieth century. This not only led Spanish high society to begin to replace expensive French wines with the new Rioja wines, but also encouraged some wineries to penetrate the middle-class market, a segment which would make the products of Félix Martínez Lacuesta (Haro) famous, for example.6 In order to visualize the general features of this evolution, what follows is a brief review of the founding histories of some of the young Rioja wineries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. López de Heredia/Viña Tondonia Rafael López de Heredia’s company (1877) and the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CUNE, 1879), both in Haro, were founded almost at the same time, but their origin and conception were quite different. Rafael López de Heredia’s family, originally from Álava, made its fortune in Chile.7 He was a volunteer in the Carlist ranks for three years until the Liberal victory in 1876 forced his escape to France. In Bayonne, López de Heredia began a professional career as an accountant at a well-known commercial house. Only a year later, he was hired as a sales representative by the Pau-based company A. Heff, thanks to his good reputation and the many contacts he had with other wholesalers. Heff maintained Spanish subsidiaries in Valladolid and Haro and imported Spanish wine, spirits and flour to France. López de Heredia, who was sent to Haro by his employer, opened up his own company soon after his arrival. To expand his business, he turned to the profits he made mostly from the export business to France, as well as to the capital lent by some wealthy relatives from Bilbao. This financial support enabled him to buy the Heff winery (1886), lease another property from a French merchant (1885) and create, together with two partners, the Sociedad Mercantil Colectiva Rafael López de Heredia y Cía. in 1889. The following two decades were devoted to investments in expansion and modernization, which materialized in the construction of a new winery that remains one of Rioja’s architectural gems, the excavation of a cave almost 200 meters long for the aging of wine and the first bottling (1883).8 The company thus began its journey towards a greater commitment to quality wine, further aided by the acquisition of vineyards around the winery in 1892. This investment activity, carried out mainly during the 1890s, shows that the owner of the company had a clear medium- and long-term vision. Initially, the value of the company as reflected in its inventory steadily decreased from 1.37 million pesetas to a little more than half (633,000 pesetas) between 1893 and 1899. It was probably this fact that led to its dissolution in 1899, which had already been agreed to in 1896. After settling accounts with his partners, López de Heredia would remain as the sole owner of a new

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company under the abbreviated name of R. López de Heredia y Cía., a company that he and his sons would officially convert into a corporation in 1923, with a capital stock of 5 million pesetas.9 Thanks to his business skills, López de Heredia was able to give his winery the national and international image of a modern company that, without being large in size, offered high quality products comparable to those of the French Châteaux. The winemaker also earned a reputation as an expert who not only kept abreast of the latest technical innovations, but also tested them without regard to costs before incorporating them into his production if they proved successful.10 The sales contracts kept in the company archives show that almost all the tools used in the winery came from France, mainly from the large company G. Pepin fils ainé of Bordeaux. At the same time, López de Heredia acted as the Spanish importer for this and other companies in the wine sector. In 1896, the Catalan winemaker and businessman Manuel Raventós expressed his astonishment that the Haro vintner was already experimenting with French filters that had just been awarded prizes at the Bordeaux wine fair.11 In the same 1901 article in which the newspaper La Rioja praised the acquisition by CUNE of a new multifunctional machine capable of automating the entire production process, from destemming to the transfer of the must to the fermentation tanks, the reader learned in passing that López de Heredia had been in possession of the same device for a year.12 Beginning in the 1890s, this winery, in addition to those of Riscal and Murrieta, made a clearer commitment to quality rather than quantity. Although we do not know how much of the total production represented young wine, there are several indicators pointing in that direction. R. López Heredia’s company archives allow us to reconstruct, for example, the history of its “Marca Registrada” wines (i.e., the brands that were officially registered). Thus, as early as 1883, a seal appears next to the company’s emblem that reads “Marca Registrada” (Registered Trademark). Underneath, in bold letters, the annotation “Vino de España” (“wine of Spain”) appears and on the labels of the bottles the qualification of “Vino de Mesa” (“table wine”) can be seen. Some years later, López de Heredia changed the logo for the one we know today. Instead of the previous image of a hot air balloon transporting barrels with the names of the five continents, now the main architectural complex of the bodega can be seen, with the owner’s residence in the center, presided over by a tower. Table wine is no longer mentioned, but the image of the winery as a producer of “Vinos Finos” (“fine wines”) is carefully preserved. The new labels also included some technical aspects of the wine (for example, “Blanco Cepa Graves, bottled in its 4th year”). The labels displayed political statements useful from a commercial point of view, such as the 1898 tribute to the “heroic and invincible” navy with cheers to “Spanish Cuba” after Spain had lost its last colonies in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.


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Figure 9.2 Label for a bottle of wine from 1898 Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

Throughout the following years, López de Heredia would remain faithful to his trademark policy, registering several of the wines both in Spain and abroad (generally in South America). This policy would culminate in the registration of its flagship wine, Viña Tondonia, named after a vineyard that the winery had acquired nearby and to which it gradually added new plots of land. Symbol of a wine production committed to quality at all stages, from the vine to the barrel, these plots continue to occupy a prominent position in the company’s marketing strategy to this day. Cheap table wine, on the other hand, lost importance with the arrival of Viña Tondonia, although it did not disappear entirely. Thus, on the price lists for sale both inside and outside Haro, kept from 1913 onwards, there are hardly any wines less than three years old, whether white or red.13 Sources do not allow us to draw precise conclusions regarding the markets supplied by the López de Heredia winery, but it appears that foreign trade continued at a high level compared to its competitors in the sector, despite the decline in French demand. The original logo of 1883 already invoked the company’s international presence. Five barrels suspended from a balloon represented five (potential) markets: Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Oceania. Likewise, in his travel chronicle of 1896 the Catalan winemaker Raventós would point out Bordeaux, England, Northern Europe, and, above all, Sweden and North America as the main international markets for the

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Figure 9.3 Label for a bottle of wine from 1883 Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

López de Heredia winery; all of this, curiously, without mentioning Central and South America. In 1900, on the contrary, the panorama had changed. According to what can be read in the newspapers of that year, the main commercial sites in Spain and Europe (England, Switzerland and France) were now joined by Uruguay, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Panama. The winery’s aforementioned registration of brands in several Central and South American countries at the beginning of the century, as well as the employment of agents for the “overseas” business, who were guaranteed a commission of 15% of sales, was in large part a response to the growing importance of those markets.14 CUNE The Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CUNE), another large wine company based in Haro, was founded around the same time as the López de Heredia winery.15 Eusebio Real de Asúa, a businessman from Bilbao, moved to what was to become the main wine capital shortly after the end of the Second Carlist War in 1876, attracted by the beneficial effect of the Rioja climate on his asthma and, of course, by the favorable situation in which Rioja wine industry found itself thanks to the strong demand from France.16 There he made the acquaintance of the merchant Isidro Corcuera, in addition to several representatives of French trading houses. Together with Corcuera and other businessmen from Biscay, he founded the trading company Corcuera, Real de Asúa y Cía in 1879. Headquartered in Bilbao, the business


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Figure 9.4 Rafael López de Heredia Landeta, the founder of the winery, in the bodega’s cave (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

enjoyed immediate success and soon increased its capital from 50,000 to 300,000 pesetas (1880). When the company became a Public Limited Company (“Sociedad Anónima”) three years later, another increase in capital followed, reaching 2 million pesetas. After deducting the expenses for the dissolution of the old company, its financial assets were reduced to 1,196,000 pesetas at the time its new statutes were drafted in 1902.17 José Alejandro Rochelt, a member of a Biscayan family dedicated to the metallurgy sector, was appointed head of the company in 1882.18 Foreign trade was entrusted to the Frenchman Louis Perré, whom Real de Asúa had known since his days as a student at a Lycée in Bordeaux. The founder of CUNE appreciated the work that this merchant, who had good relations with the Champagne producers of Reims and with the Rémy Martin company in Cognac, had been doing in Haro. Like most industrial wineries, CUNE based its success in the early years on its links with France, and these were not only commercial; the company equipped its winery and laboratory mainly with French technical tools. CUNE also imported bottles from the Bordeaux company Sixte Duclot until the Catalan factory Juan Villela took over supply. As part of its business, the winery also began to hire skilled specialists from the neighboring country, particularly from the Champagne region. It was these experts who took charge of producing the celebrated sparkling wine Rioja Espumoso in Haro.19 As the sole producer of sparkling wine in the Rioja for many years, the company’s board of directors also embarked on the purchase of a champagne winery in Reims, which was intended to supply

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Haro in order to manufacture a sparkling wine that could be sold on the Spanish market, among others.20 High transport costs, however, caused the initiative to fail, leading CUNE to abandon it in 1890 and limit itself from then on to a rather sporadic production of its Rioja Espumoso that depended on particularly good vintages. The winery became famous in Spain, and above all on the international market, thanks to Rioja Clarete, a product that led sales for years. It had a “French” character due to its relatively low alcohol content (rarely above 12%), its light color and its aging of no more than three years. This wine, later renamed CUNE Clarete, received several international awards and became a symbol of the winery’s success. The latter’s sales strategy was focused on offering young, affordable wines that were nevertheless of high quality, made according to the French procedure using the most modern techniques. In addition to appealing to the elite, the winery was thus trying to make itself known among the upper-middle-class clientele.21 The Monopole brand, registered in 1915, was equally successful. Young and light, this wine was a clear break with the Rioja tradition of whites aged in barrels for years. Aged and matured reds, on the other hand, did not complete the range of products until the 1920s. Examples of these were Viña Real or Imperial Reserva and Imperial Gran Reserva, the latter registered in 1928, which required a minimum maturation time in oak barrels of three and five years, respectively. As with the other wineries, we do not have any reliable data on the nature of CUNE’s markets. In 1896, Raventós noted the good health enjoyed by its export branch, focused mainly on the sale of bottled product. A year later, a specialized magazine stated that the company “has managed to make its table wines compete with the best foreign brands, and its consumption is the most important of the fine Spanish table wines.” In 1906, the daily press reported on the winery’s success among the wealthy classes both in Spain and abroad, particularly in the former colonies of the Caribbean and the Philippines, as well as in England and Central Europe. Beyond the American markets, Llano Gorostiza highlights the importance of Belgium, Holland and England during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In fact, it seems that CUNE garnered greater prominence in Central and North America than its competitors, something that was probably also due to its ability to promote its wines at important international fairs, such as those of London (1889), Antwerp (1894), Brussels (1897) and Paris (1900). Rochelt, the company’s manager, was even appointed to the juries of the latter two after the winery won the gold medal in Antwerp. Germany and England also appear to have been important destinations for CUNE’s wines. This at least is what its accounting books suggest in 1906/7, recording the existence of warehouses in the cities of Southampton and Hamburg. In Germany, business was conducted through the intermediary Deutsche Bank.22


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Bodegas Franco-Españolas Of all these examples, the founding of Bodegas Franco-Españolas in 1890 is the case that best represents the enormous French influence, particularly that of Bordeaux, on the industrialization of Rioja winemaking. As did other companies in the sector, the commercial house Maison Anglade et Cie., based in Bordeaux and owner of several Châteaux in the Gironde region, had faced the phylloxera crisis by heavily investing throughout the 1870s in Spanish production, in this case in Castillia-La Mancha. In 1890, Frédéric Anglade purchased a winery in Logroño, the starting point for the construction of Franco-Españolas. After a period marked by exports to his country of origin, the founder transformed the company into a limited liability company (“Sociedad Anónima”) in 1901 with the participation of his cousin Alexis Lépine and the contributions of partners from Rioja and, to a lesser extent, Bilbao. In terms of capital (1.3 million pesetas), by 1901 Franco-Españolas was already the largest company in the sector, surpassing even CUNE. Frédéric Anglade was both its chairman and majority shareholder, with a stake worth 1 million pesetas. Lépine was appointed to the position of executive manager.23 In the sense that they sought greater incorporation of the middle classes into its clientele, the Franco-Españolas winery adopted the trend towards a certain “democratization” of wine consumption that CUNE had inaugurated. In the years following its foundation, the company capitalized on the reputation it had built through its star products to promote the sale of simple table wines. Its “Claret,” “Royal Claret” and, above all, “Diamante” – a white wine with a golden hue, matured for three years in oak barrels and considered by some a Rioja counterpart to Sauternes wines- served as flagships for its marketing strategy. A visit by King Alfonso XIII in 1903 underscored the winery’s importance and confirmed the reputation that the wines of Franco-Españolas had gained among the Spanish political and social elite. Its good relations with the royal family and nobility had a certain tradition, which was strengthened and intensified in later years, especially after French shareholders withdrew in 1922 and left the company exclusively in Spanish hands. Among the new shareholders and the board of directors was the Count of Romanones, member of the Spanish high nobility (Grande de España), large landowner, personal friend to the king and liberal President of the Government on several occasions from 1912 onwards. It is probably due to his influence that the new owners of the winery, most of whom originated from Rioja, obtained permission to use the slogan “effective suppliers of the Royal Family” for advertising purposes: “They are disseminated throughout the world proclaiming Rioja’s riches, being the favorites of the Royal Family and the Spanish nobility.”24 The managers of Franco-Españolas took advantage of the winery’s image of modernity and quality to attract new customers among the upper middle classes. While the winery’s own vineyards were used for the production of high-end wines, all other wines were produced from grapes and musts supplied by local winegrowers. The winery then simply refined them by fixing the

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characteristics of the corresponding type of wine. This fact did not go unnoticed in the press, which attributed the company’s success precisely to its expertise in creating economically affordable wines: “in this agricultural industry everything is beautiful and approaches the ideal type: low-priced wines that the market seeks and the consumer savors with pleasure.”26 The only data that shed some light on the types of wines sold at the beginning of the twentieth century also seem to point in this same direction. We know, for instance, that sales of bulk wine were to triple those of bottled wine in the year 1904. Unfortunately, these same figures say nothing about the proportion of a high-end product such as “Diamante” in relation to other bottled products. Nor do we know hardly anything about the percentage of vino fino with respect to cask wine which, as already mentioned, was often bottled on the spot by traders or sometimes directly in restaurants.27 As was to be expected, the company’s French origin determined an initial orientation of sales towards the French market that was even more pronounced than other wineries. In the period prior to the 1892 tariff hike, around 90% of production went to the neighboring country.28 As time went by, Franco-Españolas, as well as other cellars such as Bilbaínas, discussed below, concentrated its efforts on supplying the domestic market with lowpriced products. This reorientation of its trade strategy aimed to compensate for the advantage held, especially with respect to wealthier international clientele, by the most prestigious and oldest wineries, namely those of Riscal, Murrieta, López de Heredia and even CUNE. Thus, in 1903, Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and San Sebastián already had their own branches, while there is no record of similar activities abroad.29 According to one of the company’s promotional brochures, its traditional markets were France and Spain.30 This statement should be qualified, however, in view of the following statistics. They show that exports were predominant, at least as long as the company was controlled by French capital. Between 1901 and 1913, and with the sole exception of 1903, revenue from sales on the foreign market was always greater than that from the domestic market.31 Table 9.1 Bodegas Franco-Españolas’s sales revenues (%) Year


Total Export

Export to France

1901 1902 1903 1905 1906 1907 1908 1912 1913

40.83 44.68 61.13 33.84 35.19 36.27 38.70 42.88 45.56

59.12 55.32 38.87 57.04 64.46 61.13 54.07 55.06 54.44

22.30 19.01 8.95 – – – – – –


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Bodegas Bilbaínas Bodegas Bilbaínas, a true giant in the sector since its registration as a corporation (“Sociedad Anónima”) in 1901, also opted for the aforementioned “democratization” strategy so successfully applied by Franco-Españolas. What was new, however, was its formidable expansion towards other Spanish wine regions, particularly towards the Castilian region of La Mancha as a supplier of cheap wines. The initiative was meant to make up for the ravages caused by phylloxera in Rioja and reduce its dependence on this region. Beyond this, Bodegas Bilbaínas showed great interest in intervening directly in the cultivation of grapes, buying up a large number of vineyards in the area around Haro and in the towns of Labastida and Elciego in Álava. Although this in itself was not new, the scale of the acquisitions was unprecedented in the Rioja. The enormous amount of 6 million pesetas with which the new company was endowed is indicative of the leap made, at least in quantitative terms, in the industrialization of Rioja’s wine sector. Headquartered in Bilbao, the winery’s seven founding members came from this industrial metropolis of Biscay or its surroundings (Barakaldo). At least two of the partners, the first president José Ángel Aurrecoechea and Santiago Ugarte, who would lead the company for years, had previous experience in the wine industry. Their respective businesses would be absorbed by the new Sociedad Anónima in 1901.32 The foundation of Bodegas Bilbaínas was also symptomatic of French capital’s decreasing influence, which over time was being substituted by Basque capital. However, the purchase of the H. Savignon y Cía. winery in Haro, which had been the genesis for the new company, as well as the use of French technology in several of its departments, continued to ensure a strong French presence. Shortly after beginning the expansion of the central winery in Haro in 1902, the company commenced its expansion towards La Mancha, creating subsidiaries in Valdepeñas, Noblejas and Alcázar de San Juan. Apart from this, after 1917 it also engaged in the production of industrial alcohol with a distillery it owned in Ricla (Zaragoza) and entered into the olive oil business, the latter through Cía. General de Aceites de Oliva (Seville), of which it would become the majority shareholder in 1920.33 Immediately after its foundation, Bodegas Bilbaínas also embarked on the acquisition of land in Rioja. Over the years, the company became the largest landowner in Rioja, first in the province of Logroño and then in Álava, through the purchase of many small plots and their grouping into “Cotos,” whose names appeared on the labels of its branded wines from 1908 onwards (Viña Pomal, Viña Zaco, among others).34 In 1920, the winery had more than 200 hectares of vineyards in the Rioja and, therefore, “at least twice as many vines” as its closest competitor, something that the company’s leaders liked to emphasize.35 The strong commitment of Bilbaínas to La Mancha, an area of cheap, ordinary wines, made it essential to reinforce the Rioja brand as a

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quality label. In order to ensure the link between the company and the “Rioja” brand, and to avoid the perception that the winery was outside Rioja, a considerable investment was made from the outset in the Rioja Alavesa and Elciego, now famous worldwide thanks to Riscal. The effort, a clear attempt to benefit from the area’s traditional links to quality wine, led to serious conflicts with Elciego’s town council, which sought to fend off the introduction of cheap La Mancha grapes for pressing at all costs, something the Biscayan company practiced assiduously.36 Despite its size and importance, not even Bodegas Bilbaínas has left sufficient sources to allow us to scrutinize the composition of its markets in more detail.37 Even the annual balance sheets do not record more than the total sales figures. Nevertheless, it seems evident that Bilbaínas was the company that made the greatest effort to appeal to all possible clienteles, beyond the classic national and international elites. Surrounded by the halo Rioja provided and supported by Basque capital, the Biscayan company was the first to invest heavily at the supra-regional level, particularly, as already mentioned, in La Mancha. While its more affordable products, not only those from La Mancha but also those produced in Haro, went mainly to Europe, both the young and old “finos” remained on the domestic market.38 As CUNE had done, Bodegas Bilbaínas launched its own star product, the sparkling wine “Gran Champán Lumen.” It began to be produced on a large scale in Haro in 1916, taking advantage of the good times during the First World War, and would become the company’s driving force for quite some time. Just one year later, sales reached 40,000 bottles, most of which went, curiously enough, to Barcelona and its surroundings, producer of the Catalan cava. This success led to the purchase of several plots in the capital of Catalan cava, San Sadurní de Noya, where a “model winery” was to be built. The initiative ultimately failed, but Bodegas Bilbaínas retained its reputation as a sparkling wine producer until the years of the Second Republic.39 The end of the brief euphoria produced by the First World War in the wine business gave way to a new phase marked by overproduction and protectionist measures, both of which complicated access to international markets for Spanish wineries. Bilbaínas reacted with a progressive reorientation that focused on domestic trade, accompanied by publicity campaigns that appealed to the patriotism of the national clientele.40 Some general conclusions may be drawn from this visit to some of the great protagonists of the comeback of fine wine in Rioja. The term which perhaps best describes the process of industrialization in the Rioja wine sector is dual development. The foundational wave of large wine companies that took place during the golden age and up to the eve of the phylloxera crisis, helped to overcome the sector’s shortcomings, which had provoked the failure of the Medoc Alavés, the great experiment of the 1860s. The new wineries now had sufficient capital to organize not only production, but also the promotion, distribution and sale of a modern high-quality wine. In doing so, they contributed definitively to the prestige of a region whose wines now met the high


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Figure 9.5 Rafael López de Heredia, the founder of the winery, and his son watch the harvest in the Tondonia vineyard (about 1929) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

expectations of both national and international markets. Unlike in the early 1860s, it was no longer necessary to curry favor with the most important newspapers or select groups of wine lovers through promotional gifts. So much so that in 1900 an entity such as the French Office National du Commerce Extérieur expressed concern in a memorandum about the success of Spanish winemaking, especially that of Rioja, which had made remarkable progress and become a severe competitor to France on the Spanish and international markets.41 Moreover, Rioja wine was about to receive a reputation as a branded product that fetched good sales prices, but which had to contend with counterfeit products sold fraudulently under the Rioja label. As we shall see in the debates that arose around the question of the Rioja brand, industrial wineries were not always the champions of quality. If we describe them as modern, it is not simply because they followed Bordeaux’s example by making the ageing of reds and whites in oak barrels a key element of their business, but also because of their success in standardizing and marketing the production of modest table wines using modern and efficient techniques. The term vino fino, widely used in the jargon of the time, did not have a clear definition, so it could also be applied to young wines, even if they only met some of the usual quality requirements (use of selected grapes, racking, bottling, filtration, and others).

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Few of these wineries were dedicated to large-scale vine cultivation. Instead, they mostly depended on traditional viticulture to supply them with the grapes or must they needed. Consequently, the division of labor between winemakers and winegrowers, that is, between the industrial wineries and the small suppliers of raw material, was more accentuated in areas influenced by the large wine companies than in areas with a lower degree of industrial development, such as the Rioja Oriental. The relationship between modern and more traditional production is impossible to quantify, at least in the case of the Rioja Alta, which was the most affected by the processes of transformation. However, the scarce data available to us mirror the new hegemonic position occupied by the industrial wineries. These absorbed most of the raw material and were therefore in a position to fix prices, while the small winegrowers were reduced to mere suppliers of grapes and must. Two examples will suffice here. Between 1891 and 1921, Marqués de Riscal, although an emblematic quality winery, bought two thirds of its grapes from local suppliers. In 1913, this same winery, together with Bodegas Bilbaínas, also purchased the entire grape production of Laguardia, the most important wine growing town in the Rioja Alavesa, which was considerably less affected by industrialization than the neighboring Rioja Alta and where the winegrowers’ own production had already dropped to a negligible level.42 However, despite the protagonism of the large wineries, the traditional wine sector continued to play an important role in Rioja. As late as 1925, the director of Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Germán Alvarez, lamented the “enormous quantity of Rioja wine which, due to defects in production and conservation, is in an unfit condition for consumption.”43 The overlapping of modern and traditional sectors in a region of relatively small parcels led to the emergence of competing interests, which would manifest in the form of latent tensions and open conflicts against the backdrop of a crisis in overproduction.

The post-phylloxera scenario The wine world in post-phylloxera Rioja underwent profound transformations, although it was soon faced with a classic structural problem: overproduction. The sector did not manage to recover from the phylloxera crisis until the outbreak of the First World War. By then, the vineyards were at last yielding again and winegrowing, now partially industrialized, regained its position as the region’s most important economic sector, although without reaching the heights of the boom phase during the 1880s and early 1890s. A temporary crisis was thus successfully overcome. But it was followed by another, defined by the imbalance caused, on the one hand, from an international increase in production and, on the other, by the continued decline in demand. Yet before public opinion became aware of the true dimensions of the problem, another external factor (i.e., the First World War) pushed Rioja into a new boom period. Initially, the collapse of trade relations caused by the


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onset of the war, as well as the record vintages of 1914 in Italy and France, precipitated an enormous drop in the prices of Rioja wine. From the second half of 1915 onwards, however, almost all Spanish wine regions, including Rioja, experienced a great increase in exports thanks to the growing demand in France and the drop in production caused by the war outside neutral Spain. This situation led to a drastic rise in prices and put producers in difficulty, since they could barely keep up with demand. Even so, the region’s wine sector ended up benefiting from the boom, which lasted until 1919/1920. Rioja’s wine production profited despite the negative effects of the war, which were repeatedly commented on by the newspapers: expensive Spanish railway and shipping companies with insufficient transport capacities; problems in the supply of pesticides and fertilizers; risky maritime transport; and temporary prohibition by the French administration of Spanish wine imports in 1917, unless expressly authorized. Local chronicles spoke of increasing wine prices, high demand and practically empty warehouses in Rioja. In 1915, the Bodegas Bilbaínas ledger showed the highest profits since its registration as a public limited company in 1901. This favorable evolution culminated, as it did for the Franco-Españolas wineries, in the highs of 1919, which resulted from the opening of the border with France as well as the normalization of transport conditions and the still deficient levels of Italian and French production. During those years, some of the wine sector’s supply companies were forced to establish night shifts in order to cope with the strong demand, as was the case of Tonelería Mecánica. This company, based in Haro and Logroño, was the leader in the manufacture of oak barrels and wooden cases for the shipment of wine bottles.44 Thus, the First World War brought “years of unbridled business” to Rioja, marked by “the madness of huge profits.”45 Once the war was over, the pending orders satisfied and the Italian and French winegrowing industries back to normality, the Spanish sector faced a continuous and long-lasting crisis of overproduction that began in 1920/21. Until the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), only a few poor vintages, both Spanish and foreign, or the rare relaxation of customs tariffs due to a decrease in supply managed to temper the bad situation.46 Nonetheless, Rioja’s wine sector successfully weathered the storm. In fact, even before the worsening of the crisis set in, the large wineries had been able to consolidate a national and international clientele that would continue being loyal to them and their products in times of crisis. Thus, despite protectionist measures and overproduction on a world scale, Rioja sales abroad remained at a high level, still representing on average 40% of total production in the second half of the 1920s and the early 1930s.47 The reports of the Logroño Chamber of Commerce, which serve as the basis for these calculations, provide very fragmented data, making it difficult to address the extent to which the decline in exports that followed the Great Depression of 1929 was cushioned by an increase in domestic sales. The sources provided by the Chamber of Commerce suggest there was little

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Table 9.2 Destination of Rioja wine in thousands of hectoliters (1925–1931) Spain Switzerland Belgium France Germany Netherlands Norway Denmark England Czechoslovakia Others Total Europe Africa Asia South and Central America Out of total American market: Mexico Out of total American market: Cuba

600 85 50 34 10 12 5 1.5 1.5 1 5 805 6 6 183 90 60

change, stating that, except for “slight deviations,” the distribution by destination in 1931 was very similar to that of previous years.48 We know a bit more about foreign business. In the markets beyond Spanish borders, highend bottled wines served as advertising tools for the large wineries, but they hardly contributed to total exports, a situation that would not change until the 1940s. Thus, the share of bottled Rioja wine exports between 1929 and 1932 was only 2.34% of the total.49 Nevertheless, that Rioja’s international trade as a whole was able to endure beneath the shadow of prestige cast by a few seldom-sold star products, testifies to the success of the most modern wineries.

The international mirror One of the most reliable ways to grasp the dimensions of this success is by giving voice to the foreign observers who visited Rioja and/or wrote about the region’s wine. As the reader will remember, we have done this in a previous chapter, focusing on the image of Rioja wine prior to the invention and dissemination of the Medoc Alavés in the late 1860s. To what extent did the wine’s image and reputation change once the new wineries resolved the problems of ageing, distribution and sale that had aborted the economic triumph of the Medoc Alavés? A careful scrutiny of diverse sources suggests several conclusions. First, beginning in the late nineteenth century Rioja gradually abandoned its anonymity and forged an international reputation as a


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Figure 9.6 Harvest at Viña Tondonia (about 1926) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

producer of mostly red quality wine. Second, in its race with the Valdepeñas wines from La Mancha, Rioja rebounded and eventually established itself as the most prestigious red wine in Spain. And third, in addition to the conquest of the Spanish middle classes, fine Rioja premium wine was also increasingly considered a serious competitor to the best Bordeaux and Burgundy wines on the international market. What follows is a not at all exhaustive yet significant collection of contemporary testimonies, tiny historical pieces that, taken together, help complete a puzzle in order to visualize the successful trajectory of Rioja wine. Starting in the early 1880s, when French vineyards suffered the devastating impact of the phylloxera plague and Rioja entered her “golden age” by selling its entire wine production thanks to French demand for the strong red wine it needed to blend with the scarce remnants of her own musts, foreign observers began to increasingly place their focus on Rioja. A British travel guide praised the potential of Rioja wine, adding that it needed “only more careful preparation to become an important article of commerce” beyond the Bordeaux market, where it was sold “for the purpose of mixing with the thinner and poorer clarets of Bordeaux, to fit them for the taste and market of England.” Despite this denaturalization of Rioja, its anonymization as a component in wines sold under famous Bordeaux labels, even in the 1880s it was apparently possible to purchase authentic Rioja wine in the UK. In 1884 we

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find, for example, a trader of “Rioja Claret” in a Glasgow directory. In the 1888 edition of the same it is clear that this is a reference to CUNE’s famous “Rioja Clarete” brand, and not a general description of any Rioja vino fino of unknown origin.50 Rioja Clarete also made its way into Switzerland. Alfred Zweifel, a reputed wine merchant, visited Rioja, a region that he described as the “Spanish Médoc.” One of the wines he offered at his store was precisely “Rioja Clarete” and his description about the great French influence in equipment and skilled labor at the winery – whose name he does not mention – suggests that, again, the wine in his cellar was CUNE’s flagship. Zweifel lamented that most of the Rioja wine was being transported to Bordeaux because, in his opinion, a good Rioja had “a striking resemblance to good Bordeaux wine.” It was a pity that those wines, which before phylloxera triggered the export boom to France had already “made a reputation in Spain for their quality,” were now making “their way into the world stripping their own native and adopting foreign denominations.” The author explained to his customers that in Rioja only a few white wines were produced and their quality was inferior to the reds. Some of the most important winegrowers of the region had joined with French “capitalists” “in order to make these wines available on the world market under their own name and to give them the recognition they deserve.” According to Zweifel, England was the country where Rioja had managed to create a popular brand under the name of “Rioja Clarete” or “Rioja-Bordeaux.” Besides being fairly cheap and, furthermore, a very healthy and pure beverage recommended by many doctors, it was also a quality product with a splendid future as long as it was tasted without the influence of trendy stereotypes: The path that Rioja-Bordeaux, or, as it is now called, Rioja-Clarete, has already made in the world ensures it a lasting future, because those who test the wine and are not offended by the fact that the bottle does not bear the image of a château on the Gironde will not be able to deny it their applause.51 From Switzerland to the United States. In 1885, when discussing measures to be taken to improve Californian winemaking and commenting on examples of quality wines grown in other parts of the world, the Chief Viticultural Officer for the State’s board of viticultural commissioners praised Rioja reds as “the best”: “While investigating Spanish clarets in Paris, I learned that those of Rioja were the best and the only ones that might be safely transported through the equatorial heats to California.”52 At about the same time (i.e., when the bulk of Rioja wine still was reduced to a liquid used for complementing and giving strength to French wines), a popular US American encyclopedia informed readers in an entry for Logroño about the “excellent” and “celebrated Rioja wine.”53


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In the 1880s, Rioja wine was already “excellent” and “celebrated,” but was it also better than La Mancha’s Valdepeñas, the darling preferred by many of the early wine writers as we have seen? There seems to be evidence indicating that by the end of the nineteenth century Rioja was indeed on the verge of overtaking Valdepeñas in the ranking of the most appreciated wines. This is at least the impression after comparing the different editions of O’Shea’s famous travel guide to Spain and Portugal. In the fourth edition (1869) there is only a brief description of Rioja wine as “good but heady,” which was not at all an invitation to taste it. This rather negative assessment changed in the eleventh edition published in 1899. First, the reader learned that “the Rioja Clarete, now widely drunk, is perhaps the best low-priced wine in bottle,” which definitely, “ought to be tasted.” What is more, while the 1869 edition praised Valdepeñas as “the best common red wine in Spain,” things had changed by 1899: “Valdepeñas … 11,200 thirsty souls, who almost live upon the excellent but improvable wine of that name – with the Rioja the best Spanish red wine.”54 Although it is difficult, if not impossible, to prove empirically that the end of Rioja’s export boom, spurred by the French tariff regulation of 1892, facilitated the creation of a more positive international image of Rioja wine, there is enough evidence to suggest that there was indeed a relationship. As the export of cheap bulk wine ceased to be the never-failing key element of the wine business, quality again became the main concern for Rioja winemakers and merchants, just as it had been in the 1860s when the Medoc Alavés was invented. Of course, as we have seen when discussing the foundation of the new wineries since the 1870s, this strategical reassessment had already been initiated years before the 1892 protectionist tariff. And bottled quality wine was available in some international markets before that date, although during the golden age this equaled a drop in the ocean. Moreover, the contradiction between wine business based on quantity and rather futuristic projections grounded in an appeal to quality was clearly not categorical since many Rioja companies, frequently financed by French capital, combined both business models. This is one of the points highlighted by the US commissioner in his report on the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris when writing about the Spanish wines presented in the section on fermented drinks. The report starts off by stating that not much had been done with respect to wine production in Spain, but then, in contrast to the overall Spanish lack of progress, the author emphasizes the effort, though still “with moderate success,” made in Rioja: This district has been but little known to foreigners until within a quite recent date. The enterprising merchants of Bordeaux have known its virtues longer, but it has not been familiar to the wine trade of this country for more than nine or ten years. Some effort has been made in the Rioja to improve the methods in the vineyards, and some Cabernet-Sauvignon, Verdot, and Malbec vines have been planted. The

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results have been felt in a marked degree, and the wines readily command a much better price … and under the guidance of some industrious Frenchmen efforts have been made during the past five years to find a market for Rioja wines as such. This effort has met with but moderate success. It deserves a better fate.55 It is interesting that in many US sources of the time there seems to be a conviction that the quality improvement of Rioja wine was a consequence of planting Médoc varieties, a perception that appears to reflect Médoc’s unquestioned worldwide prestige as the star among quality wines, rather than an empirically proved historical reality. As far as we know, as early as 1860, when the Medoc Alavés experiment was initiated, the idea of introducing foreign vines has been frequently considered, but never implemented except for a few isolated cases. The main Rioja variety for both bulk and premium red wine was tempranillo, which some US observers seem to ignore, as in this Treatise on Wine Production published in 1894, two years after the new French tariff. Despite the erroneous information, what remains worth mentioning is, again, the assessment of Rioja as a European region in which quality was about to overcome quantity in winemaking: In a few cases only have producers attempted to change their types to suit the trade through a sacrifice of quantity and an increase of labor. This has been notably done to some extent in Italy, especially at Asti, and in Spain at Rioja … The French merchants say that with the exception of the wines of Rioja, Spanish clarets can only be exported to the north during the first winter; that they cannot cross the equator. The Rioja wines are made from Medoc varieties of grapes, which were introduced by amateurs. In transportable qualities, at least, the Medoc vines reproduce their distinctive traits even in Spain.56 If since the late nineteenth century Rioja wines gained a reputation among international connoisseurs, this was not owed to the influence of French varieties, but to the effort carried out on the spot and disseminated in the international arena by wineries, merchants, and wine writers. However, France did continue to impact Rioja winemaking. Its presence was felt not only through capital, technology and skilled labor, but also – even after the 1892 tariff – through the practice of blending Rioja wines with French wines that later would be sold under the label of famous Médoc chateaux. This is what the Spanish delegate of Madrid’s Chamber of Commerce lamented when addressing an audience at the International Commercial Congress convened in 1899 in Philadelphia, after underscoring the fact that the wines of the “Marquis de Riscel [sic], the Sociedad Vinícola del Norte de España (Rioja Clarete) and others, are now prepared and bottled in such excellent manner that they are fit for the best tables and the most fastidious palates”:


The comeback every quart of red wine of the millions yearly imported in casks from my country, before being presented to the gullible consumer in a bottle with a fine label with a fancy cap, receives a genuine Catholic baptism; that is to say, a good sprinkling of water (not necessarily holy water) and the name of some good old French Saint –Saint Julien for example, to whom wine dealers owe a great deal of gratitude, for he certainly does cover a multitude of their sins.57

This was one of the rare occasions on which the names of some of the Rioja wineries were singled out. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Rioja quality wine was usually advertised as “Rioja Clarete,” which was a reference to the light, clear Bordeaux claret, a promotional trick very similar to what the Medoc Alavés had been in the 1860s. This attempt at increasing the prestige of a new wine by suggesting its proximity to the famous Médoc was not at all a Rioja invention, as the example of crafting and commercializing quality wines in Napa Valley since the 1860s shows.58 However, by the end of the nineteenth century, Rioja was already well-known among international gourmets as a Spanish region that produced quality wines and it had made its way onto the menus of top restaurants. In 1899, Raimundo Braguglia’s Café and Restaurant on Broadway in New York offered two Rioja wines: a “Rioja” for 70 cents per quarter, and a “Rioja Medoc,” priced at 1 dollar. Both were more expensive than the Valdepeñas (60 cents) and could also be purchased by the case. The Rioja Medoc sold for $10 a case, which was more expensive than most of the different Médoc reds on the restaurant’s wine list. A case of the most expensive red Médoc was worth $15, which was topped by the Italian Chianti at $20. Rioja was also on the 1900 menu of Hotel America in New York, where the diner paid $1 for a quarter of Rioja, 75 cents for “Navarro,” $1.25 for a Valdepeñas or a Chianti, and $1.50 for a Château Margaux. Six years later, in 1906, distinguished guests at the Grand Orient in Ybor City (Florida) opened their dinner with a “Souternes (sic) Franco Español,” which was probably the famous “Diamante” white wine produced by Bodegas Franco-Españolas in Logroño. They continued with a “clarete” without indication of origin, followed by a “Rioja Clarete.” The dinner ended with a “White Seal,” a Moët & Chandon champagne. And one year later, at the same location, the guests of the Second Annual Banquet of the Florida [Beer] Brewing Company had the opportunity to savor a “Rioja Clarete” with their dinner. In the same year, guests convened for a dinner party given by Miss Charlie Smith, began dinner with a Bordeaux Haut Sauternes, followed by a Marqués de Riscal “clarete.” As usual on these occasions, the dinner ended with Moët & Chandon champagne and the Italian dessert wine Lacrima Christi.59 Rioja’s presence at that location was not entirely surprising given that Ybor City, a neighborhood of downtown Tampa, was mostly populated by Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants. Apparently, in the early twentieth century, Rioja had become the

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first choice of diaspora Spaniards. In 1912, after the Spanish Prime Minister José Canalejas was fatally shot by an anarchist, a reporter for New York’s Evening Post visited the Spanish business quarter on Manhattan’s Pearl Street, where he found the Spanish dealers of perfumed oils, cigars, almonds, olives and wine mourning the liberal Prime Minister’s death: Over their saffroned rice and their red wine of Rioja they sat in the little restaurants at the luncheon hour and talked of the dark days of reaction that the coming to power of the Premier had ended in Spain and the dark days that now loom because of his death.60 But immigrants were not the only ones to drink Rioja when celebrating or mourning. So did American military personnel after defeating the Spaniards at the Battle of Manila Bay.61 As the twentieth century progressed and the time when Rioja was only used and known as an additive for Bordeaux wine receded, international testimonies increasingly focused on particular wineries and their products, beyond the generic mention of “Rioja Clarete.” Although Canadian wine lovers were still informed in 1904 that “the great mass of red wines is destined for export to France which uses them for blending,” Rioja reds were highlighted as “quite fine, fresh and healthy wines that are somewhat similar to the wines of the Gironde hillsides.” They were said to have been very successful at increasing their export to the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, England and northern Europe. According to this source, the most famous brands were produced by the Marqués de Riscal, CUNE, Bodegas Franco-Españolas y López de Heredia.62 Some years earlier, a British travel guide had already specifically cited CUNE and the Marqués de Riscal as outstanding Rioja wines, adding that the British traveler, once back home, could find Riscal’s wine (“a most delicate and excellent liquor”) at the famous Palmerston Restaurant on London’s Broad Street, as well as at the Café Monico and De Keyser’s Hotel. Rioja was the new Spanish star, whereas Valdepeñas, though still “well-known,” was outed as “somewhat out of date.”63 A German book titled “Masterpiece of Food and Drinks” singled out CUNE – without mentioning the winery’s name – and emphasized that this bodega had incorporated French capitalists in order to introduce their wine under a proper label into the world market, having already succeeded in England, where the wine was sold as “Rioja-Bordeaux” or “Rioja Claret.”64 Yet probably the most detailed and well-informed report on Rioja wine from the early twentieth century did not come from Germany, the United States or the United Kingdom. We find it in an Australian publication, a government journal published by the Department of Agriculture of Victoria in December 1908. The article derives from a visit made by an Australian official and wine expert to Rioja with the aim of attaining information to help improve Australian winemaking. This document provides an excellent overview on Rioja wine and its situation at the beginning of the twentieth century, a time of phylloxera and replantation as we have seen, from the perspective of


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Figure 9.7 Five vats of wine in the López de Heredia winery. April 1910 photo taken for the Brussels Universal Exposition of the same year Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

an Australian visitor. Due to its uniqueness, the document deserves special attention here. First of all, this Australian visitor does not hesitate to assess the top quality of Rioja wine. Rioja “is in fact the claret district of Spain” and its name “has become synonymous with what is best in the way of light dry red table wine”: “When one wants something better than the ‘Vin Ordinaire’ provided free of charge at lunch or dinner at all Spanish hotels and restaurants, it is almost always a bottle of Rioja that is ordered.”65 A second quite surprising fact is that F. de Castella, the Australian visitor, had been correctly informed about the historical roots of Rioja’s outstanding prestige. Without mentioning the Medoc Alavés as the pioneer of Rioja’s quality wine, Castella points to the innovative experiment as the groundwork for the region’s and its wine’s triumphal evolution: Some thirty or forty years ago the best wines of the district were found to be somewhat similar to those of Bordeaux and a few energetic growers and merchants imported trained cellarmen from that celebrated French wine centre with the result that the natural product was greatly improved – so much so that it has almost entirely superseded French clarets in Spain.66 When visiting the “celebrated Vineyard of El Ciego [sic],” Castella added that the Marqués de Riscal was “one of the first proprietors to introduce Bordeaux methods into La Rioja, as far back as the year 1862,” which was, as

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the reader will remember, when the first vintage according to Médoc expertise had been produced in the Rioja Alavesa. This quality was obtained thanks to good and “very suitable” soils, on which different grape varieties were grown and blended. The report draws a picture of a quite heterogeneous mixture of scions that were being drafted on resistant American stocks. The Tempranillo variety was already queen of the vineyards, but its predominance had not yet reached anywhere near current levels: Such sorts as Garnacho, Mazuelo and Monastrel are so widely known under the corresponding French names of Grenache, Carignane and Morastel as to render further description unnecessary, but in La Rioja one finds several varieties, little known out of Spain, which appear to contribute to the quality of the wine of the region …. These are the red varieties Tempranillo, Graciano and Miguel de Arco and among white sorts Malvasía, Viura, Calagraño, Turruntés and Maturana as well as a variety of Muscat known as Moscatel.67 Some growers, especially the Marqués de Riscal, had also planted the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbeck. According to the author, good Rioja clarets were normally composed of about 50% Tempranillo, one third Graciano – which, oddly enough, was described as “the quality element in the best red wines of the region,” when one might expect that qualification for the now famous Tempranillo – and the rest Grenache or, occasionally, white grapes in order to “increase the ‘finesse’ of the wine.” “Finesse” also required a rather low level of alcohol. According to the Australian expert, the alcohol strength of the fine Rioja wines seldom exceeded 10%. Nowadays Rioja wines usually range between 13% and 15%, which may indicate an effect of climate change.68 The Australian wine writer took his time to visit almost all the important new wineries of the region. He initiated his tour in Logroño at Franco-Españolas where “everything is conducted on practically the same lines as in Bordeaux cellars.” The red wines (50% Tempranillo, 25% Grenache and Graciano) were usually kept in barrels for two or three years before bottling. He also had the opportunity to taste “some very good white wines … of the Chablis and Sauternes types.” Many of these wines were shipped to Latin American markets. The author also highlighted the importance of the nursery run by the company, which was crucial for the replantation process of the province. In Haro, whose station district was the nerve center of the wine business, the Australian traveler visited the Zaco and Paceta vineyards owned by Leonardo Echeverría. As the reader may remember, these vineyards and the winery were purchased shortly after Castella’s visit by the giant Bodegas Bilbaínas, which used the names of the plots for labeling their new wines. The wines made by Echeverría (and later Bilbaínas) were


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partly made from his own grapes, although we learn that in 1908 growers situated around the industrial wineries had already ceased making their own wine in order to sell their grapes to the large companies, a division of labor that was “the general rule” in the region. Those small winegrowers who still continued producing their own wine, frequently fermented the grapes with the stalks, while the large wineries usually removed the stalks when crafting their fine wines. The next stops were CUNE and López Heredia. In both cases French influence was again highlighted, which was a general pattern in Haro: The storage cellars remind one even more strongly of Bordeaux than the winery. Here everything is conducted on exactly similar lines, which is, however, not surprising as the head cellarman in all the Haro cellars is almost invariably a Frenchman.69 At López Heredia, the author was impressed by “a very long tunnel of large diameter excavated in the solid rock. The plant is most efficient and up to date …” After visiting Haro’s Viticultural Station (Estación Enológica), the Australian visitor ended his tour in Rioja Alavesa at the Marqués de Riscal’s estate and its “celebrated vineyard” in Elciego. He had the opportunity to walk through the cellar’s vaulted galleries by the light of candlesticks. He saw the wine that was ageing for five or six years; wine that would go to market once fined through the use of egg whites. Again, the Bordeaux example came to his mind: “As at Haro one would immediately imagine oneself at Bordeaux in any of these long, dark vaults.” All in all, the Australian’s experience was highly positive and inspiring, as he suggested in his final recommendation for his readers at home: Australians would do well to take a lesson from Spaniards who appreciate their own good wines and drink them instead of importing wines from elsewhere. The few details above given will give some idea of the importance of the Rioja wine industry in Spain.70 To put it in a nutshell: In 1908, Rioja’s fine wine was no longer just an invention of uncertain future created by a few daring visionaries. It was already a brand increasingly known for its quality. Rioja became a synonym for fine wine. It had broken out of its narrow regional framework to start penetrating the domestic market in Spain, while at the same time it was also making progress to secure its presence on the tables of gourmets around the world, especially in Latin America and the United Kingdom. What had not been achieved in the late 1860s, i.e., the capital and infrastructure for ageing and marketing the product, was now being carried out by the large wine companies that were attracting the attention of international observers. Rioja’s success was even an example to follow for other international wine sectors, such as the Australian one.

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Other available sources seem to corroborate this image. By the early twentieth century, Rioja had established a strong grip on most of the Spanish middle- and upper-class restaurants and hotels, where it was still offered mostly in general terms as “Rioja Clarete,” although the flagship brands of some wineries, as well as the names of those wineries, were gaining presence on menus and in the reports of international observers. Whereas Rioja was only listed among the “wines of Spain” in the 1903 edition of the British Gourmet’s Guide to Europe, the 1908 editions had some changes. Now the wines of the Marqués de Riscal were singled out as “much esteemed all over Spain.” Rioja’s fine wines need four years of ageing to become really good, while Valdepeñas’s “very strong” wine needed “eight or ten years in bottle to mature.” Other Rioja wines that made it into the guide were Franco-Españolas’s white Diamante and the “really excellent” Sauternes of the Marquis de Terán, a nod to Federico Paternina and his Bodegas Paternina founded in 1896 in Ollauri (Logroño province). The Diamante, but also CUNE’s wines (“Vinícola”) were the most demanded wines at Barcelona’s top restaurant, the Plaza Real, while the Marqués de Riscal was the best, but also the most expensive wine on the menu at the Grand Hotel des Quatre Nations on Barcelona’s famous Rambla boulevard.71 Rioja was also successful because it satisfied the new middle class’s desire to achieve and maintain good health through an appropriate diet made up of pure and healthy food and drinks. The idea the inventors of the Medoc Alavés had in mind when sending bottles of the new wine as gifts to doctors and pharmacists now bore fruit. In a guidebook with advice about how to “prolong” life, wine was recommended to “phthisical patients.” They should take half a bottle, even a full bottle a day, which would “sustain them, cheer them, and give them strength.” But there was one condition, and here Rioja appears: “It is absolutely necessary that the wine be of good quality, and free from any mixture. Spanish Rioja and claret are preferable on account of the tannin which they contain and the ease with which they are digested.”72 This was very much in line with what the British Clinical Journal had already recommended in 1900 when writing about “Rioja Vintage Wines.” An article describes the wine as robust and full-flavored, with tonic properties. It almost reads like an advertisement: The almost entire absence of sugar and their remarkable freedom from acidity mark them out for use in rheumatic and gouty cases. In anaemic conditions their value is obvious and undoubted, especially as they are free from objectionable “gout de terre”, so noticeable in the host of cheap French wines now in vogue. A further guarantee of excellence is furnished by the fact that these wines are under “The British Analytical Control”, every bottle sold bearing this important organisation’s stamp of purity.73 Rioja was not only healthy, a restoring medicine against different diseases and a beverage likely to prolong the life. It had also conquered the top position


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among Spanish premium wines, leaving behind Valdepeñas. The Marqués de Riscal cellars were the site “where the finest dry wines are made,” which “have only one label.”74 The famous Baedeker Handbook for Travelers was clear in its 1913 edition when informing about the wines offered in Spanish restaurants: “Ordinary table wine (vino común or de mesa), which is seldom charged for, is not always good; it may be mixed with seltzer-water. Better wines cost at least 2 p. [pesetas] per bottle. Rioja is the kind most frequently met with; Valdepeñas is not so good.”75 The British Everyman’s Encyclopedia agreed with this assessment defining Rioja as “the best known Spanish table wine … usually red, full-bodied, and strong.”76 This was somewhat in contradiction to what readers of The Penguin Book of Wines learned in 1915 about the wines that were sold to Great Britain: “Rioja is a light table wine, both red and white. It has no pretensions to fine quality, but is a good, clean wine, listed on most wine merchant lists at between 7 s. [shilling] and 8 s. a bottle.”77 Still, this wine was in demand and sold in the UK, as the 1912 wine catalogue of London’s famous department store Harrods shows. What stands out at first glance when analyzing this catalog is that Rioja wines are among the few sold by the bottle, not only by the case. Among the seven Spanish wines offered by Harrods, four came from Rioja. The others are a red and a white from Valdepeñas, and a white from La Mancha. No specific brand is mentioned. Instead, the customer can choose a “Rioja Burgundy Type” and a “Rioja Claret Type” that are especially “recommended for invalids,” a “Rioja Claret Sauternes Type, dry,” probably a sweet white wine, or a “Rioja Claret” without any further description. Surprisingly, the most expensive bottles were the white La Mancha and Valdepeñas, followed by the Rioja Sauternes. La Mancha in general, and Valdepeñas in particular, were regions mostly known for their red wines and we might speculate that the two whites on the Harrods list that came from Castille were also more expensive sweet dessert wines, just like the Rioja Sauternes.78 In addition, American businessmen also were paying increasing attention to Rioja wines. In 1917, when most of the post-Phylloxera replantation was finished, the US Chamber of Commerce published an article about Spain’s industrial revival, which included the wine industry. Rioja was said to be “now playing the most significant role” in the sector. An American company, whose name was not provided, had begun importing red and white Rioja wines, which were “now procurable even in the United States.”79 “Procurable,” but still a niche commodity for extravagant gourmets. In 1908, the bulk of the red wine shipped overseas from the port of Bilbao, which was overwhelmingly from Rioja, was destined not for the US but for Latin American markets. The first destination was Cuba with 28,650 hectoliters, followed by Argentina (22,400 hl), Mexico (15,200 hl) and England (4,750 hl). As Rioja did not appeal exclusively to well-off costumers, offering a more affordable fine wine than Bordeaux, French merchants had reason enough to be preoccupied. Among bottled fine wines, “the wine ‘La Rioja’ from Spain” was

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said to be especially in demand “for its more affordable prices,” which enabled them to “compete with our wines from Bordeaux.”80 Three years earlier, in 1905, a Canadian observer of French wine production had already noted, in similar terms, a decrease in Bordeaux exports owing to the fact that “England is becoming evermore fond of Portuguese red wines and Bordeaux counterfeits. The Rioja Clarete is very popular.”81 In case any further proof for this remarkable comeback of the new Rioja wine, now labeled Rioja Claret instead of Medoc Alavés, were needed, a look at literature might provide that piece of the puzzle that is still missing to complete the whole picture. Indeed, Rioja appeared in several literary pieces of the early twentieth century. Most of these references depicted Rioja as a wine for special occasions on which it was not a bottle of good wine that was had, but rather a bottle of Rioja, apparently a synonym for quality. A few examples may suffice to illustrate this new literary status of Rioja. In a short story about his adventures in Morocco, Alec John Dawson described his Moroccan host as “over generous in the matter of his Rioja” because he had “without assistance, emptied one bottle and the half of another of the Rioja.”82 In Bithia Mary Croker’s novel, The Spanish Necklace, the protagonist Count Ramón offers his guests “a lunch that will cheer you”: “We will have a bottle of Rioja; you have not tasted it for some time.”83 In his novel The White Mice, Richard Harding Davis stages a romantic dinner in Puerto Cabello (Venezuela) that is made complete with Rioja: “In the patio they found the table ready for dinner, and two lamps casting a cheerful light upon the white cloth and flashing from the bottle of red Rioja.”84 In his novelistic account of a road trip through Cuba, Ralph E. Estep mentions the welcome gesture of a local offering to buy the visitors “a bottle of Rioja blanco.”85 In his memoir of events in Morocco, the English war correspond Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett rewarded the “fidelity” of his Maroccan muleteer “with a good meal and a bottle of Spanish Rioja.”86 In the Portuguese novel, The City and the Mountains, the protagonist, while on a train traveling through Northern Spain, described how he was “uncorking a bottle of Rioja, when the train, very serenely, drew into a station.”87 Finally, Peter de Polnay also has the main characters of his novel drink “a glass of Rioja” in a scene set at an Andalusian restaurant.88 As we can see, by the 1920s the status of the (no longer so new) Rioja wine had been completely transformed since its invention in the 1860s. After its temporary failure and disappearance, it had experienced a splendid comeback that offered solutions to almost all the problems that had, years ago, jeopardized its future. Rioja had become a recognized brand that was usually considered a synonym for quality. The winemaking sector attracted capital from French, Basque and local businessmen who founded new industrial wineries dedicated to ageing, distributing and selling the wine in Spain, America and some parts of Europe. As it was more affordable than the prestigious Bordeaux wines, Rioja was able to compete with the French products. The wide range of wines, from the most sophisticated and expensive matured


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fine wines to simple unpretentious young ones, made it possible to appeal to a heterogeneous clientele from both the middle and upper classes. Apparently, the pharmacists, doctors and journalists who in 1866 received Medoc Alavés bottles as gifts, as well as their successors, had done their job; they all contributed to shape the image of fine Rioja as a healthy, pure and digestive beverage, thus satisfying the new urban middle- and upper-class concern for a healthy lifestyle. Gaining a presence even in literature, Rioja was becoming an ingredient in this bourgeois lifestyle because those who tasted it were able to combine gustative pleasure with health consciousness. Spanish and international gourmets were no longer necessarily and exclusively focused on the Bordeaux Châteaux and Burgundy Crus. Still far from breaking the dominance of the French producers, Rioja was now knocking on the door of the select club of French premium winemakers, who had indeed started to perceive the Rioja bodegas as serious competitors. This new prestige, as well as an increasing penetration into middle- and upper-class markets, consolidated Rioja’s fine wine as a product and brand whose survival was no longer vitally dependent on the impact of severe economic crises. This became evident, for instance, in 1934/35, when a sharp recession resulted in a dramatic rise in the unemployment rate in the Basque provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa, which were, as the reader will remember, the traditional markets for Rioja wine. According to Bilbao’s press, the wine market almost completely collapsed, “since the lack of work and, as a consequence, the workers’ unemployment made that wine consumption is very low.” The slump in consumption affected, however, “above all the ordinary table wines [‘vinos de pasto’], which are the most sought after by the working classes. Rioja wines, which are those consumed by the wealthy classes, are selling somewhat.”89 Rioja’s wine business became crisis-proof, though, of course, not impervious to the impact of adverse economic cycles. This is the reason why, within the context of structural overproduction, the Rioja wine sector continued attracting capital that was invested into the foundation of new wineries or with an aim to increase the capital of already existing bodegas. Among the new companies, we find Bodegas Ollauri (1920), Gurpegui of San Adrián and Ramón Bilbao of Haro (both founded in 1921). After founding his first bodega in Ollauri (1896), Federico Paternina expanded his business with a new winery in Haro that was headquartered in Madrid (1921). The facility had a considerable capitalization of 838,000 pesetas, giving continuity to the deep roots that the old Riojan lineage had in regional viticulture, for the Parternina family, as we have seen, was a participant in the original Medoc Alavés project. Undoubtedly, however, the most important wine company created in these years was Bodegas del Romeral, Félix Azpilicueta Martínez, S.A. Born in Fuenmayor in 1929 from the merger of several companies, its share capital amounted to 6 million pesetas.90 However, the relatively privileged situation of the Rioja wine business did not bring only advantages. All that glittered was not gold. A major drawback for

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twentieth-century Rioja wine resulted from a problem that had also bedeviled the Medoc Alavés protagonists: fraud through counterfeiting, which attracted people from within and without the region. The market was flooded with concoctions sold under the name Rioja – low-quality products adulterated with industrial alcohol. This aggravated the problem of overproduction and damaged the prestige of authentic fine Rioja. Consequently, more than any other Spanish region, Rioja had a great interest in the state taking appropriate measures to protect the sector. The eagerness of Rioja winemakers to obtain their own Denomination of Origin as legal protection for their product only increased once Rioja had consolidated its name as a quality wine producer. Yet, not everybody engaged in the wine business was keen to obtain that protection. The new wine and its economy also created a new society with conflicting interests. What did this new society look like? How and why did different social groups articulate contentious claims in the struggle for the wine that grew in intensity since the 1920s? In the following chapter, I am going to offer some responses to these questions.

Notes 1 This information proceeds from the report presented by a branch inspector to the governor of the Banco de España (Haro, August 16, 1891) regarding a branch planned for the town of Haro. This and other documents from the archive of the Banco de España (Madrid, Secretaría, Legajo 1.027) came into the author’s hands thanks to the kindness of Francisco Bermejo. 2 Manuel González Portilla, La formación de la sociedad capitalista en el País Vasco, 2 vols. (San Sebastián: Haranburu, 1981); Manuel González Portilla (ed.), Los orígenes de una metrópoli industrial: la ría de Bilbao, 2 vols. (Bilbao: Nerea, 2001). 3 Ludger Mees, The Basque Contention. Ethnicity, Politics, Violence (New York: Routledge, 2020), 43–44. 4 Michèle Mas, Courants et échanges entre Bordeaux et La Rioja dans la segonde moitié du XIX siècle, Travail d’Études Ibériques (Bordeaux: Université de Bordeaux III, 1984), 55. 5 This can be deduced from the unpublished analysis of the Logroño commercial register (“Registro Mercantil”) from its creation in 1886 to 1960 carried out by F. Bermejo, which the author has been able to consult. 6 For a contemporary view of the winery and this marketing strategy, see a report about that winery in this sense in La Rioja, June 29, 1906. 7 Luis González de Candamo, R. López de Heredia: biografía del Rioja supremo (Haro: López de Heredia/Viña Tondonia 1996); Luis Vicente Elías, Viña Tondonia: un pago, una viña, un vino, 1877–1907–2007 (Haro: exhibition catalog, 2008). 8 Information about the start of the bottling was provided to the author by Pedro López de Heredia (deceased in 2013), who was the founder’s grandson. In 2018, the great-granddaughter María José López de Heredia expanded on this information. In the company inventories that were made annually since 1889, on the other hand, we find no information about the value of the “botellero” (stock of bottled wine) prior to 1898. See Recopilación de los Inventarios de la Casa R. López de Heredia y Cía. 1889–1907, López de Heredia company archive. 9 The specific circumstances of this divorce have yet to be clarified. In spite of the losses in value recorded in the accounting books, it does not seem that the business was doing badly in the years prior to its dissolution. Thus, a document from the


10 11 12 13 14




18 19 20 21 22



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company’s archives refers to 1896 as the date on which the winery reached “in the thirty years since its foundation, its highest degree of apogee, importance and commercial credit.” See Escritura adicional a la constitución de la Sociedad “R. López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, S.S.,” December 1, 1924. Manuel Raventós, “Viaje por La Rioja,” Resumen de Agricultura 8 (1896), 433– 446, especially 438. Ibid., 443. La Rioja, October 17, 1901. The price lists for 1920 include two young red wines (“Rioja Alta Tinto” and “Rioja Alta Blanco”). See the contract between López de Heredia and Federico Pfeiffer, of Guatemala, Haro, November 12, 1901, López de Heredia archive. The distributor undertook not to work for any other Spanish company in the sector. Further information in La Rioja, July 4, 1900 and Raventós, 443. Part of the following information relies on a rather journalistic account of CUNE’s history which, however, is very informative. See Manuel Llano Gorostiza, Un vaso de bon vino (Bilbao: Grijelmo 1979). Another source of information that contains empirical data on this winery and, in particular, on the growing importance that quality wine acquired after the phylloxera crisis are the studies of José Luis Hernández Marco, “La búsqueda de vinos tipificados por las bodegas industriales: finanzas, organización y tecnología en las elaboraciones de la Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, S.A. (1882–1936),” in Juan Carmona et al. (eds.), Viñas, bodegas y mercados. El cambio técnico en la vitivinicultura española 1850–1936 (Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2001), 156–186; José Luis Hernández Marco, “Estrategias empresariales y vinos de calidad en la Rioja: La Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (C.V.N.E.). 1882–1923,” in Actas del Primer Encuentro de Historiadores de la Vitivinicultura Española (El Puerto de Santa María: Ayuntamiento de El Puerto de Santa María 2000), 387–406. Unfortunately, we do not know the nature and dimensions of his business in the Biscayan capital. Llano Gorostiza (p. 66) makes some allusions in this respect, but they are not very precise (“he lived with the depth of his soul that splendid moment of mines, shipyards and workshops”). This amount did not change in the following decades and until the Second Republic (1931–1939). See the various amendments to the company’s statutes of July 9, 1902, December 6, 1909, and May 20, 1921, which are kept at the Bilbao Mercantile Registry. Ignacio Olábarri Gortázar, Relaciones laborales en Vizcaya (1890–1936) (Durango: Leopoldo Zugaza, 1978), 30, 213 and 308. La Revista Vinícola y de Agricultura 36 (1897); La Rioja, June 29, 1906; Raventós, 443. Libro de Actas del Consejo de Administración de la CUNE, 1.7.1882–1.10.1909 (January 14, 1887 meeting). Raventós, 441. See the account book (“Mayor”) of 1906/07, deposited in the CUNE archives in Haro; Llano Gorostiza, Vaso, chapters “Triunfos internacionales” (81–86) and “1900–1914: la conquista de los mercados” (93–100); La Revista Vinícola y de Agricultura, 36, 1897; La Rioja, June 29, 1906; Raventós, 441. For the foundation of Franco-Españolas see Mas, Courants, 58–63 (“Une création bordelaise: les ‘Bodegas Franco-Españolas’”) and Sara Bustos Torres et al. (eds.), 125 años Bodegas Franco-Españolas, testigo de la historia de Logroño (Logroño: Imprenta Moderna, 2015). See, for example, the ad published in La Rioja, September 22, 1926. It has not been possible to find out when Romanones became part of the company, nor how much capital he contributed to it. Presumably his entry was a consequence of the

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25 26 27

28 29 30 31

32 33 34 35

36 37



departure of the French shareholders in 1922. He was appointed for the first time as a member of the board of directors in 1925 (La Rioja, November 1, 1925). In the same article, mention is made of the fact that the “the entire share capital” was in the hands of people from Rioja, ignoring that Romanones was in fact from Guadalajara. Something similar was also stated by the manager, Álvarez. See the interview with Álvarez, La Rioja, September 27, 1925. In fact, two members of the board of directors, Vicente Rodríguez Paterna and Enrique Herreros de Tejada, came from the traditional landowning elite of Logroño, the largest taxpayer in the province. See Bermejo and Delgado, Administración, 340–358 (“Elites económicas riojanas durante la Restauración”). Andrés Cenjor Llopis, Viticultura y enología (Madrid: Unión Poligráfica, 1935), 371. La Rioja, May 7, 1904. According to La Rioja (May 7, 1904), the Franco-Españolas sold 60,000 hl of wine in bulk and 200,000 bottles annually. A year earlier, in its September 1, 1903 edition, the same newspaper gave similar figures, with 60,000 hl of wine in bulk and 150,000 bottles. In 1902, the president of the company, F. Anglade, saw the main foundation of the business in “fine wines,” but without specifying the meaning of the term. See Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria (Logroño 1902), 8. Mas, 59. La Rioja, September 1, 1903. Undated five-page typewritten booklet, which the company’s management kindly provided to the author. The following statistics are based on the company’s annual reports. Unfortunately, it only provides sufficient sales data for the years shown in the statistics. The reports for the remaining years only give the total sales figures without specifying the markets. The percentages are calculated by the author. If they do not add up to 100, it is due to the existence of a residual category (“en comisión”) of uncertain meaning, but which surely refers to wine sold through third parties. Registro Mercantil de Bilbao, Libro 17, hoja 888 (foundation statutes of Bodegas Bilbaínas). See the winery’s annual reports (Bilbao 1918, 1919, 1921). Llano Gorostiza, Vinos, 115; Asier Vera Santamaría et al., Historias auténticas by Viña Pomal: la expresión de la Rioja Alta desde 1908 (Haro: Viña Pomal, 2015). See, for example, the extract from the 1916 Memoria published in La Rioja (October 3, 1916). Some years later, the Bilbaínas would be considered the “strongest Spanish company in the wine business” (La Rioja, September 26, 1925). The figure of 200 ha appears in an ad published by the company in the Boletín de la Cámara Oficial de Comercio e Industria de la provincia de Logroño, 70, November 1920. A comparison of the extension of the land owned by Bilbaínas with that of its competitors in Bodegas Bilbaínas, Memoria 1917/18 (Bilbao 1918), 10. See the documents related to this conflict in APA, D 3974/7. The company’s historical archives have not been accessible to researchers mainly due to the dispersion of documents in different locations. Only after the completion of this research has the author been invited to consult the documentation that has been preserved. See the 1916/17 Memoria, quoted in La Rioja (October 3, 1917), which also notes the improvement in business with America, but at the same time points out that the levels prior to the Mexican Revolution had not been recovered. It can be assumed that, once the First World War was over and wine production had normalized in the countries involved in it, the European market was losing, at least in tendency, the great importance it had for Bilbaínas to the benefit of Central and South American markets.


The comeback

39 Cenjor Llopis, Viticultura, 373. The data on the sale of the “Lumen” in Bodegas Bilbaínas, Memoria 1917/18 (Bilbao 1918), 9; the renunciation to build the winery in San Sadurní, justified by the high prices in the construction sector, in Memoria 1920/21, 9. Even so, the Bilbaínas kept the estate. Years later, the press would continue to allude to the intention of building a “model winery” in that town (La Rioja, September 26, 1925). 40 See, for example, the text of an ad of Bodegas Bilbaínas in which the purchase of foreign products was branded as an unpatriotic act. See Boletín de la Cámara Oficial de Comercio e Industria de la Provincia de Logroño, 70, November 1920. These appeals were not only for the sale of wines, but also for the sale of company’s cognac “Faro.” In 1925, the stores in Haro had 200,000 liters of this product. The contemporary press described the buyers of this and other Bilbaínas’s products as “intelligent consumers, especially if, in addition, they know how to be true patriots.” See La Rioja, September 26, 1925. 41 Quoted in Pan-Montojo, 351–352. 42 Heraldo Alavés, October 31, 1913. It is worth noting that Bodegas Palacio, based in Laguardia and founded with capital from Bilbao, is not mentioned in this article. The statements about the purchase of grapes by Riscal are based on the analysis of the statistics provided by the “Libros de Vendimias” [vintage books], kept in the company’s archives. 43 La Rioja, September 27, 1925. 44 See La Rioja, September 25, 1925; for Bodegas Bilbaínas see the extract from the 1915/1916 Memoria Anual quoted in La Vinicultura Española, December 15, 1916, in addition to the 1918/19 Memoria (Bilbao 1919), 7. The information about Franco-Españolas’s profits is taken from the published annual balance sheets (Logroño 1902–1919). In terms of trade and profit, 1919 was also an extraordinary year for CUNE (it sold twice as much wine as in the previous year). Its net profits were, however, far below (64%) those obtained in the record year of 1901. See Libro de Actas de Señores Accionistas de la Cía: Vinícola del Norte de España, 23.6.1882–20.6.1919, in particular the meeting held in January 1920. See also the many articles published in La Rioja and the specialized journal La Viticultura Española between 1915 and 1919. According to La Rioja (November 19, 1916), the constant increase in prices often led producers to postpone sales. 45 La Vinicultura Española, February 15, 1921. 46 See the interview with Santiago Ugarte, manager of Bodegas Bilbaínas, about the new tariffs fixed by France in 1920/1921, in Boletín de la Cámara de Comercio e Industria de la provincia de Logroño, vol. 76, July 1921. 47 Sources for the table: Pedro García Santamaría and Francisco Martín Losa, El Rioja y sus viñas (San Sebastián: Gonzalo de Berceo, 1982), 38; Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Logroño, Memoria de 1929 (Logroño; 1931), 9; idem, Memoria de 1931 (Logroño: 1932), 198. The low levels of the French quota were due to the temporary ban on Spanish wine imports used for coupage. Given that the statistics refer only to the quantity of wine sold, and not to its value, the low volume of Rioja wine exported to England is less surprising. To this country, and to the United Kingdom in general, most of the wine exported was bottled, aged and rather expensive premium wine. 48 The Memorias of 1932 (p. 201) and 1933 (pp. 17 et seq.) give an idea of the dimension of the collapse in the quantities of wine exported annually through the port of Bilbao after 1929. The memoirs after 1933 unfortunately do not contain any data on exports or markets. If we take for granted the figures provided by Sobrón Elguea (without mentioning her sources), exports continued to decline until the Civil War, with the sole exception of a brief hiatus in 1934. Cf. María del Carmen Sobrón Elguea, “Datos sobre las exportaciones de vino de Rioja a Francia,” Berceo, 85 (1973), 187–208 (appendix: tables 2 and 3).

The comeback


49 See ibid. The calculation of the percentages is by the author. García Santamaría and Martín Losa, Rioja, 44, also point out the scant importance of bottled Rioja wines in the total volume of wines exported up to the mid-1940s. 50 Post Office, Glasgow Directory for 1884–1885 (Glasgow: William Mackenzie, 1884), 513; Post Office, Glasgow Directory for 1888–1889 (Glasgow: William Mackenzie, 1888), 1209; Wentworth Webster, Foreign Countries and British Colonies: Spain (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Ribington, 1882), 33. 51 Alfred Zweifel, Die Weine Spaniens, Portugals und der Insel Madeira (Lenzburg: 1887), 24, 25–29. 52 Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assemble of the Twenty-Sixth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, vol. 5 (Sacramento: State Office, 1885), 142. 53 Johnson’s Universal Cyclopedia, vol. 5., (New York: A. J. Johnson & Co, 1886), 63. 54 Henry O’Shea, Guide to Spain & Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1869 [fourth edition]), xlvii and 64; Henry O’Shea, Guide to Spain & Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1899 [11th edition]), xliv–xlvi, 55, 110. 55 Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris, vol. 4 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 768. 56 Chas. A. Wetmore, Treatise on Wine Production: Appendix B to the Report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners for 1893–94 (Sacramento, CA: A. J. Johnson, 1894), 9, 14. 57 Official Proceedings of the International Commercial Congress, October 12 to November 1, 1899 (Philadelphia: Press of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1899), 295. 58 The French owners of the Brun & Chaix Winery in Oakville produced 10.000 gallons of “Nouveau Medoc” in 1877; in the 1890, prices for Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec red wines, sold as “Medoc blends” surged; and also in later years the top Napa red wines were labeled as Medoc wines. See Charles L. Sullivan, Napa Wine: A History (San Francisco, CA: Napa Valley Wine Library Association, 2008 [second edition]), ebook, positions 1436, 2468, 2779. 59 The menus are available in the digital collection at the New York Public Library: b=about (accessed June 15, 2021). 60 Evening Post (New York), November 13, 1912. 61 “The Army and Navy Club of Phi Gamma Delta in Manila,” in The Phi Gamma Delta Quarterly, vol. 21, 1, 1899, 27–33. The wines were “Rioja, Madeira, Jerez and Champagne.” 62 “Sherries et vins d’Espagne,” Le Prix Courant (Montreal), vol. 37, August 26, 1904, 8–10. 63 Rowland Thirlmere [John Walker], Idylls of Spain: Vanished Pictures of Travel in the Peninsula (London: Elkin Mathews, 1897), 162. 64 P. M. Blüher (ed.), Meisterwerk der Speisen und Getränke (Leipzig: P.M. Blüher, 1904), 1815. 65 F. de Castella (Government Viticulturist), “La Rioja and Aragon. Fifth Progress Report on Viticulture in Europe,” The Journal of The Department of Agriculture of Victoria, VI, 12, December 10, 1908, 705–715. 66 Ibid., 706. 67 Ibid., 708. 68 The author mentions the American measure of “20 per cent of proof spirit,” which is the equivalent to 10% alcohol in the European system. However, in the light of other sources, this statement seems a bit exaggerated because the normal percentage of alcohol for fine Rioja wines at that time was closer to 11 or 12% instead of less than 10%. 69 Ibid., 711.


The comeback

70 Ibid., 715. 71 Nathaniel Newnham-Davis and Algernon Bastard, The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe (London: Grant Richards, 1908 [second edition]), 199–203. 72 Louis-Henry Goizet, The Transfusion of Life: A Continuation of Life Prolonged by Means of the Method of Brown-Séquard (London: C. Richter & Co, 1911), 283. 73 The Clinical Journal [London], vol. 16, n. 21, September 12, 1900, 327. 74 Ralph C. Dewey, “Interesting Observations on European Vineyards and Wines,” Pacific Wine & Spirit Review: Journal of Viniculture, vol. 53, n. 9 (1911), 22. 75 Karl Baedeker, Spain and Portugal: A Handbook for Travellers (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker Publisher, 1913 [fourth edition]), xxvii. 76 Everyman’s Encyclopedia, vol. 10 (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1913), 594. 77 Allan Sichel, The Penguin Book of Wines (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1915), 222. 78 Harrods for Everything (London: Harrods, 1912), 1314. 79 H. T. Craven, “New Castles of Commerce in Old Spain,” The Nation’s Business: A Magazine for Business Men, December 1917, 34. 80 Rapports Commerciaux des Agents Diplomatiques et Consulaires de France: Mouvement comercial de Bilbao en 1908, no. 869, April 28, 1910, 10. 81 Liqueurs et Tabacs [Montreal], vol. 4, no. 9, September 1905, 14. 82 Alec John Dawson, Things Seen in Marocco (London: Methuen & Co, 1904), 24. 83 Bithia Mary Croker, The Spanish Necklace (New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1908), 332. 84 Richard Harding Davis, The White Mice (Toronto: McLeod & Allen, 1909), 283. 85 E. Ralph Estep, El Toro: A Motor Car Story of Interior Cuba (Detroit, MI: Packard Motor Car Company, 1909), 85. 86 Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, The Passing of the Shereefian Empire (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co, 1910), 452. 87 Eca de Queiroz, The City and the Mountains (London: Max Reinhardt, 1915), 115. 88 Peter de Polnay, The Shorn Shadow (London: W. H. Allen, 1919), 215. 89 La Vinicultura Española, December 15, 1934, and April 1, 1935. 90 Mario Gaviria and Artemio Baigorri (eds.), El Campo Riojano, 2 vols. (Zaragoza: Cámara Provincial Agraria de La Rioja, 1984), 62–83; Bermejo, Registro Mercantil, 104–107.

References “The Army and Navy Club of Phi Gamma Delta in Manila,” The Phi Gamma Delta Quarterly, 21, 1 (1899), 27–33. Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assemble of the Twenty-Sixth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, vol. 5 (Sacramento, CA: State Office, 1885). Ashmead-Bartlett, Ellis, The Passing of the Shereefian Empire (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co, 1910). Baedeker, Karl, Spain and Portugal: A Handbook for Travellers (Leipzig: Karl Baedeker Publisher, 1913 [fourth edition]). Bermejo, Francisco and José Miguel Delgado Idarreta, La administración provincial española. La Diputación Provincial de La Rioja (Logroño: Gobierno de La Rioja, 1984). Blüher, P.M. (ed.), Meisterwerk der Speisen und Getränke (Leipzig: P.M. Blüher, 1904). Bodegas Bilbaínas, Memorias (Bilbao, 1918). Bodegas Bilbaínas, Memorias (Bilbao, 1919). Bodegas Bilbaínas, Memorias (Bilbao, 1921). Bodegas Franco-Españolas, Memoria (Logroño, 1902).

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Boletín de la Cámara Oficial de Comercio e Industria de la Provincia de Logroño, 70, November1920. Boletín de la Cámara Oficial de Comercio e Industria de la Provincia de Logroño, 76, July1921. Bustos Torres, Saraet al. (eds.), 125 años Bodegas Franco-Españolas, testigo de la historia de Logroño (Logroño: Imprenta Moderna, 2015). Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Logroño, Memoria de 1929 (Logroño, 1931). Cámara de Comercio e Industria de Logroño, Memoria de 1931 (Logroño, 1932). Castella, (Government Viticulturist), “La Rioja and Aragon. Fifth Progress Report on Viticulture in Europe,” The Journal of The Department of Agriculture of Victoria, VI, 12 (December 10, 1908), 705–715. Cenjor Llopis, Andrés, Viticultura y enología (Madrid: Unión Poligráfica, 1935). The Clinical Journal [London], 16, 21 (September 12), 1900. Craven, H. T., “New Castles of Commerce in Old Spain,” The Nation’s Business: A Magazine for Business Men, December1917, 34. Croker, Bithia Mary, The Spanish Necklace (New York: Cupples & Leon Company, 1908). Davis, Richard Harding, The White Mice (Toronto: McLeod & Allen, 1909). Dawson, Alec John, Things Seen in Marocco (London: Methuen & Co, 1904). Dewey, Ralph C., “Interesting Observations on European Vineyards and Wines,” Pacific Wine & Spirit Review: Journal of Viniculture, 53, 9 (1911). Elías, Luis Vicente, Viña Tondonia: un pago, una viña, un vino, 1877–1907–2007 (Haro: exhibition catalog, 2008). Estep, E. Ralph, El Toro: A Motor Car Story of Interior Cuba (Detroit, MI: Packard Motor Car Company, 1909). Evening Post (New York), November 13, 1912. Everyman’s Encyclopedia, vol. 10 (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1913). García Santamaría, Pedro and Francisco Martín Losa, El Rioja y sus viñas (San Sebastián: Gonzalo de Berceo, 1982). Gaviria, Mario and Artemio Baigorri (eds.), El Campo Riojano, 2 vols. (Zaragoza: Cámara Provincial Agraria de La Rioja, 1984). Goizet, Louis-Henry, The Transfusion of Life: A Continuation of Life Prolonged by Means of the Method of Brown-Séquard (London: C. Richter & Co, 1911). González de Candamo, Luis, R. López de Heredia: biografía del Rioja supremo (Haro: López de Heredia/Viña Tondonia, 1996). González Portilla, Manuel (ed.), Los orígenes de una metrópoli industrial: la ría de Bilbao, 2 vols. (Bilbao: Nerea, 2001). González Portilla, Manuel, La formación de la sociedad capitalista en el País Vasco, 2 vols. (San Sebastián: Haranburu, 1981). Harrods for Everything (London: Harrods, 1912). Heraldo Alavés, October 31, 1913. Hernández Marco, José Luis, “Estrategias empresariales y vinos de calidad en la Rioja: La Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (C.V.N.E.). 1882–1923,” in Actas del Primer Encuentro de Historiadores de la Vitivinicultura Española (El Puerto de Santa María: Ayuntamiento de El Puerto de Santa María, 2000), 387–406. Hernández Marco, José Luis, “La búsqueda de vinos tipificados por las bodegas industriales: finanzas, organización y tecnología en las elaboraciones de la Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, S.A. (1882–1936),” in Juan Carmonaet al. (eds.),


The comeback

Viñas, bodegas y mercados: El cambio técnico en la vitivinicultura española 1850– 1936 (Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2001), 156–186. Johnson’s Universal Cyclopedia, vol. 5 (New York: A. J. Johnson & Co, 1886). La Revista Vinícola y de Agricultura 36 (1897). La Rioja, 1900–1926. La Vinicultura Española, 1916–1935. Le Prix Courant (Montreal), 37, August 26, 1904. Liqueurs et Tabacs [Montreal], 4, 9, September1905. Llano Gorostiza, Manuel, Un vaso de bon vino (Bilbao: Grijelmo, 1979). Mas, Michèle, Courants et échanges entre Bordeaux et La Rioja dans la segonde moitié du XIX siècle, Travail d’Études Ibériques (Bordeaux: Université de Bordeaux III, 1984). Mees, Ludger, The Basque Contention: Ethnicity, Politics, Violence (New York: Routledge, 2020). Newnham-Davis, Nathaniel and Algernon Bastard, The Gourmet’s Guide to Europe (London: Grant Richards, 1908 [second edition]), 199–203. O’Shea, Henry, Guide to Spain & Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1869 [fourth edition]). O’Shea, Henry, Guide to Spain & Portugal (Edinburgh: Adam & Charles Black, 1899 [11th edition]). Official Proceedings of the International Commercial Congress, October 12 to November 1, 1899 (Philadelphia, PA: Press of the Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 1899). Olábarri Gortázar, Ignacio, Relaciones laborales en Vizcaya (1890–1936) (Durango: Leopoldo Zugaza, 1978). Pan-Montojo, Juan, La bodega del mundo. La vid y el vino en España (1800–1936) (Madrid: Alianza, 1994). Polnay, Peter de, The Shorn Shadow (London: W. H. Allen, 1919). Post Office, Glasgow Directory for 1884–1885 (Glasgow: William Mackenzie, 1884). Post Office, Glasgow Directory for 1888–1889 (Glasgow: William Mackenzie, 1888). Queiroz, Ecade, The City and the Mountains (London: Max Reinhardt, 1915). Rapports Commerciaux des Agents Diplomatiques et Consulaires de France: Mouvement comercial de Bilbao en 1908, no. 869, April 28, 1910. Raventós, Manuel, “Viaje por La Rioja,” Resumen de Agricultura 8 (1896), 433– 446. Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris, vol. 4 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891). Sichel, Allan, The Penguin Book of Wines (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1915). Sobrón Elguea, María del Carmen, “Datos sobre las exportaciones de vino de Rioja a Francia,” Berceo 85 (1973), 187–208. Sullivan, Charles L., Napa Wine: A History (San Francisco, CA: Napa Valley Wine Library Association, 2008 [second edition]), ebook. Thirlmere, Rowland [John Walker], Idylls of Spain: Vanished Pictures of Travel in the Peninsula (London: Elkin Mathews, 1897). Vera Santamaría, Asier et al., Historias auténticas by Viña Pomal: la expresión de la Rioja Alta desde 1908 (Haro: Viña Pomal, 2015). Webster, Wentworth, Foreign Countries and British Colonies: Spain (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Ribington, 1882).

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Wetmore, Chas. A., Treatise on Wine Production: Appendix B to the Report of the Board of State Viticultural Commissioners for 1893–94 (Sacramento, CA: A. J. Johnson, 1894). Zweifel, Alfred, Die Weine Spaniens, Portugals und der Insel Madeira (Lenzburg, 1887).

Figure 10.1 Harvest: unloading of grapes at the López de Heredia winery (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

10 New wine, new conflicts Industrial wineries, small winegrowers and the state

Traditional winemaking in Rioja was characterized by the predominance of smallholdings. The planting of fallow plots during the boom years prior to the great phylloxera plague had only accentuated this feature, since many tenant farmers and landless peasants had gained ownership of estates through contracts known as “de mediería,” which was a sort of sharecropping agreement. According to these contracts, a landowner who wanted to make a profit from a certain plot and save wages at the same time had the right to choose a contractual partner. The landowner committed to put the land at the latter’s disposal and perhaps supply, depending on the contract, the necessary number of vines for cultivation. In return, the lessee (called mediero) agreed to work the ceded land without remuneration for a period of four years. After this time, both parties divided the land equally, thus turning the lessee into a small landowner. There are no statistics that clarify whether this type of contract was widespread, but it seems that it was quite frequent in Rioja, judging by the statements of some well-informed contemporaries. Arturo Marcelino, a landowner, winegrower and wine merchant from Haro, for example, maintained that while the mediería contract was quite frequently practiced in the vineyards of the Rioja: Back in the years of prosperity, when there was a mania for planting vines even in the orchards, it was not customary, but it was quite common to carry out the plantation on equal terms: While the owner put the land, the laborer put the vine shoots and started cultivating them, until, once in production, the vineyard was divided into two equal parts, passing the half that corresponded to him in full ownership to the laborer.1 Félix Martínez Lacuesta, owner of one of the largest wineries and a liberal politician from the same town, considered mediería to be “one of the most important sources of small vineyard owners in the Rioja Alta.”2 To what extent did these property structures change after the phylloxera crisis? A glance at the well-studied case of French viticulture offers evidence that, although the destructive power of the parasite was similar everywhere, its effects on social structure could be very diverse. In regions such as the Midi or Champagne, phylloxera triggered a greater concentration of property, while in others, such as the DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-10


New wine, new conflicts

Gironde or the Beaujolais vineyards, the devastating impact of the great plague led to little change and they were characterized by an “immobility of their property structures.”3 In the winegrowing regions of the Rioja, the different social strata also reacted in very different ways. The crisis led many small winegrowers to ruin, since they had neither the capital necessary for replanting with American rootstocks, nor were they in a position to assume new production costs, which were considerably higher than in the previous period. In view of the difficulties in accessing public aid, any attempt to obtain credit to reinforce scarce resources became a task “bordering on the impossible,” as was related in the press.4 In 1903, a group of Rioja winegrowers wrote a letter to the king that described the “extremely serious crisis” and its consequences. In that letter, phylloxera appeared as the cause behind the impoverishment of many families. Having lost their most important source of income, and facing the prospect that the Treasury would confiscate their properties, the authors declared themselves unable to pay their taxes and cancel their debts.5 This problem ultimately impacted emigration. Tables 10.1 and 10.2 show that the phylloxera crisis forced many Rioja inhabitants to abandon their homes.6 Many of those who emigrated ended up in the capital cities, the industrial areas of the Basque coast, or in Central and South America. Overseas travel became an important business for a large number of shipping companies, which advertised daily in the newspaper La Rioja (see Figure 10.2). And it became a thriving business for the networks of criminals who lurked around the port of Bilbao, cheating many unfortunate souls of their savings through false promises of cheap fares or guaranteed accommodation and work at their destination. Many winegrowers who abandoned their vineyards to try their luck in the provincial capitals ended up impoverished. The clear increase in the number of poor in the official records of the city of Logroño and the sanitary problems of its most destitute neighborhoods indicate a process of proletarianization.7 Table 10.1 Population of Rioja Alavesa Year


1900 1905 1910 1915 1920

11,567 11,272 10,705 10,535 10,620

Table 10.2 Population change in Haro (judicial district) Period

Change (%)

1877–87 1887–97 1900–20

+5.7 +2.8 –14

New wine, new conflicts


Figure 10.2 Advertisement in the daily La Rioja, August 22, 1907

Finally, many of the growers who decided to remain on their plots chose strategies of passive protest as a means to overcome the crisis. Their desperation motivated different kinds of activities. In addition to the destruction of American rootstocks in public and private nurseries, the most


New wine, new conflicts

common form of passive protest consisted in the theft of those plants. The Government of Álava was even forced to place the nurseries under police protection to prevent burglary. The stolen plants were not usually offered for sale. The thieves used them instead for replanting their own vineyards invaded by the parasite. And faced with the problem, some large landowners demonstrated understanding even when, as in the case of Felipe Lagunilla in Cenicero, they were directly affected. As the owner of a large nursery, Lagunilla recognized that stealing was almost the only way for small winegrowers to “finance” replanting which, by other means, was unfeasible, leaving emigration as the only alternative.8 If we compare what we already know about the social repercussions of the phylloxera crisis with the property structure in the following years, everything seems to indicate that the thesis on French “immobility” is also applicable to the Rioja. While the great plague did increase poverty and emigration, it did not lead to any property concentration worth mentioning, nor did it provoke a considerable increase in wage labor. The traditional agricultural sector proved to be more resistant to the crisis than one might have thought given its dimensions. Proof of this is that many testimonies after 1915 identified, just like in the nineteenth century and even before, the high fragmentation of property, distributed among small winegrowers, as a main problem in the Rioja.9 The available studies on the subject confirm this thesis. An analysis of the land registry of one of the largest wine-producing municipalities in La Rioja, Cenicero, concludes that between 1861 and 1954, far from decreasing, the number of small landowners constantly increased, while the average size of the properties diminished. The data hide, however, a social reality which the thesis on the “fragmentation of property” fails to reveal: namely, the unequal distribution of ownership. It is true that in Cenicero people with properties of less than three hectares always constituted more than 70% of the total number of owners. However, the sum of their plots never exceeded one third of the total vineyard area, while around 15% of the area was in the hands of a small group of large landowners. The distribution of land hardly changed at the end of the crisis, so it is feasible to speak of a “scarce mobility of land ownership,” at least for Cenicero, which is the best studied case. Bermejo and Delgado reach similar conclusions in their study of the Diputación de Logroño. 10 Hence we can conclude that neither the phylloxera plague nor the following problems of overproduction provoked any remarkable concentration of land property in the Rioja. Rather, the persistence of smallholdings perpetuated the inequalities within an agrarian society that was divided into two classes, with a large number of small landowners on the one hand and a traditional landowning elite on the other. Although the crisis brought many to the brink of penury or forced them to emigrate, it did not bring about substantial changes in the social structure. Those who decided to leave their place of origin – whether pushed out by their plight or attracted by the prospects offered in metropoles, industrial centers or overseas countries – generally

New wine, new conflicts


belonged to the younger generation, while their parents’ generation remained in the villages. Although small-scale properties continued to be the main feature of agrarian society in the Rioja, crisis and industrialization altered living and working conditions in the countryside on two levels. First, vine monoculture almost completely ceased to exist from the 1920s onwards. The growers who survived the phylloxera invasion now often combined grape growing with other crops, such as cereals or sugar beet. Second, in addition to the usual dependence on itinerant wine merchants, small growers also became increasingly dependent on the large industrial wineries. Many of these wineries did not rely on their own grape production, leaving it in the hands of the small growers who were now frequently reduced to mere suppliers of raw material and who limited production to the wine they would use for their own consumption. This new power dynamic was, obviously, to the detriment of small growers. Traditionally, they had the option of storing the wine until at least the following summer, thus having a certain margin to maneuver at the time of sale. Now, on the contrary, they were forced to deliver the grapes a few days before they rotted, a circumstance that the large wine companies, in the absence of other buyers, took advantage of to fix prices. This led to new forms of social inequality, which triggered efforts to organize and defend the interests of the different professional groups within the wine sector. Thus, the social transformation experienced by Rioja’s wine sector was due neither to the phylloxera crisis nor to the problems of overproduction. Its driving force was, rather, the large wine producers in the sector (i.e., the industrial wineries). These new inequalities and social dependencies were compounded by the impact of an old problem that had accompanied the new Rioja wine since it was invented and socialized back in the 1860s: the sale of counterfeit wine under the Rioja label. As we have seen in a previous chapter, in view of the need to protect the Medoc Alavés from imitations that were harmful to both reputation and prices, Álava’s political leaders established a body that was specifically designed to guarantee the quality and origin of the wines (by issuing official labels for bottles that passed a quality control test). The effectiveness of this first, albeit rudimentary predecessor to the later Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador, CR), was rather limited; the problem of counterfeits persisted, all the more so when the massive use of industrial alcohol from the 1880s onwards made the wine’s price even cheaper. In 1912, with the founding of the Association of Rioja Winegrowers (Asociación de Viticultores de la Rioja, AVR), led by the region’s major winegrowers, the fight against counterfeiting took on renewed relevance. According to its statutes, the association’s main objective was to prevent fraud. To tackle the problem, the AVR pointed out the need to achieve official recognition for the “Rioja” trademark, as well as introduce compulsory certificates of origin, among other measures.11 From the point of view of the function it was intended to perform, the AVR was a kind of forerunner to what would later become the Regulatory Council. Its members strove to indicate the exact quantities of


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grapes and wine they produced, the area under cultivation and their replanting activities. Local branches of the association were tasked with controlling production and distribution, as well as reporting any suspicion of fraud.12 However, during its first years the AVR did not really exist except on paper, despite the fact that in 1913 an inspector was temporarily contracted to carry out these duties. The AVR did not seem to awaken from its lethargy until the problem of counterfeits became acute again during the years of the First World War, a time when Rioja saw a large quantity of wines originating from other Spanish regions enter its cellars and wine stores. These were used for blending and then returned to the same tanker wagons that had brought them in, now bearing the “Rioja” label. The AVR reacted to this situation in June 1915 by calling for more than 1,000 Rioja winegrowers to participate in a protest in Logroño. The main decision taken at that meeting was to enact several measures against the counterfeiting and adulteration of Rioja wine. Although some leading figures of the wine bourgeoisie had publicly declared their refusal to use non-Rioja grapes and wines for blending (Riscal, Murrieta, Ugalde, Palacios, López de Heredia), the protest directed its darts at the large wineries and their organization, the Association of Rioja Wine Exporters (Asociación de Exportadores de Vinos de la Rioja, founded in 1907), which was blamed for the fall in prices and problems in the sale of Rioja wine. This confrontation set the contours for a clash of interests that would shake the region in the years to come. Therefore, Loubère’s assertion with respect to Champagne, that “the enemy was not capitalism but fraud,” is not really applicable to Rioja.13 However, the export boom that began in 1916 gave a respite to the Rioja winegrowers, who were able to temporarily forget the difficult situation they had gone through, condemning the AVR once again to passivity. Once the boom passed, the association was replaced by the Federation of Catholic Agricultural Unions of La Rioja (Federación de Sindicatos Agrícolas Católicos de la Rioja, FSACR, founded in 1910). The FSACR assumed the leading role in the battle against counterfeiting and for the recognition of a protected “Rioja” brand. As with the AVR, the Federation quickly came into conflict with the wine bourgeoisie and its organizations: the aforementioned Association of Rioja Wine Exporters, the National Association of Winemakers and Wine Industries (Asociación Nacional de Vinicultores e Industrias derviadas del vino, AVNin, founded in 1921/22) and the Logroño Chamber of Commerce. The confrontation between the two contending groups was mainly based on two issues. The first revolved around the use of industrial alcohol, which the large producers did not want to give up. On the one hand, they argued that it was not scientifically proven that industrial alcohol had a harmful effect on people’s health. On the other, they held that, if the high prices of wine alcohol were added to a ban on industrial alcohol, this would ruin export because the wine would no longer be able to compete in the international market.14 However, the spokesman of Rioja’s wine bourgeoisie evidently overlooked the

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fact that some of its most important wineries, above all the giant Bodegas Bilbaínas, were directly involved in the industrial alcohol business. The second contentious issue was the discussion about the measures to be taken to protect the “Rioja” brand. In 1918, the ANVin angrily protested through its official press organ against any political attempt to restrict “freedom of trade.” The background to this protest involved the Catalan politician Francesc Cambó, then Minister of Public Works, and rumors that he had given into pressure from the Catalan winegrowers’ organization, the Unió de Vinyaters de Catalunya, to introduce compulsory certification of production and transport volumes (by means of the so-called guías de circulación).15 These protests were successful, as the government crossed this and other plans off the list of pending issues for the next few years, thereby also blocking proposals for official recognition of the “Rioja” brand. This decision led to an angry response from the spokesman of the Federation of Agricultural Unions of La Rioja, who stated that the interests of a “half dozen” influential businessmen among the wine industry outweighed “the rights of 50,000 Rioja winegrowers,” a fact he attributed to the absence of effective representation of the winegrowers’ interests in parliament.16 With the arrival of General Miguel Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship in 1923, greeted warmly by the representatives of social Catholicism in the Rioja,17 a new horizon of hope opened up for Rioja winegrowers. Their lobby launched an extensive propaganda campaign that acted on several fronts. Among these activities was a series of mass demonstrations with the support of the FSACR and some Spanish MPs. These demonstrations were attended, with Luis Díez de Corral as president of the FSACR at the head, by several delegations of winegrowers, who were personally received by Primo de Rivera. In general, having a personality like Díez del Corral at the helm was a great advantage for the Rioja winegrowers. Trusted by the new government, the president of FSACR maintained close personal relations with a good number of government officials and other influential people that circulated among the government’s entourage. Mention should also be made of the daily work carried out by the various winegrowers’ lobbies, which made significant organizational progress throughout the dictatorship. Examples of this are both the agglutination of the different state organizations into the National Confederation of Winegrowers (Confederación Nacional de Viticultores, CNV) in 1924/25 and the refounding of the Asociación de Viticultores de la Rioja as a new sectoral association of the FSACR in 1925. These organizational efforts resulted from the need to establish a strong presence in the different corporate consultative bodies that the new government had created, such as the Council of Economy (Consejo de Economía).18 It took some time for these lobbying efforts to bear fruit. On the question of industrial alcohol, for instance, years went by and the winegrowers were unable to impose their criteria because the interests of the wine bourgeoisie and large distilleries weighed too heavily. The latter managed time and again to postpone the effective implementation of the ban on the use of industrial


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alcohol in winemaking, which had been established by law in 1895. It is true that the laws and decrees of 1924, 1926 and 1930, which regulated the use of alcohol, emphasized the exclusive use of wine alcohol for human consumption. At the same time, however, they included certain exceptions that made it possible to circumvent this precept, linking its validity to the evolution in the price of wine alcohol: namely, the prohibition was repealed as soon as the price exceeded a certain amount.19 Furthermore, it should also be borne in mind that these laws had little value in practice, given the insufficiency or absence of measures to enforce necessary control and sanction mechanisms. The 1926 law, for example, entrusted the control tasks to the civil governors, far exceeding their capacities. These shortcomings were not overcome until the first biennium of the Second Republic, imbued with a spirit of reform and in the midst of the rise of socialism and left-wing republicanism. Thus, in 1933 the Wine Statute (El Estatuto del Vino) was approved at the same time the National Wine Institute was founded and the use of industrial alcohol for the production of foodstuffs was definitively prohibited under any circumstance. Another step forward towards the resolution of the problem came in 1934 when, for the first time, a 1927 law was implemented that forced the state-owned company CAMPSA to purchase certain annual quantities of both industrial and wine alcohol as a means to stabilize prices.20 Despite their best efforts, the Rioja winegrowers’ associations faced problems making progress in the second contentious issue (i.e., in the struggle to protect the “Rioja” brand and secure official recognition under the system of Designations of Origin). Some partial successes were achieved in 1925 and 1926, years in which the legitimacy of their demands were officially recognized in two royal decrees and the first steps were taken towards their implementation. The Royal Order of 1925 was promulgated in response to a project the Catholic Agricultural Cooperatives of the Rioja Alta presented to the government. Of the wide range of demands made by the unions, the decree officially endorsed two very important ones: the use of the registered trademark “Rioja” and the right of the “Rioja region” to stamp its wines with an official seal certifying their origin.21 The Royal Decree of 1926 emphasized these guidelines and provided for the creation of a central body, the Regulatory Council, to which the powers of organization and quality control over the Rioja brand were transferred. Within a year, the council had to definitively establish the exact demarcations of the territory to be covered by the Rioja brand.22 Its regulations officially came into force in 1928.23 Approval of these decrees was accompanied by arduous disputes between the representatives of the winegrowers’ associations and those of the large wineries and wine merchants. Although the Rioja wine bourgeoisie publicly rejected counterfeiting, the vast majority of its members, with a few exceptions,24 opposed the establishment of a Designation of Origin (DO). The main argument against the DO and the control measures provided for in its regulations (compulsory declaration of vintage yields and the sealing of wines, imposition of circulation guides for supply, indication of product origin

New wine, new conflicts


and intermediaries) was the alleged violation of the principle of free trade. From this point of view, bureaucratic and political intervention was pernicious for all, as it was said to provoke an increase in costs. As a result, instead of protecting Rioja winegrowers, the DO would eventually turn out to become a detriment to them. In this sense, the spokesmen for the wine bourgeoisie, Santiago Ugarte, CEO of Bodegas Bilbaínas and president of ANVin, and Germán Álvarez, manager of Bodegas Franco-Españolas and member of the governing bodies of the Association of Exporters and the Chamber of Commerce of Logroño, argued that market regulation was useless since, in their opinion, wine counterfeiting was not the main cause of the wine crisis. It originated, rather, in high consumption taxes, restrictions imposed by trade agreements, and the decrease in demand that accompanied overproduction on a global scale. Ugarte and Álvarez tried to counteract the influence of the winegrowers by stating that the DO initiative had been presented by only one cooperative winery in Haro, which had no right to speak on behalf of Rioja as a whole. According to the two businessmen, responsibility for the worldwide success of Rioja had fallen in the past, and would continue to fall in the future, on the shoulders of the big winemakers and merchants, and not so much on those of the small winegrowers.25 Despite the strong pressure they exerted on the government, the wine bourgeoisie associations did not succeed in stopping the DO project altogether. However, they did impose their criteria in three decisive aspects. To begin with, the Rioja Wine Exporters Association was subsequently granted a seat on the Regulatory Council, which already had a delegate from the Logroño Chamber of Commerce, thus increasing and consolidating the weight of the wine bourgeoisie.26 Secondly, and more important, was that the CR’s regulations expressly allowed, even in 1928, the use of must from outside the Rioja for the production of officially recognized Rioja wines, as long as it did not exceed 20% of the total and under certain conditions (shortage of wine from the region, authorization by the Council with the approval of the government). Álvarez claimed producers would be in a better position to adapt their products to consumers’ tastes thanks to the possibility of combining wines from different regions.27 While this may be true, there was another compelling argument, namely that winemakers would still be able to drive prices down by turning to grape and must suppliers in other regions. The wine bourgeoisie’s third partial success materialized after they lobbied to soften the CR regulation’s controversial third article. This stipulated that all wines which contained raw materials from other regions, but which nevertheless bore the name of Rioja localities on their labels (the registered address of the winery, for example), had to either indicate unequivocally the actual origin of the product or carry a notice stating: “This wine is not from Rioja.” The regulation was watered down by an additional decree that approved the elimination of this statement and allowed wineries to keep trademarks they had registered prior to the CR’s creation. In these cases, the wineries had to renounce the use of the official “Rioja” seal for the


New wine, new conflicts

Figure 10.3 A woman working as a harvester at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

corresponding brand and were obliged to include “Domicilio Social” on their labels under the Rioja locality in order to indicate that, while the winery’s registered office was located in Rioja, the wine was not necessarily 100% from that region.28 For their part, the strategy of the winegrowers’ associations consisted in assisting their representatives in Madrid through massive regional mobilizations that were aimed at unmasking their adversaries as advocates of merely private economic interests. According to this logic, and in view of the crowds gathered in the streets, the government would have to acknowledge that the small winegrowers and their organizations were not exaggerating when they demanded, in 1924, that they be recognized as acting on behalf of the entire Rioja. To this end, they ensured that all the burning and contentious issues were present at demonstrations, which tended to guarantee a massive turnout. The starting signal was given by the FSACR together with the Unió de Vinyaters de Catalunya during the winter months of 1923/24. After a series of local protests, both organizations called on Rioja winegrowers to participate in a massive rally in Logroño in February 1924. Although the official motive was the use of industrial alcohol in wine production, both the different speakers and the final resolution, which was approved by acclamation, alluded to high taxes and the DO for Rioja, criticizing the former and demanding the latter.29 The wave of mobilizations came to an end when the CR regulations were approved in February 1928. A few days before this was made

New wine, new conflicts


public in the Madrid Gazette, several thousand Rioja winegrowers gathered in Logroño to show their disagreement with a tax increase on wine that had been decreed in Biscay, a traditional buyer of Rioja wine. The rally, under the slogan “In defense of Rioja wine,” was also attended by several representatives from Spanish associations, including the president of the National Confederation of Winegrowers (Confederación Nacional de Viticultores), Julio Tarín. The final resolution of that meeting reflected the Rioja winegrowers’ improving situation after four years of mobilization, winegrowers who had no problem praising the dictatorial government of Primo de Rivera. Díez del Corral, who presided over the Sindicatos Agrícolas Católicos de la Rioja, applauded the fact that “fortunately, a just government now governs the destiny of Spain.” The first point of the resolution, normally reserved for the formulation of the most pressing demands and criticisms, expressed the growers’ gratitude to the government for granting the DO. The usual complaints against high taxes, the proliferation of industrial alcohol and the high tariffs on coal and iron, so harmful to agriculture, did not appear until the end of the document.30 The alliance between the small winegrowers and the traditional agrarian elites, often supported by politicians with decision-making powers in the province, as well as the strategy that combined high-level political pressure with popular mobilization, laid the foundations for the success of the wine associations. Their lucky star was evidenced with the publication of the 1928 decree, thanks to which they managed to win the important battle of the DO against the wine bourgeoisie. But it was a Pyrrhic victory, given the difficulties in interpreting and implementing the new regulations. And it came at a moment when the winegrowers’ common front was increasingly fragmented into regional interest groups. The first cracks were already visible in 1926, precisely when the abovementioned decrees brought the long-desired DO within reach. The Navarrese organizations had seconded the demands of their Rioja colleagues in the tacit hope that their region would end up forming part of Rioja’s DO, thus benefiting from the region’s prestige and elevated prices. Once the decree was approved in 1926, Navarre’s winegrowers came to the fore with a clear demand. On the occasion of a winegrowers’ assembly, sponsored by the president of the Association of Navarrese Winegrowers (and provincial deputy) Mariano Arrasate, a memorandum was accepted that demanded the incorporation of practically the entire vine-growing area of Navarre into the Rioja DO. The main argument on which this demand was based was the similarity between the two regions in terms of climate and soils, but also in terms of their wines.31 Almost all the representatives of Rioja viticulture spoke out against the proposal. The president of the AVR, Ruiz de Castillo, summarized the reasons for the rejection in a very specific argument, namely, that Navarre and Rioja were historically very different regions and that the possible similarity between their wines did not justify their union in a single DO. According to this misleading logic, Ruiz del Castillo asserted that any Navarrese town that


New wine, new conflicts

produced something similar to Asturian cider or cured meats similar to those of Extremadura should therefore be included in the DOs of Navarre, Rioja, Asturias or Extremadura, depending on the type of product.32 In view of this argument, the CR decided to reject the request and approve an alternative resolution in which Navarre was completely excluded from the Rioja DO. Shortly afterwards, the ruling was overturned because the Navarrese argued that the government had already indirectly recognized the province’s integration by appointing a Navarrese representative to the Rioja Regulatory Council. The final agreement consisted in inviting all those Navarrese villages and towns that wished to join to formalize a reasoned request to the CR. These requests resulted in the incorporation of five Navarrese municipalities (Viana, San Adrián, Mendavia, Andosilla and Sartaguda) into the Rioja DO due to their traditional association with the Rioja region.33 The towns, all located close to the Ebro river on the provincial border with Logroño, remain part of the Rioja DO today. Although this last resolution also failed to calm the tension between the winegrowers’ associations of Navarre and Rioja, at least a solution to the difficult question of the territorial jurisdiction of Rioja’s CR had been found. According to the new regulation, the territory under the CR’s authority included the province of Logroño, the aforementioned towns in Navarre, as well as the vineyard areas of Álava. This definition, however, triggered a new conflict, since the Rioja Alavesa was not officially recognized as a subzone of the DO. The regulations only mentioned the Rioja Baja and the Rioja Alta, the latter including the winegrowing areas of Álava. Álava’s winegrowers rebelled, demanding a clear distinction of their region as a specific subzone within the DO. Ruiz de Castillo, who opposed any preferential treatment for Álava, identified the reason for this complaint in the desire of Álava’s winegrowers to ensure “that the wines of the other Rioja towns should not be confused with their own, which they consider to have a better reputation in the market.”34 In principle, the CR was not completely opposed to the establishment of a subzone bearing the name of Rioja Alavesa. However, it rejected the proposal on the grounds that any change to the CR statutes must be carried out only by the legislative power. The Wine Statute, approved during the Second Republic, did not meet the expectations of the people of Álava either. These would not be taken into account until the CR’s refoundation in 1945. In addition to these internal disputes, another question that remained unresolved concerned the CR’s financing. The statutes regulated this aspect in a very general way. According to these, the CR’s budget would be made up by public subsidies, donations, fines for non-compliance and the sale of seals accrediting the Rioja brand. In order for the CR to start its activity, the participating provincial governments (“Diputaciones”) had to advance a payment proportional to the amount of wine produced in each of their respective provinces.35 The size of these payments were typically quite low, however, leaving the CR chronically underfunded. As a result, it was never able to

New wine, new conflicts


carry out the extensive control tasks it was entrusted with, despite hiring several inspectors as far flung as Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao. The situation did not improve in 1933 either. Given the political instability that reigned during the Second Republic, the new CR that was launched in that year did not even have its own regulations, the drafting of which was delayed until 1945.36 Faced with the obvious difficulty of putting the DO into practice, the wine bourgeoisie associations gave up on their efforts to eliminate it. Instead of confronting it, the wine industrialists opted to collaborate in order to gain ground in the CR and control it. The winegrowers had thus won a Pyrrhic victory: they had prevailed in theory, but not in practice. If we consider the establishment of a DO as one of the most important aspects of modern viticulture due to its role in guaranteeing the quality of wine, fighting against fraud and offering consumer-relevant information, then the case of Rioja presents a paradoxical conclusion. The problem of counterfeits accompanied the evolution of Rioja winemaking since early on in the 1860s, when the modern quality wine was invented. Small winegrowers had a vested interest in fighting and resolving this issue. While their organizations made the fight for the DO an unquestioned priority in their activities, the majority among the new wine bourgeoisie initially rejected any state intervention in the market, watering down the regulations when they could no longer be avoided and collaborating only after the Regulatory Council had become a reality. From this point of view, we find a twist within the history of Rioja wine, at least from the end of the nineteenth century to the Civil War (1936–1939): the supposed conservative enemies of progress, the small winegrowers, were modernizers while the large industrial winemakers did their best to hinder modernization. However, as we have seen throughout the chapters of this book, without the financial and commercial strength of the large wineries, the story of Rioja wine would have been completely different. It could hardly have managed to carry out its triumphal evolution from daring uncharted experiment to global player on the international market, appealing to almost all customer groups, from high society gourmets to popular sectors of society. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, nobody would have imagined that many years later, in the early twenty-first century, precisely this enormous variety of products and consumers would become a contentious issue that jeopardized the future of Rioja wine.

Notes 1 La Rioja, May 28, 1911. 2 La Rioja, June 18, 1911. 3 The expression “immobilité des structures foncières” in Gilbert Garrier, “De la crise phylloxérique en Beaujolais ou le puceron bienfaisant (1875–1895),” Révue d’Histoire Economique et Sociale, 52 (1974), 190–208, quotation p. 203. One of Loubère’s main theses in his study of Italian and French viticulture concerns the survival of small winegrowers after the phylloxera crisis in most of France, with


4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13


15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

24 25 26 27 28 29

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the exceptions of the Midi and Champagne. See Léo A. Loubère, The Red and The White: A History of Wine in France and Italy in the Nineteenth Century (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1978). Heraldo Alavés, March 2, 1904. La Rioja, September 1, 1903. José Lazcano, La Rioja Alavesa a finales del siglo XIX, T.E.R. d’Espagnol, Univ. de Bordeaux III, 1972/73, manuscript, 76; Bermejo and Delgado, Administración, 267. Peter H. Garmo, “Poverty and Peasants in the Rioja 1883–1910,” Agricultural History 49, 4 (1976), 662–672, especially p. 669. La Rioja, May 22, 1911; for the decision of Álava’s Government see the president’s circular (November 6, 1906), ATHA, D, 820, 47. See, for example, the article “El problema agrario” in La Rioja, June 6, 1909; Banco de Urquijo, La riqueza y el progreso de España (Madrid: Samarán & Cía, 1924), 68. Cenicero histórico. Transformaciones económicas y cambios sociales en una ciudad riojana (Logroño: Ayuntamiento de Cenicero, 1987), 552–564; Bermejo and Delgado, Administración, 303–306. Asociación de Viticultores de la Rioja, Reglamento (Logroño: 1912), articles 4 a, f and g. Ibid., art. 12 and 35. Loubère, 319. For the Logroño winegrowers’ meeting, see La Rioja, June 7, 1915. Throughout the years 1913, 1914 and up to the first four months of 1914, 2,000 tank wagons of non-Rioja wine were said to have entered Haro, each with a capacity for 800 cántaras. See La Rioja, April 18, 1915. Santiago Ugarte, head of Bodegas Bilbaínas and president of AVNin, summed up the association’s position when he stated that the problem of industrial alcohol was not of a legal or health nature, but simply economic. Cf. La Vinicultura Española, October 1, 1924. La Vinicultura Española, August 15, 1918. Federación de Sindicatos Agrícolas Católicos de la Rioja, Boletín, May 6, 1921. See the Boletines, September 20 and 21, 1923. FSACR, Boletín, April 25, 1924; La Rioja, January 3 and 4, 1924, August 13, 1925. LVE, September 15, 1924, May 1 and 15, 1926, March 15, 1934. For more details on this topic see Pascual Carrión, Estudios sobre la agricultura española (Madrid: Ediciones de la Revista de Trabajo, 1974). Carrión, 406–407. La Rioja, June 11, 1925. LVE, October 29, 1926. Ministerio de Trabajo, Comercio e Industria, Reglamento del Consejo Regulador de la Denominación Vinícola “Rioja” (Logroño 1928); José Luis Gómez Urdáñez (coordinator), El Rioja histórico. La Denominación de Origen y su Consejo Regulador, (Logroño: Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, 2000). According to the testimony of F. Ruiz de Castillo, spokesman for the Haro cooperative and president of the AVR, some winemakers (Paternina, Pobes, Ugalde) supported the growers and their demands. See La Rioja October 31, 1926. La Rioja, May 19 and 23, 1925, September 30, 1927, April 25 and 28, 1928. LVE, October 29, 1926; La Rioja, May 16, 1929; Expansión Comercial 94, March 1928. La Rioja, July 31, 1930. La Rioja, July 4, 1918. La Rioja, February 19, 1924.

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30 31 32 33

La Rioja, February 28, 1928. La Rioja, April 5, 1927; LVE, June 15 and July 15, 1927. La Rioja, July 19, 1927. As the sixth municipality on the list, Azagra has belonged to the Rioja DO since the statutes were redrafted in 1933. Navarre obtained its own DO that same year, although it was not implemented in practice until the Franco regime. For this last resolution of the CR, see LVE, August 15, 1927. 34 La Rioja, April 20, 1929. For the demands of the Álava winegrowers see the chronicles on the assembly in La Rioja, March 15, 1929 and April 8, 1929. The reaction of the CR in La Rioja, March 16 and April 17, 1929. 35 Reglamento del Consejo Regulador, art. 13 and 14. 36 Ramón Tamames, “Estudio del sector vitivinícola de Rioja,” in: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias, Segundas Jornadas Técnicas de Rioja. Vid y Vino, Julio 1972, (Zaragoza: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias, 1974), 361– 391, especially 371.

References Asociación de Viticultores de la Rioja, Reglamento (Logroño, 1912). Banco de Urquijo, La riqueza y el progreso de España (Madrid: Samarán & Cía, 1924). Bermejo, Francisco and José Miguel Delgado Idarreta, La administración provincial española. La Diputación Provincial de La Rioja (Logroño: Gobierno de La Rioja, 1984). Carrión, Pascual, Estudios sobre la agricultura española (Madrid: Ediciones de la Revista de Trabajo, 1974). Cenicero histórico. Transformaciones económicas y cambios sociales en una ciudad riojana (Logroño: Ayuntamiento de Cenicero, 1987). Expansión Comercial, 94, March 1928. Federación de Sindicatos Agrícolas Católicos de la Rioja, Boletines, 1921–1924. Garmo, Peter H., “Poverty and Peasants in the Rioja 1883–1910,” Agricultural History 49, 4 (1976), 662–672. Garrier, Gilbert, “De la crise phylloxérique en Beaujolais ou le puceron bienfaisant (1875–1895),” Révue d’Histoire Economique et Sociale, 52 (1974), 190–208. Gómez Urdáñez, José Luis (coordinator), El Rioja histórico: La Denominación de Origen y su Consejo Regulador, (Logroño: Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, 2000). Heraldo Alavés, March 2, 1904. La Rioja, 1909–1929. La Vinicultura Española, 1918–1934. Lazcano, José, La Rioja Alavesa a finales del siglo XIX, T.E.R. d’Espagnol, Univ. de Bordeaux III, manuscript, 1972/73. Loubère, Léo A., The Red and The White: A History of Wine in France and Italy in the Nineteenth Century (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1978). Ministerio de Trabajo, Comercio e Industria, Reglamento del Consejo Regulador de la Denominación Vinícola “Rioja” (Logroño, 1928). Tamames, Ramón, “Estudio del sector vitivinícola de Rioja,” in Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias, Segundas Jornadas Técnicas de Rioja: Vid y Vino, Julio 1972, (Zaragoza: Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agrarias, 1974), 361–391.

Figure 11.1 Depot of the Rafael López de Heredia Company in Seville (about 1900) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

11 The globalization trap Challenges and opportunities for Rioja wine in the twenty-first century

The beginning was a story of frustration and desperation. In the early nineteenth century, Manuel Esteban Quintano, an enlightened clergyman and pioneer in Rioja winemaking, lamented that the “common wines” in the region were “full of lees and tartaric acid” and could not be shipped to America without being lost. By the end of the 1840s, Luciano Murrieta, another wine innovator ahead of his time, explained that one of the reasons that motivated his effort to create a new quality wine was the traumatic experience of observing Rioja wine, by then cheaper than water, being used to make mortar. About a decade later, in 1858, José María Migueloa and Valentín Sotés, deputies of the Laguardia district, expressed their fear that the traditional Rioja wine markets would be conquered by the producers of Navarre and Aragón and their wines, which were more alcoholic than Rioja’s and thus also more suited for transport to distant markets. As we have seen in a previous chapter, Migueloa and Sotés’s motion to the regional parliament of Álava triggered the daring experiment that concluded with the invention of the new quality Rioja wine under the label of Medoc Alavés. More than a century and a half later, things have changed completely for the Rioja wine sector. Rioja has become by far the most famous Spanish wine region and both its wineries and its wines perform well in the most diverse international quality rankings. In 2021, the prestigious UK-based William Reed Business Media magazine published its new list with “the world’s best vineyards.” Number two on this list was Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal who, as the reader will remember, played a crucial part in the implementation of the Medoc Alavés experiment. In 2006, right next to the old winery from the 1860s, a new spectacular building was inaugurated offering more space for the winery, a luxury hotel, a Michelinstarred restaurant and a spa resort designed by the American star architect Frank Gehry, author of the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The magazine highlighted the successful attempt of bringing together the past, present and future: The twisted aluminum ribbons swathed over the Hotel Marqués de Riscal gleam in the Spanish sunlight, their purple, gold and silver hues mirroring the wines and their bottles made in the bodega below. The Frank Gehry masterpiece is now a familiar sight on the Rioja landscape, a futuristic aesthetic belying the history it encases.1 DOI: 10.4324/9781003106661-11


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When it comes to the rating of Rioja wines, the panorama is quite optimistic. The American writer James Suckling, one of the world’s most influential wine critics, placed a total of 36 Rioja wines on his personal ranking of the “top 100 wines of Spain 2021.” If we add another two wines produced in the Rioja Alavesa, but not under the control and label of the Rioja Denomination of Origin, the hegemony of Rioja wines becomes even more impressive. Among the top ten, seven wines come from Rioja (Cía Telmo Rodríguez: Las Beatas, 2018; López de Heredia: Viña Tondonia, Gran Reserva, White 2010; Artadi: Viña El Pisón, 2018; Granja de Nuestra Señora de Remelluri: Rioja Blanco 2018; CUNE: Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2015; Muga: Prado Enea, Gran Reserva 2014; Marqués de Murrieta: Finca Ygay Gran Reserva 2015).2 In a similar worldwide ranking (“our top 100 wines of 2021”), Suckling only lists five wines from Spain, four out of them being Rioja. The best Spanish (and Rioja) wine is ranked number eleven (Las Beatas 2018, Cía. Telmo Rodríguez).3 In another ranking set up by Luis Gutiérrez, Robert Parker’s and the Wine Advocate’s stakeholder in Spain, Rioja holds an equally prominent position. Out of the 24 Spanish 100-point wines five come from Rioja. If we consider that this list includes a large variety of wine categories (red, white, sweet, Jerez) and that no other Spanish Denomination of Origin provides more 100-point wines than Rioja does, the region’s outstanding presence as a producer of premium wines becomes even more evident.4 Only a year before this Parker-list was issued, Rioja scored a new historic triumph. In 2020, the influential American lifestyle magazine Wine Spectator published a new ranking of its top 100 wines of the world. At the top, as that year’s best wine worldwide, the tasters placed the winery Marqués de Murrieta and its Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva (vintage 2010). History meets the present: as the reader of this book will remember, Luciano Murrieta, the first Marqués, was one of the few voices in the wilderness who, at first unsuccessfully, had been involved in the early stages of modern Rioja winemaking in the mid-nineteenth century. Since the magazine’s first top 100 list was issued in 1988, the preferences of the blind-tasting experts had been overwhelmingly for American and French wines. Only in 2013 did a Spanish wine manage to be ranked number one worldwide. On that occasion, the wine also came from Rioja. And it was a product launched by one of the historical wineries that have been highlighted in this book as protagonists of the early period of quality Rioja wine: the Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, CUNE, founded in 1879. The honors went to its famous Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva, vintage 2004.5 One final proof of the international pedigree of Rioja wine. In 2021, the first Spanish wine to land on the well-known La Place de Bordeaux, the complex distribution system which has brought together Châteaux, négociants and wine merchants from all over the world since the seventeenth century, was a Rioja: Telmo Rodríguez’s Yjar, 2017.6 In view of these praises issued by some of the most prestigious wine connoisseurs, as well as the successful performance of Rioja on the international

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markets (see chapter one of this book), one might think that the dreams of the inventors and propagators of quality Rioja wine from the late nineteenth century have come true a century and a half later. Once a dark, impure, and coarse beverage that was often poured into the streets or used as a substitute for more expensive water in the production of mortar, a hundred and fifty years later a bottle of Rioja wine was nominated the number one quality wine worldwide. The eternal loser and underdog has become the darling of many a distinguished wine lover all over the globe. There are not really too many similar brilliant success stories in the history of human ingenuity! Yet this is only one side of the coin. While Rioja’s success is unquestioned, there is no doubt that this triumph has also created serious new problems. Pushed by growing national and international demand, the region’s wine sector has been experiencing an apparently never-ending process of expansion and growth. Today, the almost 500 wineries that market their wines under the label of the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin and stick to the rules and regulations set up by the Control Board of the Designation produce and sell an enormous range of completely different wines, a fact that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to say what the label Rioja actually stands for. Since the conquest of the new urban middle classes in the early twentieth century, probably the most profitable argument for Rioja wine was its image as a good fine wine with an excellent price to quality ratio. The reader will remember that already in the 1860s, when the Medoc Alavés, the new Bordeaux-style Rioja fine wine, received its first feedback by those who had tasted it, one of its assets in those reviews was that it was excellent and, at the same time, much cheaper than comparable French wines. The development of this business strategy eventually led to the presence of cheap, industrial and unsophisticated Rioja crianzas priced €4 a bottle on the shelves of almost any supermarket all over the world. Once this idea of Rioja as a good but cheap wine was socially established and consolidated, it became a liability for all those producers who were not willing or able to sell this kind of wine. It is virtually impossible to produce a €4 wine with grapes growing on old smallscale vineyards and located on tiny plots within a specific geological and climatological context, handpicked during the harvest, and transformed into wine respecting the requirements of organic agriculture. As such, how could a more expensive wine, produced under these conditions, survive on supermarket shelves next to a bottle with the same Rioja crianza label but at a cost of only a quarter or less? How could the average customer, not an expert on Rioja wine, know that this wine, despite the shared label, had little or nothing in common with the former? This struggle over quantity and quality has evolved into a confrontation between small-scale growers and the large wine companies who have both the capacity to mass produce low-priced products as well as more expensive and demanding quality wines. The small-scale winemakers blame the Regulatory Board of the Rioja Designation of Origin for favoring the interests of the large companies by granting them the majority of votes among the board members. One of the consequences of this


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conflict is an attempt by some small wineries of the Basque province of Álava to create a distinctive Denomination of Origin under the name of “Vineyards of Álava” for the Rioja wines produced in that province. This initiative was promoted in the Spanish parliament by the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which, however, downgraded the initial proposal to create a Denomination of Origin separated from the Rioja by presenting a new project to establish a specific Denomination within the Rioja. This new and more accommodative approach not only provoked an outright rejection from the Spanish conservative party Partido Poular, the Rioja Regulatory Board and Rioja’s socialist regional government, but was also not even supported by all wineries in Álava. In the end, the Basque nationalist deputies decided to withdraw their bill from parliament after receiving promises from the socialist Minster of Agriculture to negotiate the bill in a more relaxed atmosphere outside Congress. Rioja’s Regulatory Board, for its part, has not completely ignored these critics. While maintaining the traditional vote mechanisms and regulations in favor of the large companies, it has made some efforts to permit a more specific presentation of the wines. For instance, it has already allowed placing the additional indicator of origin “Rioja Alavesa” on the bottle label, under the general Rioja indicator, written in a larger and bold font. Furthermore, while maintaining the old-fashioned triple wine categories of crianza, reserva and gran reserva, forcing all wines that do not exactly match the time of aging and the type of oak barrels required by the regulation to be sold under the unappealing category of “genérico,” the Board, in cooperation with the Spanish Ministery of Agriculture, has established new complementary categories of Rioja wine such as the “Singular Vineyards” (“Viñedos Singulares”). After an official examination, this classification can be obtained for small plots with vines that are at least 35 years old, have low yields, and grow environment-friendly crops and grapes that will be handpicked. Once the wine has been produced, it must pass through a series of tastings controlled by the Regulatory Board. Only wines that obtain the qualification “excellent” by the tasters are allowed to use the description “Singular Vineyard” on their labels. In August 2020, there were a total of 103 officially recognized singular vineyards: 51 in Álava and the Autonomous Community of Rioja and a single one in Navarre. The total extent of these singular vineyards is about 190 ha, which is less than 0.3% of the total area under vines in the subregions of the Denomination. Thus far, 34 wines from 20 wineries have been officially approved.7 These underwhelming numbers result from the fact that most growers who already used to produce a wine with the characteristics of a “singular vineyard” avant-la-lettre have not applied to become an official bearer of the “singular vineyard” label. In this sense, I share Tim Atkin’s cautiously optimistic opinion when stating that the singular vineyard is still “a work in progress” which, however, brings with it some good news: “At least Rioja is talking about terroir.”8

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Figure 11.2 López de Heredia winery advertisement on streetcars (photo was taken in Madrid on April 14, 1931, the day of the proclamation of the Second Republic in Spain) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA


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All in all, the image that surfaces when analyzing the situation of Rioja wine in the twenty-first century is that of a complex and double-folded reality. It represents a particular mixture of – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – enduring economic success on the national and international markets on the one hand, and serious internal polemics about the spirit and nature of Rioja as a huge European winemaking region within the increasingly globalized world of wine lovers on the other. What does Rioja really stand for? Does it even exist as a coherent label in the first place? What are its strengths and what are its weaknesses? Can it aspire to compete with other famous wine regions of the globe? In an effort to shed some light on these issues and offer some tentative answers, I thought it would be interesting to give a voice to people who, for different reasons, have a close relationship with Rioja and are well acquainted with the region. The following sample of selected testimonies includes both some of the most distinguished and prominent wine writers and masters of wine, as well as some CEOs from large and small Rioja wineries. This sample is by no means intended to be exhaustive, but in my opinion all of the interviewees have something relevant to say. It is very telling of the contentious atmosphere within the region, where some producers are thinking about breaking away from the Qualified Designation of Origin and set up a separate designation –within or outside the general Rioja one – that some of the people I asked for a response to my questionnaire rejected publicly expressing their opinions. Despite these shortcomings, the responses received are valuable when it comes to surveying the panorama of Rioja today. In different sections of this book, one essential methodological tool that I have used to trace the evolution of Rioja wine and its reputation has been the careful evaluation of foreign testimonies. What is the story that the twentyfirst century successors of these external observers and wine connoisseurs tell us about Rioja, its present and its future within a globalized world? It is astonishing to see that there seem to be many coincidences in the way these experts deal with this topic. Tim Atkin, master of wine and author of a yearly well-informed Rioja Report, one of the most outstanding Rioja experts, does not hesitate to describe Rioja as “Spain’s most globally famous and popular wine region.” Since the time his father allowed him as a teenager to have a sip from Bodegas Muga’s classic flagship Prado Enea, Atkin has not ceased to scrutinize the region’s evolution with unhidden empathy, which does not exclude critical commentaries when considered necessary. To start with the assets Atkin highlights when writing about Rioja, this master of wine observes two strengths: Rioja has two main strengths, although only one of those is widely recognized. The first is the power and reach of its brand, especially on export markets. Consumers know that Rioja is Spanish and they generally like what we might describe as the traditional style – light, ready to

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drink and aged in American oak. The second strength is diversity, although this is rarely acknowledged. Rioja’s terroirs are as complex as those of Burgundy or Barolo. It also makes dozens of different wine styles. The irony is that it’s only one of those – let’s call it the Gran Reserva style – that most consumers are aware of.9 International presence and product diversity: These two advantages also appear in the statements of other wine experts. Sarah Jane Evans, master of wine and wine writer, still remembers her first visit to Rioja as a Diploma student and her (eventually frustrated) visit to the Contino Bodega in Laguardia as the starting point for her interest in the region’s wine. Like Atkin, Evans holds that “Rioja’s strength is its remarkable international profile … All credit to the marketing campaigns over the years for putting Rioja into the pre-eminent position. For many, Rioja is Spain and Spain is Rioja.” And diversity is what makes Rioja great: We are at a very exciting cross roads with Rioja. At last we are beginning to have a much more diversified picture of Rioja, something that should have happened already. We must be able to talk about villages, soils, aspects, history, culture, political and social influences. We must also be able to celebrate the fine cross regional blends, as well as the contemporary focus on individual vineyards. People are finding different ways to express their view of Rioja.10 Another prominent colleague of Evans and Atkin, Jancis Robinson, dates her relationship with Rioja back to the late 1970s, when she launched a wine newsletter in the UK called Drinker’s Digest and promoted, together with the Sunday Times, one of the first comparative tastings for which she selected Rioja wine. This distinguished master of wine and wine writer underlines as Rioja’s strength its internationally “recognizable name and style,” together with the fact that most wines coming from that Spanish region are being “released when they are ready to drink,” in contrast to what happens to many French wines.11 Luis Gutiérrez is Robert Parker’s and the Wine Advocate’s reviewer for Spain, Argentina, Chile and Jura. This influential Spanish wine critic grew up with Rioja wine because “Rioja was almost a synonym of wine in Spain.” For Gutiérrez, the region’s most outstanding general advantage is that it bears a “huge potential” which has yet to be completely tapped. Why has this not yet been the case so far? Gutiérrez’s answer is telling: “We still need to increase the quality mentality to move from industrial wine to a more artisanal one and protect the old vineyards.”12 This alleged predominance of quantity over quality pointed out by Gutiérrez seems to be a criticism shared by most of his fellow wine writers. Sarah Jane Evans comments that the wines of this “prestige Denomination” are “sold far too cheaply”:


The globalization trap Given the strength of the brand Rioja, it should not be available in the UK for £5 or less. And indeed, many very fine Riojas also sell themselves too cheap. As consumers we may enjoy the fact that fine Rioja wine is good value, but frankly it’s not good business, is it?13

Tim Atkin makes the same point when mentioning that out of more than 1,200 wines he tasted for his 2021 report, only 23 had a selling price of more than €100. Something similar would not have happened to fine wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, the Napa Valley or even the Spanish Ribera del Duero:14 “There are too many inexpensive wines on the market, many of them sold as Reservas or even Gran Reservas, and insufficient differentiation between basic and high-quality wines.”15 This traditional preference for wines with a long process of maturing in oak barrels (and later in the bottle) and the deep-rooted myth that the longer the maturing process and the contact with the oak, the higher the quality of the wine is an additional problem. Jancis Robinson warns that Rioja might not appeal to those wine lovers “who have decided they don’t like oak.” Atkin identifies the problem as a consequence of the outdated classification of wine according to the time of maturing: crianza, reserva and gran reserva. Any other wine produced by growers who decide not to respect the official regulation set up and controlled by the Regulatory Board, for instance to age the wine in different containers other than those officially required (barriques bordelaises), are obliged to sell their wine under the label of “genérico,” even though many of them are excellent. As the market has been flooded with cheap and uninspiring reservas and gran reservas, the time a wine passes in a barrel or a bottle has lost almost all its strength as a criterion of quality. As long as this traditional regulation is not at least updated or modified to take into account quality as well as aging time, the problem of underpriced premium Rioja wines will probably persist. In any case, a modification aimed at this goal would only be a first step toward a correct direction, because it will take time to replace the traditional and socially deeply rooted three-dimensional Rioja categorization and its suggestions of aging time = quality. Given these pros and cons, is Rioja wine already able to compete as a global player with wine from other famous regions in the world? Our experts all agree that it should compete, that there is enough substance and potential to do so, but that this aim has still not been completely achieved. Luis Gutiérrez states that the region “can compete and it should,” but must overcome its image “of cheap and cheerful poky wine.” In a similar sense, Sarah Jane Evans agrees and believes there is still quite a long way to go: Rioja is an established presence globally. However too many people see it still as a wine laden with oak, especially American oak. The image of Rioja is far behind the reality. It plays little role in investment and in

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Figure 11.3 Wine racking at the López de Heredia winery (about 1930) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

auctions. In that marketplace it’s a few wines from Ribera del Duero and Priorat that dominate. Where is Rioja amongst the world’s greatest wines? It surely should be there. Rioja undoubtedly has the ability and the quality to compete. Rioja won the marketing war long ago when it came to building an image for a popular juicy red. What Rioja needs to do now is to focus on building its profile for its very evident quality, rather than continuing as a supplier of joyful if traditional mass market wines. And a footnote on white Rioja. The quality of white Riojas is improving rapidly.16 Jancis Robinson also shares the opinion of what she calls an “insufficient segmentation” that makes it difficult for consumers to “distinguish between the top and bottom of the Rioja range.” This necessary reorientation also requires “more charismatic, well travelled figureheads among the producers (as does Germany).” Finally, Tim Atkin also has no doubt that Rioja can compete in the globalized market if some conditions are met: It needs to talk more about villages and vineyards. Generic Rioja is as well and good, but you don’t build the reputation of a top region on basic wines. Imagine if Bordeaux promoted Bordeaux Supérieurs above the First Growths, or Burgundy talked about Borgognes Rouges in the same breath as the Grands Crus. Rioja is a sleeping lion.17


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Jancis Robinson adds a final deficiency that, in her opinion, is hampering Rioja’s progress towards consolidation as one of the world’s top winegrowing regions. It is a point that, as I have already mentioned, is currently provoking a heated and polemical debate within Rioja. If the region wants to ride and benefit from the “wave of fashion for estate and single-vineyards wines,” it must introduce a more systematic regional and local differentiation of the wines: “Just one appellation/denomination is arguably a mistake nowadays although there are some moves to counter this.” These are the opinions of our distinguished external experts. But what of those who earn their daily livelihood from winemaking in Rioja? Some of the people I have been talking to are at the head of historic wineries that have been active participants in the invention of modern Rioja wine since the midnineteenth century. Others run relatively new bodegas, but have nevertheless already become icons of modern Rioja winemaking. How do they see their current situation and what do they expect for the future? How do they identify the sector’s strengths and weaknesses? All of these entrepreneurs dedicate their lives to an enduring process of trial and error, aiming at one single supreme goal: permanently improving their expertise in order to end up manufacturing a great wine. But what actually makes a wine “great”? Like the Masters of Wine and wine writers, answers provided by the Rioja winemakers seem to agree on several broadly shared points, regardless of the local provenance of the winemaker and the size of his / her business. It makes sense to start this little survey with the winery Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, one of the key protagonists among the small group of innovators that initiated the experiment leading to the invention and promotion of Rioja’s fine wine back in the late 1860s. Today, Riscal is one of the largest and most famous wineries in Rioja. It is owner of about 500 hectares of vine in Rioja where it grows 30% of the grapes for its Rioja wines. Including the production in other regions and denominations (Rueda), Riscal markets more than ten million bottles a year.18 From 2017 to 2021, Riscal’s CEO Fernando Salamero was chair of Rioja’s Regulatory Board and today (2022) continues as head of the “Rioja Group,” the association of the most powerful wineries in the region, controlling about 80% of the winemaking business in Rioja. Questioned about the strengths of Rioja wine, Salamero highlights the “value of the Rioja label and its main wineries,” which “enjoy a very high level of recognition and perceived value by consumers in all markets, since Rioja was a pioneer in the export of Spanish wines.” This has all been possible due to the “high quality of the wines that come from fantastic vineyards” as well as the “know-how of winegrowers and winemakers, which have allowed Rioja to maintain its position as the leading wine region in Spain for decades.”19 María José López de Heredia is the matriarch of another historic winery in Rioja. The bodega was founded in 1877 and is one of the few that have not changed ownership since its foundation, continuing as a family enterprise. As we have seen in this book, it specialized early in the fabrication of high-

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quality premium wines, launching the celebrated Viña Tondonia (red and white) as its flagship on the Spanish and international markets. Like Riscal, López de Heredia is a member of the “Grupo Rioja.” The bodega owns a property of about 170 hectares of vineyards in the surroundings of Haro, where an average annual yield makes for 800,000 kilograms of grapes and from 200,000 to 400,000 bottles a year, depending on the harvest. María José López de Heredia emphasizes Rioja’s “long history focused on the production of fine high-quality wines.”20 Established in 1901 as another key player in the modernization of Rioja wine, Bodegas Bilbaínas was for a long time the giant of the Rioja wine business, expanding its activity to other sectors (alcohol) and regions (La Mancha). For many years, together with the champagne Lumen, its aged red Viña Pomal was the bodega’s most esteemed product within and outside of Spain. Pushed by the success of this brand, Bodegas Bilbaínas expanded production and managed to make Rioja fashionable among the urban middle classes. For several reasons, Bilbaínas entered a period of economic crisis beginning in the 1970s that culminated in 1997, when the company was sold to the Catalan Cava giant Raventós Codorníu, which was successful in reversing the trend and making the company profitable again.21 Bilbaínas own 250 hectares of vineyards in Rioja, producing about 2.4 million bottles a year. When asked about the strengths of Rioja, Mayte Calvo de la Banda, Technical Director and Enologist at Bilbaínas, and Diego Pinilla, Calvo’s predecessor and currently Chief Winemaking and Operations Officer at Raventós Codorníu, presented a detailed list of responses that share Salamero’s and López de Heredia’s focus on Rioja’s history and image. Regarding viticulture, both CEOs describe Rioja as the “wine region with the longest tradition in Spain,” cultivating vines with high “professional skill and expertise” under “exhaustive quality controls.” All together, this tradition has resulted in “consumers confidence in the quality of Rioja products.” For the realms of “promotion and perception,” Calvo and Pinilla place emphasis on Rioja’s “historical leadership in the production of quality wines in Spain.” Thus, it is not by chance that Rioja, together with the Catalan Priorat, is the only wine region of Spain that holds the official classification of “Denominación de Origen Calificada.” This consumer confidence in the quality of Rioja wine, which for many consumers also has the additional reputation of being higher in real value than in actual price, pays off. In 2018, 34% of the wine sold in Spanish hotels, restaurants and catering enterprises came from the Rioja DOC, which is also the leader in the food retail business with a share of 27% in 2018. Finally, Rioja is a “pioneering export region and benchmark for Spanish wines in the world” enjoying a “high brand awareness and growth in relevant consumer markets such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland.”22 What is the vision offered by smaller and younger, yet already very successful wineries? Gonzalo Saénz de Samaniego and his family are the owners of a small winery in Samaniego, Rioja Alavesa. The winery was founded in


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1972, when Gonzalo’s parents decided to stop selling their grapes to other companies and start making and marketing their own wine. The family owes 36 hectares of vineyards, controlling the cultivation of another 44 hectares owned by relatives. Currently, Ostatu produces 16 different wines, many of them single-plot wines. The grapes grown on the 80 hectares make for 350,000 to 425,000 bottles a year, depending on the vintage: 55% are used for young wines and the rest for aged ones. The responses to the question about the strengths of Rioja wine given by this spokesman of a small family winery do not differ in essence from the representatives of larger companies such as Riscal, Bilbaínas or even López de Heredia. And Saénz de Samaniego also underscores Rioja’s long historical tradition, the fact that the Denomination of Origin probably has been, and continues being, the most significant reference for quality wine of Spain, the high quality of its vines and landscapes, as well as its international presence.23 Abel Mendoza’s and Maite Fernández’s small winery located in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Rioja Alta, in the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria mountain range, was founded a bit later, in 1988. Today, the winery is regarded as one of the top premium wine producers in Rioja, partly thanks to the company’s celebrated white wines made from different, and within the Rioja region rather rare, varieties such as Malvasía or Torrontés, as well as blends from these different white varieties. Mendoza is the owner of 21 hectares of vineyards in Rioja with a small production of 75,000 bottles a year. Being a small producer, the family-owned company is able to offer about 15 different sorts of wine each year. When talking about the region’s strengths, Abel Mendoza, who considers himself more a grower than a winemaker, puts an accent on slightly different aspects. In his opinion, Rioja’s “greatest asset is its territorial and plant diversity, which makes the advertising slogan that Rioja is the Designation of Origin of 1001 wines a reality”: “Its orography and great wealth of soils, altitudes, temperature and different climatic behaviors, with the essential interpretation made by its inhabitants, can make it possible.”24 The last winemaker to whom we shall give voice here is Juan Carlos López de Lacalle. His winery was founded under the name of Artadi in 1985, but it was not until 1992 that the López de Lacalle family took over majority control, now owing 99% of the capital. Ever since Artadi, located in the Rioja Alavesa town of Laguardia, has evolved to become one of Rioja’s most celebrated premium wine producers. Artadi has about 80 hectares of vineyards in Rioja Alavesa, where the company produces a dozen different wines, all of them, except one, being single-plot wines. The annual production is quite small, ranging from 200,000 to 220,000 bottles. López de Lacalle’s tireless efforts in improving the quality of the fine wines was successfully crowned in 2007 when the bodega’s Tempranillo single varietal red Viña El Pisón was awarded with 100 Parker points. Ever since, El Pisón, grown at a plot with vines planted in 1954, has become an icon of Rioja premium wines. In 2015, Artadi made headlines by announcing that due to a disagreement with the

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way the Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin was managed, the winery was going to leave the Denomination and start selling its wines without the Rioja label.25 According to López de Lacalle, Rioja’s “great strengths” are the region’s “natural and historical peculiarities,” which have helped the wine become an important player on the global market: “Its soil, climate, its viticultural richness as well as its people are the keys to its personality.” For López de Lacalle, one of the fundamental elements behind Rioja’s prestige all over the world is the growers’ historical experience and their close connection to and perfect knowledge of the terroir: This pillar could be defined as the intimate knowledge of the territory, corroborated by its history and fused, through the intervention of people, with the land and the vine. From this reality, unique, inimitable wines are born, the fruit of their origin, and thus the expression of a landscape and a people arises.26 So far, though there are different nuances and focuses in the responses given by the winemakers when it comes to defining the strengths of Rioja wine, the basic melody sounds pretty similar, regardless of the scale, production and location of the winery. Things change a bit with the responses given to the next question about the weaknesses of Rioja wine and its challenges in the global competition with other prestigious wine regions in the world. For Fernando Salamero, Riscal’s CEO, Rioja’s winemakers have failed to gain the confidence of younger consumers whose drink habits remain distant from the Rioja brand due to what many of them consider a “lack of novelty and a somewhat antiquated image.” A second critical point raised by Salamero refers to the fact that on the international market, despite offering high-quality products, the region’s image has not evolved accordingly to its quality: “Rioja needs to improve its recognition and image to reach the value of the world’s leading wines, in addition to promoting the marketing of wines with higher added value.” Above we have heard a similar statement when the master of wine Tim Atkin deplored the lack of synchronicity between the evolution of Rioja’s topquality wines on the one hand, and the –still comparatively low- prices obtained in the international markets. María José López de Heredia’s opinion about Rioja’s weaknesses points out one of the criticisms that surfaces frequently in conversations with Rioja wine growers who earn their living dedicated to the production of high-priced premium wine (i.e., the marketing of very different sorts of wines under the same generic Rioja label). According to López de Heredia, Rioja’s weakness is due to the acceptance within the appellation [Rioja Appelation of Origin] of companies that do not sufficiently know the strength I have mentioned [long tradition of fine wine making] and it is simply impossible to love or respect, let alone improve and enhance, what is unknown. Note


The globalization trap that I call them companies and not wineries or winemakers, much less winegrowers.27

However, it seems that for this reputed winemaker the weakness she has identified is not a Rioja-specific problem: “This weakness is present in all the great wine regions of the world that have achieved great recognition.” One of the most remarkable deficiencies or weaknesses listed by Mayte Calvo and Diego Pinilla from Bodegas Bilbaínas is directly related to López de Heredia’s point. According to these CEOs, the traditional classification of Rioja wines into the categories of “crianza,” “reserva” and “gran reserva” depending on the time a wine has aged in oak and in the bottle, can be considered “outdated” due to the “lack of knowledge about the quality associated with the different categories.” Indeed, one might add, something is wrong if a customer can find a bottle of Rioja reserva for €5 on the shelves of a supermarket, while in the wine store around the corner another Rioja reserva costs €60 or more. The time of ageing is not always and necessarily the most relevant criterion for the quality of a certain wine. This traditional focus on age resulted in an image of Rioja as a dark, old and rather heavy red wine, which is another problem or weakness mentioned by Calvo and Pinilla: “A relevant segment of consumers have the perception that the style of Rioja is not in line with their demands.” The means to overcome these deficiencies require a better knowledge about the “consumers, their needs, consumption patterns, tastes and perceptions of the products made in the appellation,” as well as a “more efficient, integrated coordination and a search for synergies between the Regulatory Board and the various stakeholders involved.” One final comment on Rioja’s “weaknesses” identified by the Bodegas Bilbaínas CEOs relates to “a still insufficient development of sustainability policies, particularly in environmental matters, lagging far behind the leading regions in this field, such as Champagne, for example.” More in line with López de Heredia than with Bodegas Bilbaínas, Ostatu’s head, Gonzalo Saénz de Samaniego, also deplores the “disproportionate size of the Appellation of Origin,” where wine policies tend to “create a very generic product, without a clear commitment to quality.” This is resulting in a “loss of wine identity” as a consequence of the priority given to “volume over quality.” As a rather small family-size winemaker, Saénz de Samaniego adds a direct criticism of the way the Consejo Regulador is managed, without citing the name of this control board, whose structures he considers “deeply rooted in the past and managed by large economic interests outside the territory.” This point of view is shared by Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernández, though from a more general perspective: The immobility, the administration’s red tape [“la tela administrativa”], the lack of support for young producers, winemakers and entrepreneurs,

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the high concentration of the business, the abuse of mechanization and poor phytosanitary practices are some of Rioja’s most present weaknesses.28 Mendoza and Fernández are especially concerned about the future of winemaking in Rioja, where many young growers are confronted with the impossibility of earning their living decently: But the most important is the human factor. There is a lack of recognition of the work of the winegrowers and their families, who are the ones who produce the grapes, intervene in nature and keep the villages alive. For this reason, there are years in which they receive subsistence incomes that drive the new generations, their children, away from the villages and vineyards.29 Juan Carlos López de Lacalle from Artadi insists and expands on the aforementioned problem of the alleged prioritization of quantity over quality, which some winemakers consider one of the most serious weaknesses of the Rioja wine sector: In the last 20 years Rioja has suffered a deterioration in its quality image, especially in the premium wine markets. In general terms, the sectors involved (winegrowers and winemakers) have opted for a business model that forces them to bet on volume as an economic alternative to safeguard their businesses. Faced with this option, the market penalizes the sector with downward pressure on prices, a fact that is repeated year after year.30 This is what led López de Lacalle to withdraw from DOC Rioja and start to sell Artadi’s wines without the official Rioja label and without fulfilling the Control Board’s regulations and requirements. López de Lacalle’s critical narrative concludes as follows: Rioja is a great winegrowing region, but due to a generic approach, the region does not enjoy the conditions of precision required by appellations of origin. This lack of specification of its natural territory, as enjoyed by the prestigious winegrowing areas of the world, weakens its discourse. In short, a new option for the future and, of course, complementary to the current one, would be a firm commitment to the ‘terroir’ in order to create benchmark wines. Unfortunately, although it is able to construct this discourse, Rioja is not currently developing this alternative for the market. Its professional leaders and the production sector in general do not fully accept these concepts and, on the contrary, continue to work to build a large and unique DO Rioja that brings together the rich range of wines, origins and


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Figure 11.4 Design for letter headers in correspondence (about 1924) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

viticultural possibilities under a single Rioja umbrella and brand. This unifying trend [“este hecho integrador”] does not allow the region to grow in terms of quality and in the face of this generic business model, the market reacts generically and the reputation is impaired.31 Taking all these assessments and opinions together, and despite the great variety of interests, perspectives, ideas, and criticisms, some general conclusions surface. First of all, after the long historical journey following the invention of Rioja’s fine wine, none of the interviewees question that Rioja wine and its quality have reached the level of the great wines of the world. It can compete, and actually is already competing, with the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Barolo, Barbaresco, Napa and others. Second, there also seems to be a certain consensus in assuming that an even more successful competition in the future requires updating and reorientating wine policy and management in the region. From the emphasis on the classic triad of crianza/ reserva/gran reserva and its priority focus on age, to a more sophisticated quality understanding based on terroir, soil, plots, climate and landscape; from winemaking to winegrowing, completing the well-known possibilities of the tempranillo grape with the potential offered by other minority varieties; and, last but not least, from extensive high-yield viticulture and volumeorientated winemaking to sustainable ecological cultivation and production practices. Third, most of the winemakers, as well as the rest of the consulted experts, also share an opinion about the striking contrast between the top quality of many Rioja wines on the one side, and their relatively low prices in comparison with other prestigious international wines. This is, of course, a complex issue. Lamenting the low prices paid for excellent Rioja wines may entail a certain snobbish bias in considering that a great wine must necessarily be very expensive. From the consumer’s point of view, the fact that what we regard as a good wine is also affordable for people who are not millionaires is obviously an important incentive to buy that bottle instead of the one whose

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content presumably is just as good but worth twice as much. The €5 supermarket crianza fulfills certainly an important social function for low-budget households with little space for culinary extravagances. On the other hand, from the premium wine producer’s point of view, it is obvious that the image of Rioja as a good and cheap wine tends to suffocate all efforts to produce special wines in an artisanal way, wines with character, children of their geoclimatological environment. Is there any solution to this problem, a solution that would satisfy and bring together the aspirations of consumers, the €5 wine producers and the winemakers who pretend to make more sophisticated wines and sell them for higher prices than they currently do? While admitting that any such solution, in case there were any in the first place, will need time to bear fruit, it seems to me that it must be linked to two key concepts (i.e., the concepts of differentiation and perception). The Designation of Origin Rioja must facilitate a more precise classification of the wines according to soils, plots and climate, which is what the so fashionable – and rarely well defined – notion of terroir tries to describe. Obviously, this is not a call to banish €5 crianzas, but rather a demand for a complementary strategy of wine stratification according to different parameters that go beyond the traditional paradigm of age and oak. A gradual abolition of the crianza– reserva–gran reserva triad and its substitution by different and more complex and realistic categories should no longer be considered an eccentric outsider claim. The establishment of the “singular vineyard” category is certainly an interesting step in the correct direction. But why not permit the splitting up of the enormous DOC Rioja into different regional or even local sub-designations within the generic DOC Rioja? Would that be possible without breaking away from the current DOC administration and without renouncing the advantage of using the Rioja brand and its international prestige, which, as we have seen, has been singled out as one of the most important strengths of the Rioja wine sector by experts and wine makers? Some, such as Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, argue that this is not possible and, consequently, have opted out of the DOC. Others are currently (April 2022) advocating for such a solution within the DOC through initiatives in the Spanish parliament, although the intervention of political agents in this debate is likely to complicate the issue even more.32 While the outcome of this debate is still unclear, it is hard to imagine any reasonable argument against a more specific and concrete differentiation of Rioja wines. As a matter of fact, in other prestigious European wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy nobody would seriously pretend to sell all the different wines under the generic label of Bordeaux or Burgundy. The second key concept is perception. In one of her responses to my questionnaire, María José López de Heredia explains from her experience as a producer and seller of Rioja premium wines the importance of this point: They say that there are no great wines but great customers. For a wine to be recognized as great, there must be customers who think so, who value


The globalization trap it and know how to distinguish it. Great wines are those that leave us speechless, but if, in addition, what we want is for it to be distinguished as a Rioja, it must have a personality capable of differentiating it from other areas.33

For López de Heredia, the essential elements that help Rioja wines to be perceived as great are the tempranillo and graciano varieties, as well as the soil and the climate, which, all together, create a favorable context that is “capable of producing wines with nerve, that is to say, with freshness that imprints character and finesse making them elegant and capable of aging for many years with balance.” We might add that these ideas about the perception of Rioja wines and their differentiation from other quality wines around the world are equally valid for the differentiation of the multiple wines within the Rioja region. Only if a costumer perceives a certain wine as special and great because its grapes come from a special plot with extraordinary geological and climatological characteristics, because the grapes have been handpicked and cultivated in an organic way, because only the perfect grapes of a perfect vintage have been used to make the wine, and because the must has been fermented and later aged under very specific conditions, will he or she be willing to pay more for that wine. For this perception to exist, it is first necessary to shape an international marketing strategy that focuses on diversity and quality, rather than on homogeneity and price. In this area, Rioja and its stakeholders still have a long way to go, not in the least because, as Jancis Robinson argued in the interview quoted above, the region still lacks well-travelled, multilingual and eloquent propagandists. The concepts of differentiation and perception connect us to one of the most polemic and endless debates among wine lovers who, since the gourmet was invented, have been discussing the question of whether the quality of a wine exists independently of one’s perception of it. Drawing his own conclusions from this debate, the New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov writes: greatness has classically been associated with wines that showed complexity and nuance, that were able to age and evolve over many years, that touched the emotions, inspired contemplation and provoked discussion. Great wines are thought to express a sense of place. That is, their distinctive characters are formed by the soil and its microbial life, climate, elevation and angle of inclination to the sun, as well as the culture that produced it. At the least, all great wines ought to be balanced and harmonious, and they need to be refreshing.34 However, Asimov qualifies and, to put it one way, democratizes this classical definition by pointing out that wines labeled “great wines” because they fulfill all those conditions are usually extremely expensive and thus not within the reach of ordinary mortals. However, many people do experience greatness

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tasting wines that do not belong to the selected group of expensive and toprated premium wines. In order to deconstruct this paradox, Asimov brings in perception, arguing that greatness in a wine is defined by its ability to meet the needs of a particular occasion: “In other words, with wine, context is everything.” What do the Rioja winemakers think about this? What is a great wine for them? We have already quoted María José López de Heredia, who in her answer offered a sort of combination between objective quality features (tempranillo, graciano, soil, climate) and subjective perception (customers willing to pay; wine that leaves us speechless). Gonzalo Saéz de Samaniego shares this focus, emphasizing in his definition of a “great wine” terroir, tradition, expertise and prestige: Vineyards with quality and history, with a responsible management of the viticultural and natural heritage of the environment. A real, accurate history that develops the territory on which it is based. A quality that transmits knowledge and professional skill of the growers and winemakers. Prestige and recognition for their expertise.35 Fernando Salamero, the head of Riscal, one of the largest Rioja wineries, highlights two sorts of great wines. On the one hand, wines coming “from singular vineyards, many of them old and, in some cases, even more than one hundred years old, which express each unique terroir in a sincere way, and where the fruit is particularly outstanding.” On the other, a coupage wine can also be great after being “aged in barrels and bottle” prior to entering the market “ready to enjoy, although its acidity and complexity allow it to age exceptionally well.” Underscoring the capacity of aging well, Mayte Calvo and Diego Pinilla, heads of Bodegas Bilbaínas, maintain in their definition the double perspective of terroir and perception: “We understand a great wine to be one that, due to its unique characteristics of elaboration and final perception, perfectly conveys the unique characteristics of the terroir in which it is made. It is not only capable of expressing itself at the time of its commercialization, but also of aging in the bottle and continuing to delight the palate of consumers after many years of cellaring.” Juan Carlos López de Lacalle from Artadi, a winery that produces and sells some of Rioja’s most expensive wines, includes in his definition of a “great wine” a comparison with other famous wine regions from around the world which have not only been able to maintain a close connection between the wine and the terroir, but also fashion a favorable perception by deploying a communication strategy based on praising the virtues of terroir and organic winegrowing and making:


The globalization trap Champagne, Barolo, Barbaresco, Beaujolais, Côtes-du-Rhône, Jura, Wachau and Napa, among others, are great wine regions that have known how to respect their small territories with identity, which are the authentic appellations of origin, and thus have developed processes of adaptation and change, managing to align themselves with the needs and demands of today’s market. Some of these regions are historical and of great prestige, while others have been recently created, but both have opted in their communication discourse for the reality of their territory, for the uniqueness of their histories, for family economies, for respect for nature and for ecological and sustainable viticulture. These, I believe, are currently the great values on which the great wines of the world are based.36

Rioja is capable of becoming a member of that select club of prestigious international wine regions, but, according to Artadi’s owner, it must learn the lessons taught by those regions: “Rioja could achieve a great reputation but I believe that in order to do so, it will be absolutely necessary and urgent for it to change its roadmap,” which is obviously an clear criticism of the philosophy, strategy and management of Rioja’s Consejo Regulador, a criticism that motivated Artadi’s abandonment of the DOC Rioja. Perhaps Abel Mendoza’s and Maite Fernández’s response to the question of what makes a great wine great is most in line with Asimov’s opinion. It is

Figure 11.5 Female harvesters at Viña Tondonia (about 1920) Source: © R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, SA

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interesting to note that the emphasis on the possible greatness of a wine, regardless of its marketing strategy and its price, comes from a winemaker whose wines, always produced in rather small quantities, have already become celebrated and paradigmatic examples of the wide and heterogeneous range of modern Rioja quality wines. After pointing to the difficulty of defining a great wine (“any definition involves too many interpretations”), Mendoza and Fernández dare to forward one: The most honest definitions are probably far away from marketing and pricing. Those great wines may exist in many parts of the world, made from unique grapes and daring INTERPRETERS [emphasis original] of wine. Including Rioja.37 These words take us back to the beginning of this long journey through Rioja’s wine history. This is exactly what the inventors and developers of Rioja’s fine wine had in mind when they proposed the creation of a new wine in the midnineteenth century as a means to find a way out of the severe crisis of overproduction and social misery. They wanted to use the unique geological and climatological conditions in the region and find skilled interpreters who would be capable of fusing centuries-old local expertise and new international scientific and technological knowledge for the fabrication of a new fine wine. This is also what Eugenio Garagarza, the first head of Álava’s School of Agriculture and first enologist avant-la-lettre was proposing when he suggested that the question was not “to try to make in Rioja wine of the Medoc, Château Lafite, Château Margaux and the like, but well-made Rioja wine.”38 Obviously, as we have seen in the different chapters of this book, this daring experiment could not succeed without devoting special attention to the area of perception, without the support, taste preferences and economic possibilities of new customers, and without persuasive marketing strategies. In the end, the outcome is amazing. Despite all the problems, obstacles and setbacks throughout more than a century and a half, the spectacular rise of Rioja wine is an extraordinary and historically not frequently matched example of an unquestioned business, economic, social and cultural success. It began as an audacious gamble initially promoted by not more than a dozen growers, aristocrats, politicians and agricultural engineers and resulted in the creation of a powerful economic and cultural agent that has become a global player capable of seducing wine lovers all around the world. In the early twentyfirst century, Rioja is no longer only knocking on the door of the distinguished club made up by the most famous wine regions in the world: it has already entered this club, at least with one foot. Its wines are competing worldwide, although some changes are required if Rioja is to also place a second foot into this prestigious club. First, it must put an end to the pernicious proximity of excellent wines and ordinary wines under the same generic label. Second, its ruling institutions must offer a higher level of co-decision to small producers, regardless of whether the criticism raised by small producers about being sidelined by big business corresponds to reality or is only a subjective perception.


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Third, the overall fixation on age as the essential quality criterion, as expressed in the crianza–reserva–gran reserva triad, has to be substituted by a more realistic and complete classification that includes other variables such as soil, climate, landscape, elevation etc. And, finally, a fourth improvement involves weaving an international web of Rioja propagandists who will contribute to fostering a perception of Rioja as a wine with great potential and quality. The most significant and powerful argument available to these propagandists for this endeavor is the enormous variety of wines produced in the region, which is indeed, as Eric Asimov suggests, a region offering wines for any kind of particular occasion. You can, for instance, celebrate that this book has become a bestseller and has freed its author from the need to work for the rest of his life with a magnum of red worth €1,300. You will certainly make your wife love you even more with a bottle of magnificent white aged for twenty years and available for €130 that you unexpectedly buy for a romantic dinner. When your kids come home for Christmas you can make a solid investment (between €25 and €45 a bottle) in a selection of lesser-known Rioja varieties, such as Torrontés, Malvasía or Grenache grown on a plot with 70-year-old vines, that will help you get the kids back to the table next Christmas as well. And even the beer drinkers among them might start considering wine a cool alternative for their consumption habits. Or why not choose a fruity and refreshing young €5 Tempranillo, produced according to the traditional method of carbonic fermentation with whole bunches of uncrushed grapes, accompanied by cheese and some slices of Iberian ham on a normal Tuesday evening without anything to celebrate but the mere idea that the existence of these foods must be celebrated before another Tuesday passes. If the inventors and early promoters of Rioja’s fine wine were to rise from their graves after more than a century and a half, they would certainly not return to their confinement in the cemetery and would take part in this little great celebration, despite all the deficiencies and work still to be done on the way to consolidate the quality of their invention and spread the news of its enormous potential throughout the world.

Notes 1 Quoted from (accessed December 7, 2021). 2 The complete list: in-2021/ (accessed December 13, 2021). 3 The complete list: (accessed December 13, 2021). 4 See “Actualizamos la lista de vinos españoles con 100 puntos Parker,” www.sobrelias. com/vinos-espanoles-con-100-puntos-parker/noticias-del-vino/ (accessed December 13, 2021). 5 See (accessed December 13, 2021). 6 See (accessed January 11, 2022).

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7 Data according to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, rensa/ultimas-noticias/el-mapa-reconoce-19-nuevos-vi%C3%B1edos-singulares-dela-doca-rioja/tcm:30-542647 (accessed December 13, 2021). 8 Tim Atkin, Rioja 2021: Special Report, (accessed December 14, 2021), p. 14. 9 Author’s email interview with Tim Atkin (November 30, 2021). 10 Author’s email interview with Sarah Jane Evans (November 24, 2021). 11 Author’s email interview with Jancis Robinson (November 17, 2021). 12 Author’s interview with Luis Gutiérrez (December 13, 2021). 13 Author’s interview with S. J. Evans. 14 Atkin, Rioja 2021: Special Report, p. 15. 15 Author’s interview with T. Atkin. 16 Author’s interview with S. J. Evans. 17 Author’s interview with T. Atkin. 18 Figures taken from (accessed January 4, 2022). 19 Author’s email interview with Fernando Salamero, December 28, 2021. The quotations from this and the other interviews in Spanish cited below have been translated by the author. 20 See (accessed January 5, 2022); author’s email interview with María José López de Heredia, December 8, 2021. 21 In 2018, Codorníu was taken over by the Carlyle investment group, which accordingly since 2019 is also owner of Bodegas Bilbaínas. 22 Author’s email interview with Mayte Calvo and Diego Pinilla, December 22, 2021. 23 Author’s email interview with Gonzalo Saénz de Samaniego, December 17, 2021. 24 Author’s email interview with Abel Mendoza and Maite Fernández, December 26, 2021. 25 See the official communiqué at (accessed January 5, 2022). 26 Author’s email interview with Juan Carlos López de Lacalle, January 2, 2022. 27 Author’s interview with M. J. López de Heredia. 28 Author’s interview with A. Mendoza and M. Fernández. 29 Ibid. 30 Author’s interview with J. C. López de Lacalle. 31 Ibid. 32 See and lla-sin-cuartel-entre-bodegueros.html (both accessed January 10, 2022). 33 Author’s interview with M. J. López de Heredia. 34 See (accessed January 10, 2022). 35 Author’s interview with G. Saénz de Samaniego. 36 Author’s interview with J. C. López de Lacalle. 37 Author’s interview with A. Mendoza and M. Fernández. 38 Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la Muy Noble y Muy Leal Provincia de Álava, no. 5, Vitoria 1861.

References Anales de la Escuela Práctica de Agricultura de la Muy Noble y Muy Leal Provincia de Álava, no. 5 (Vitoria, 1861). Atkin, Tim, Rioja 2021: Special Report, (accessed December 14, 2021).


alcohol: as a means of wine preservation 14, 16, 22n5, 66, 72, 82n26, 93; content of wine 6, 16, 37, 63, 65–6, 70, 89, 93, 109–10, 123, 138, 140, 163, 179, 189n68, 211; industrially produced 140–2, 157, 166, 185, 199–202, 204–5, 208n14, 221 Alfonso XIII (King) 164 Álvarez, Germán 169, 203 Almanach des Gourmands 29, 39, 47n18, 49 Altos Hornos de Vizcaya (company) 155 Amadeo I (King) 56 Anglade, Frédéric 164 aristocracy 2, 16, 21, 27–32, 48n51, 60, 67–9, 104, 111, 130, 231 Arrasate, Mariano 205 Ashmead-Bartlett, Ellis 183, 190, 190n86 Asimov, Eric 228–30, 231 Asociación de Viticultores de la Rioja (AVR) 199, 201, 208n11, 209 Asociación de Exportadores de Vinos de la Rioja 200 Asociación Nacional de Vinicultores e Industrias derivadas del vino (ANVin) 200 Atkin, Tim 3, 8, 8n3, 9n8, 9n10, 214, 216, 218–19, 223, 233n8, 233n9 Aurrecoechea, José Ángel 166 Azpilicueta Martínez, Félix 184 Banco de Bilbao 155 Banco de Vizcaya 155 Barriobusto 62 Bayonne 19, 51, 92–3, 95, 97–8, 105, 109, 123, 158 Basque Country 2, 6, 14, 19–20, 23n13, 67, 81n9, 84, 104, 114, 185n2, 191 Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) 214

Bellsolá, Ricardo 70, 114 Bilbao 15, 19, 22n3, 72, 75, 102, 130, 137, 155–8, 161, 164–6, 182, 184, 185n2, 185n3, 188n42, 188n48, 190n80, 196, 207, 211 blind wine tasting 212 Bodegas Bilbaínas (winery) xiv,12, 18, 26, 30, 33, 40, 45, 50, 54, 58, 63, 68, 71, 77, 86, 90, 102, 155, 157, 166–7, 169–70, 179, 187n32, 187n35, 188n39, 188n40, 188n44, 188n46, 190, 201, 203, 208n14, 221, 224, 229, 233. Bodegas del Romeral (winery) 184 Bodegas Franco-Españolas (winery) 157, 164–5, 165, 176–7, 203. Bodegas Ollauri (winery) 184 Bodegas Paternina (winery) 181, 184; see also Paternina, Francisco de Bordeaux: barrels 79, 121–2; city 5, 38, 51, 59, 68–9, 72–3, 75, 77, 83n34, 83n36, 83n37, 83n48, 84, 92–5, 114–15, 125, 159–60, 162, 164, 176, 185n4, 192; method see Médoc method; mixture 37, 140; wine 1, 16–17, 38–41, 44, 46, 47n34, 67, 70–1, 74, 81, 82n28, 83n29, 83n30, 83n32, 84, 88, 103, 106–7, 109–10, 112, 116n37, 138, 172, 218–19, 226–7; wine exports 138, 172–3, 182–4, 212; wine production 52–3, 70–1, 80, 84, 156, 159, 212 Bouilhac, L. 16, 22n5, 23 bourgeoisie 2, 5, 21, 22n9, 24, 27–34, 36, 38, 41, 46n9, 49, 74, 83n32, 104, 144, 146, 149, 155, 184, 200, 202–3, 205, 207 Burgundy: region 1, 217, 227; wine 1, 38–41, 44–5, 67, 110, 172, 182, 184, 218–19, 226



Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme 31–2, 39, 47n14, 48n38, 49 Calvo de la Banda, Mayte 221 Cambó, Francesc 201 Campuzano, Joaquín Francisco 125 Canalejas, José 177 Cánovas del Castillo, Antonio 132 Carême, Marie-Antoine 32, 47n16, 49 Carlism/Carlist Wars 20, 42, 54–5, 68, 132, 158, 161 Carnero, Teresa 143, 150n1,150n8, 151n19, 152 Castile 17, 44, 53 Catalonia 46, 145, 162, 201, 204; wines from 14, 167, 221 Catholic Church 13, 19, 51 Chablis see Burgundy Champagne: wine 26, 33, 35, 38, 40, 86, 162, 176, 189n61, 221; wine region 39, 55, 162, 195, 200, 208n3, 224, 226, 230 Chaptal, Jean-Antoine 37, 47n29 Château Lafite 39–41, 71, 74, 231 Château Lanessan 73–5, 80 Château Margaux 39–41, 71, 176, 231 Chianti see wine from Italy clarete (wine) see wine types Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CUNE) 140, 150n11, 155, 157–9, 161–5, 167, 173, 177, 180–1, 186n15, 186n20, 186n22, 188n44, 212 Concierto Económico (Basque fiscal autonomy) 132, 134, 134n27 Confederación Nacional de Viticultores 201, 205 corazón (wine) see Rioja winemaking Corcuera, Eusebio Isidro 161 Cortés, Balbino 83n44, 84, 110, 119, 133n1, 134 Croker, Bithia Mary 183, 190n83, 191 Cuba 159, 176, 183, 190n85, 191; Rioja wine exports to 55, 96, 161, 171, 182 Dawson, Alec John 183, 190n82, 191 Davis, Richard Harding 183, 190n71, 190n84, 191, 192 de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, María Cristina 97, 109 de Figeroa y Torres Mendieta, Álvaro (Count of Romanones) 164, 186–7n24 de la Reynière, Grimod 29, 47n10, 47n18, 49 de Polnay, Peter 183, 190n88, 192

Delbos, Louis 73–4 Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC) 3, 5, 6, 6–7, 8–9, 9n9, 99, 208n23, 221, 233n7; critics of 225–6, 227, 230, 233n25 attempts to create a separate DOC or subdenomination within the Rioja DOC in Alava 213–14 desamortizaciones 13, Diamante (wine) 164–5, 176, 181; see also Bodegas Franco-Españolas Díez de Corral, Luís 201 downy mildew see Plasmopara viticola Duclot, Sixte 162 Ebro (river) 5, 16–17, 19, 45, 62, 129, 137, 139, 143, 149, 157, 206 Echevarria, Genaro 105–6, 116n28 École Supérieure d’Oenologie 37 Egaña, Pedro 8n1, 97–106, 109–15, 116n12, 116n13, 116n14, 116n16, 116n16, 116n17, 116n18, 116n20, 116n22, 116n23, 116n24, 116n25, 116n26, 116n27, 116n28, 116n29, 116n32, 116n33, 116n34, 116n35, 116n36, 116n39, 117, 124, 128, 130–2, 133n22 Eguilaz, Melitón 89, 115n4 El Español (newspaper) 107, 116n31, 117 Elciego 62, 69–70, 76, 79, 81n6, 83n39, 89, 93, 114, 129–30, 139–40, 147, 150n5, 150n10, 152, 166–7, 180 Elvira, José 14–15, 125 Espartero, Baldomero 53–5, 56n8 Estatuto del Vino 202, 206 Estep, Ralph E. 183, 190n85, 191 Evans, Sarah Jane 217–18, 233n10, 233n13, 233n16 Federación Sindicatos Agrícolas Católicos de la Rioja (FSACR) 200–1, 205, 208n16, 209 Fernández, Maite 222, 224, 230, 233 Ferrer, Miguel Rodríguez 109, 116n32 First World War (1914–1918) 167, 169–70, 187n38, 200 Ford, Richard 15, 22n4, 24 Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) 137 fueros 20, 60, 64, 97, 132 Garagarza y Dugiols, Eugenio 64–6, 70–3, 76, 78–81, 81n9, 82n22, 82n27, 83n44, 90–3, 96, 98, 102, 119–21, 123–4, 127–8, 131–2, 133n20

Index García de los Salmones, Nicolás 147, 151n34 Gayon, Ulysse 37 Gehry, Frank 211 Germany 4, 64, 137, 141, 163, 171, 177, 219, 221; wine from 67 Gipuzkoa 15, 19, 64, 82n9, 84, 97, 127, 134n27, 155, 184 Gómez Cruzado (winery) 155 Gortázar, Manuel 75, 83n39, 93–4, 96, 100–3 gourmet (concept) 27, 29, 31–2, 34, 37–9, 41, 46, 59, 70, 89, 97, 103, 107, 115, 130, 138, 156, 176, 180–2, 184, 190n71, 192, 207, 228 grape varieties: Cabernet-Sauvignon 7, 67, 174, 179, 189n58; Garnacha 6, 7, 9n8, 66, 93, 179, 232; Graciano 7, 93, 123, 149, 179, 228–9; Jaén 66, 123; Malbec 174, 179, 189n58; Malvasía 7, 55, 66, 179, 222, 232; Mauzac 67; Mazuelo 7, 66, 149, 179; Merlot 179, ; Picpoul/Piquepoul 67; Pinot Noir 67, 93; Riesling 67; Sémillon blanc 67; Tempranillo 5–6, 7, 44, 55, 66, 93, 149, 175, 179, 222, 226, 228–9,232; Tokay/Furmint 39, 67; Torrontés 7, 66, 179, 222, 232; Verdot 174 Granja Modelo 64, 66, 70, 82n19, 82n27, 104 Grignon Agricultural School 64 Gurpegui (winery) 184 Gutierrez, Luis 9, 9n6, 212, 217, 218, 233n12 Haro 19, 108, 142, 155–63, 166–7, 170, 179, 180, 184, 185n1, 186n14, 186n22, 188n40, 195, 198, 203, 208n13, 208n24, 221; Oenological Station 144, 180 Henderson, Alexander 39, 44, 48n39, 48n54, 49 History and Description of Modern Wines 35, 47n22, 49 Hobsbawm, Eric J. 28, 46n4, 49, 117n41 Hurtado de Amézaga y Balmaseda, Camilo 67–8, 82n21, 82n22, 84, 116n40, 117 Hurtado de Amézaga y Zubia, Guillermo 67–8, 82n21 industrialization 5, 89, 114, 155–6, 164, 166–7, 169, 199 Isabella II (Queen) 1–2, 4, 51, 54, 87, 97, 104, 109–10, 115


Italy 3, 170, 175, 208n3, 209; wine from 137, 176 Jullien, André 34–5, 38, 40, 44, 47n20, 47n21, 48n34, 48n43, 48n53, 48n57, 49, 7483n33, 84 Kitchiner, William 31, 46n5, 47n12, 49 La Época (newspaper) 107, 116n30, 117 La Gloriosa (1868 revolution) 132 La Iberia (newspaper) 106–7, 116n28, 116n31, 117 La Rioja Alta (winery) 155 Labastida 51–3, 60, 62, 65, 75–6, 79, 83n38, 83n39, 93, 128–9, 133n12, 138, 147, 166 Labraza 62 lágrima (wine) see Rioja winemaking Laguardia 60, 63–4, 69, 76, 78, 81, 83n39, 88, 93–4, 100–1, 134n26, 140, 147, 150n10, 169, 188n42, 211, 217, 222 Lagunilla, Felipe 198 Logroño: city 9, 9n9, 22n3, 23, 23n9, 54–6, 56n4, 57, 70, 114, 157, 164, 170, 179, 185n5, 186n23, 187n24, 191, 196, 200, 204–5, 208n13; current province of La Rioja 14, 17–18, 21, 23, 23n10, 24, 55, 100, 124–5, 133n11, 133n12, 134, 138–9, 140, 144–5, 147, 149, 150n3, 151n21, 153, 156, 166, 173, 176, 181, 187n35, 188n40, 188n46, 191, 198, 206; chamber of commerce 170, 188n47, 191, 200, 203 Lépine, Alexis 164 López de Heredia/Viña Tondonia (winery) 108, 111, 114, 118, 122, 129, 136, 141, 146, 154, 155, 157–61, 160, 162, 165, 172, 177, 178, 185n7, 186n9, 186n14, 191, 194, 200, 204, 210, 212, 215, 219, 221–2, 226, 230, López de Heredia, María José, 185n8, 220–1, 223–4, 227–9, 233n20, 233n27, 233n33 López de Heredia, Rafael 108, 158 López de Lacalle, Juan Carlos 222–3, 225, 227, 229, 233n26, 233n30, 233n36 Lumen (sparkling wine) 33, 40, 86, 167, 188n39, 221; see also Bodegas Bilbaínas Madrid 5, 14, 43–4, 46, 48n51, 49, 55, 56n8, 68–9, 87–9, 98, 100–5, 112–13,



116n17, 116n20, 116n20, 116n23, 116n24, 116n26, 116n28, 116n33, 116n38, 119, 124, 126, 130, 132, 138, 150n5, 165, 175, 184, 204–5, 207, 215 Madrid-Irún railway 15, 72 marketing 36, 98, 114, 130–1, 149, 155, 160, 164, 168, 180, 185n6, 217, 219, 222–3, 228, 231 Marcelino, Arturo 195 Marqués de Murrieta (winery) 165, 200, 212; see also Ygay (wine estate) Martínez Lacuesta, Félix 146, 158, 195 Medoc Alavés 133n12; Médoc method 75–6, 126, 168, 178–80 Medoc see Bordeaux (wine) Mendoza, Abel 222, 224–5, 230–1, 233n24, 233n28, 233n37 Metternich, Klemens von 67 Migueloa, José María 62, 64–5, 67, 69, 81n7, 211 Miranda del Ebro 15, 72 Monopole (wine) 163; see also CUNE Murrieta, Luciano 53–6, 56n4, 56n8, 57, 59, 65, 139, 156–7, 159, 211–12; see also Marqués de Murrieta Narváez, Ramón María 54 Navarre: province 2, 6, 17–18, 19, 23n13, 23n14, 72, 92, 129, 139, 143–4, 147, 149; wine from 45, 63, 70, 96, 109, 139, 205–6, 209n33, 211, 214 O’Donnell, Leopoldo 69 Olano, José María 65, 67, 82n19, 83n39, 93–4, 96, 102–3 Oñate, Atanasio de 104, 116n25 Ortiz de Zárate, Ramón 23n10, 72–3, 76, 78–9, 83n34, 83n37, 83n38, 83n42, 83n44, 83n47, 89, 92, 97, 105, 115n7, 116n27, 116n28, 132 Pan-Montojo, Juan 22n8, 24, 81n4, 84, 115n1, 117, 143, 150n2, 150n17, 151n20, 152, 188n41, 192 Parker, Robert 212, 217, 222, 232n4, Pasteur, Louis 37, 47n30 Paternina, Francisco de 65, 75–6, 83n38, 83n39, 128–9, 139, 181, 208n24 peasantry 18, 21, 33, 41, 195–6, 198, 208n7, 209 Perré, Louis 162 Phylloxera vastatrix (phylloxera plague) 5, 132, 137–8, 142–3, 148, 148–9,

156–7, 164, 166–7, 169, 172–3, 177, 182, 186n15, 195–6, 198–9, 207n3; efforts to combat 143–8 Pineau, Jean “Cadiche” 73–7, 80–1, 83n34, 83n35, 83n47, 87–9, 95–6, 98, 100–2, 119–20, 128, 130–2, 134, 134n25, 156 Pinilla, Diego 221, 224, 229, 233n22 Plasmopara viticola (downy mildew) 139 Pobes, Galo 56n1, 57, 93, 133n12, 134, 138–9, 208n24 powdery mildew see Uncinula necator Primo de Rivera, Miguel 201, 205 proletarianization 18, 196, 208n7 Quintano, Manuel Esteban 51–3, 56n1, 56n2, 57, 59–60, 65, 79, 113, 133n12, 134, 211 Ramón Bilbao (winery) 183 Raventós Codorniu (winery) 221, 233n21 Raventós, Manuel 159–60, 163, 186n10, 186n14, 186n19, 186n21, 186n22, 192 Real de Asúa, Eusebio 161–2 Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País 13, 22n2, 23, 52 Redding, Cyrus 35–6, 38–9, 41, 44, 47n22, 47n23, 49 Ribera del Duero wine 218–19 Rioja: climate 66, 75, 161, 179, 205, 222–3, 226–9, 231–2; geography 2, 206, 222–3, 226; infrastructure 15, 63, 72, 100, 129, 155, 170; province see Logroño Rioja espumoso (sparkling wine) 162–3 Rioja sub-regions 6; Rioja Alta 155–6, 169, 186n13, 187n34, 192, 195, 202, 206, 222; Rioja Alavesa 14, 19, 22n2, 23, 61, 64–7, 69–70, 74–6, 78, 82n22, 87–8, 92, 96, 103, 106–7, 113, 115, 119–20, 123, 129, 131, 140, 143, 150n3, 150n6, 151n35, 153, 167, 169, 179–80, 196, 206, 208n6, 209, 212, 214, 222; Rioja Oriental 169, 206 Rioja wine: awards won by 55–6, 73, 92, 94–8, 105, 109, 112, 115n10, 116n10, 123, 125, 133n13, 138–9, 163, 211–12, 222; classification 8 critics of classification categories 213–24, 218, 226–7, 232; mixing with Bordeaux 173, 175, 177 price 3, 8, 13–14, 17, 53, 88, 91, 103, 107, 112, 115, 124, 126–7, 139– 42, 148, 160, 165, 168–70, 174, 176, 183, 186n13, 188n44, 199–200, 202–3,

Index 205, 213, 221, 231 ; debates on 19, 53, 175, 213, 218, 223, 225–8 overproduction 13–14, 17, 19, 51, 59–60, 62, 142–3, 157, 167, 169–70, 184–5, 198–9, 203, 231 exportation 3–4, 8, 14, 22n5, 45–6, 109, 123, 125, 127, 137–8, 158, 163–5, 165, 170–1, 171, 173–5, 177, 188n47, 188n48, 189n49, 192, 200, 203, 216, 220–1 social conflict around 5, 53, 144, 151n24, 167, 169, 185, 187n36, 195–206 Rioja winemaking: instruments used in 15, 52, 72, 77–8, 80, 121–2, 127, 133n18; traditional method of 6, 14–17 Viñedos Singulares (Singular Vineyards) 214, 229 Robinson, Jancis 217–20, 228, 233n11 Rochelt, José Alejandro 162–3 Roudié, Philippe 138, 150n4, 150n15, 153 Ruiz de Castillo, Felipe 205–6, 208n24 Saénz de Samaniego, Gonzalo 221–2, 224, 229, 233n23, 233n35 Salamero, Fernando 220–1, 223, 229, 233n18, 233n19 Salinillas 61, 76, 83n39 Samaniego 65, 67, 76, 82n19, 83n29, 93, 221 Santiago, Ángel 157 sharecropping 195 sherry wine 38, 42–3, 46 Sommellier’s Handbook 34, 47n20, 49 Sotés, Valentín 63–5, 67, 69, 81n7, 211, Spain and the Spaniards 44, 48n58, 49 Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) 170, 188n48, 207 Spanish First Republic (1873–1874) 132 Spanish Second Republic (1931–1939) 143, 167, 186n17, 202, 206–7, 215 stages of wine production: harvest 2, 14–15, 17, 22n3, 44, 61–2, 63, 75–7, 88–9, 91–2, 110, 111, 114, 118, 120, 122, 128, 129, 132, 136, 142, 168, 172, 194, 204, 213, 221, 230; fermentation 15–16, 37, 52–3, 61, 66, 80, 87, 121, 159, 174, 180, 228, 232; racking 16, 34, 52, 61, 76, 80, 91, 96, 101, 107, 113, 121–3, 126–7, 131, 139, 168, 219 ; ageing 87, 93, 101, 113, 121, 123–8, 131, 168, 171, 180–1, 183, 218, 224; bottling 26, 30, 33, 65, 95, 100, 122–3, 133n7, 158, 168, 179, 185n8


Station Agronomique et Oenologique 37 Suckling, James 212, 232n2, 232n3 sulfurization 16–17, 19, 22n8, 80, 87–8, 92, 121 Superior Council of Agriculture 143 Tablada, Hidalgo 16, 22n7, 24 Telmo Rodríguez (winery) 212 terroir 214, 217, 223, 225–7, 229 The Art of French Cuisine 32 The Cook’s Oracle 31, 46n5, 49 The History of Ancient and Modern Wines 39, 48n39, 49 The Physiology of Taste 31 Tolosa 64 Tonelería Mecánica (cask making company) 170 Torrecilla, Gregorio 100, 102–6, 113, 116n17, 116n18, 116n20, 116n22, 116n23, 116n24, 116n26, 116n29, 116n39, 123, 125–6, 128, 130, 133n3, 133n7, 133n10, 133n12, 133n18, 134 Traité théorique et pratique sur la culture de la vigne 37 Tudela 15, 72, 129 Uncinula necator (powdery mildew) 17, 19, 37, 62–3, 87–8, 120 Unió de Vinyaters de Catalunya 201, 204 United Kingdom 1, 4, 15, 35–6, 38–9, 41, 43–4, 54, 69, 104, 130, 143, 183; Rioja wine exports to 3, 45, 52, 160–1, 163, 171, 172–3, 177, 180, 182–3, 188n47, 221 United States of America 31, 178, 189n55, 192; Rioja wine exports to 3, 173, 176–7, 182 Ugarte, Santiago 166, 188n46, 203, 208n14 Valdepeñas (wine) 5, 43–6, 48n51, 49, 166, 172, 174, 176–7, 181–2 Verástegui, Valentín 14–15, 22n2, 61 vino de trujal see Rioja winemaking vino de prensa see Rioja winemaking Viña Pomal (wine brand) 166, 187n34, 192, 221; see also Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Real (wine brand) 163; see also CUNE Viña Todonia see López de Heredia (winery) War of Spanish Independence (1808–1814) 53



Widdrington, Samuel Edward 43, 48n58, 49 wine fraud: adulteration 140–2, 156, 185, 200; counterfeiting 91, 95–6, 98, 112, 115, 168, 185, 199–200, 202–3, 207 wine merchants 44, 73, 120, 123, 127, 130, 137, 140, 147, 156–7, 161–2, 173–5, 178, 182, 195, 199, 203 wine types: clarete 163, 173–7, 181, 183; fortified 38, 42–3, 46, 55, 65; red 1, 5, 7, 8, 36, 39–44, 46, 65, 67, 133n7, 160, 163, 168, 172–7, 179, 182–3, 186n13,

189n58, 208n3, 209, 212, 221, 224; white 5, 7, 15, 35, 38–9, 65, 67, 133n7, 160, 163–4, 168, 173, 176, 179, 181–3, 208n3, 209, 212, 219, 221–2, 232 Yécora 76, 83n39, 89 Ygay (wine estate) 56, 56n8, 212; see also Marqués de Murrieta (winery) Zavala y Guzmán, Juana 69 Zweifel, Alfred 173, 189n51, 193