The survival of a Spanish family vineyard saves ungrafted hundred-year-old vines


A secret vineyard garden sits 2,300 feet and above elevation in a small wine region called Almansa in Spain, surrounded by limestone mountains called El Mugrón that protect old, dry-grown bush vines that are not grafted. because it is a place that is quite isolated from anything from the outside world. Ungrafted vines are still a remarkable sight in Europe given that European vineyards have been almost completely wiped out by an American pest called phylloxera, which is why many European vines are grafted onto American rootstocks to combat it. The soils of Almansa are mainly composed of limestone and they are poor in nutrients and the combination of such a soil with an arid and cooler climate makes it difficult to grow anything other than cereals, olive trees, almond trees and almond trees. low-yielding vineyards.

It’s a city that is often overlooked when driving from Valencia on the central east coast to the city of Madrid without anyone knowing that in their rearview mirror is a specially designated wine region that specializes in in this unique dominant red grape. varieties such as Garnacha Tintorera (called Alicante Bouschet in France) and Monastrell (called Mourvèdre in France). But if the history of European wine has taught the world of wine anything, it is that many wine regions were never fully discovered because there was not a strong enough transport infrastructure to help them. Getting their wines to the markets of major cities and wine regions that became popular early on were able to build vital infrastructure for vital markets.

It is amazing that these old bush vineyards were able to survive in a small demarcated wine region in Spain that had no fast track to glory, especially since the European Union was paying vineyard owners to uproot their vines because there was a surplus European wine – combined with these low yielding vines it is difficult to make a living when they are tragically blended into bulk wine; even the Spanish Civil War of the mid to late 1930s played a role as many wine producers in the small town of Almansa either died during the war or were among the hundreds of thousands who went missing during and after that moment. Yet one family was able to go on and keep these old bush vines alive: Bodegas Piqueras.

Bodegas Piqueras

Luis Piqueras started making “pitcher wine” for his neighbors in 1915 and he was one of the few locals who had the good fortune to make a lot of money in the late 1920s and was therefore able to buy a large lot. where he would build a modern cellar over time. Luis’s son-in-law, Mario Bonete, continued to study winemaking and today, Mario’s son, Luis’s grandson, Juan Pablo Bonete Piqueras runs the winery with his brother who continues to strive to put in value these vineyards so that they will survive for generations to come. As Juan Pablo (known as JP1) stood in his tasting room surrounded by black and white photos of his grandfather and father, he said his father, Mario, created the Almansa DO in the 1960s to ensure that it was recognized as a quality vineyard. “In fact, my father was president of the OD for over 18 years and I was also president of the OD for eight years,” Juan Pablo said with pride as it is a family mission to maintain the wine region. Almansa alive. with his brother, his nephews and soon his son joining the fight. And given that there are only 12 wineries that are part of the DO and 750 winemakers with Piqueras producing over 80% of the DO Almansa wines, if Piqueras decided to go out of business it would have a massive negative effect. on the region.

Bodegas Piqueras winemaker Juan P. Cantos, affectionately known as JP2, is another who has joined the fight after spending many years learning from other wineries in Spain, as well as harvesting to refine his white wine-making skills. in New Zealand, and he even won a competition to become a wine student at the legendary Spanish winery Vega Sicilia. Interestingly enough, he was born in Almansa, but his wine dreams took him to other places until four years ago when he decided to return home mainly because of his family and friends. , but he found out on his return that there was a wealth of old bushes. Vines of Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera.

Juan Cantos knows full well that the red Monastrell grape is not only more famous from the southern Rhône (Mourvèdre) but also from other regions of Spain such as Jumilla and Yecla – the latter being a wine region in which he has worked before. , and that Garnacha Tintorera a.k.a. Alicante Bouschet is a rare red variety from southern France with red flesh as well as dark skins, but has recently made a name for itself in southern Portugal, its oft-proclaimed adopted country. But Juan Cantos argues to those who love these grapes, and those who are curious about them, that the Almansa wine region is a place not to be missed, but getting this message across is difficult because their budget as a wine region is severely limited due to the fact that there are only a handful of wine producers in the region.

Wealth of old vines in a modest wine region

Bodegas Piqueras makes a few different lines of wine and the ‘Almansa Castle‘is the most widespread; they can be found in the United States from $ 12 to $ 15 and although they are their mid-level wines, they still contain Monastrell and Garnacha Tintorera from 45 to 65 years old, with the “Selección ”Containing 65 Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera and Tempranillo to 90 year old dry grown ungrafted bush vines. Then their range of high-end wines is called Piqueras, like their “Piqueras VS” which contains 50% Monastrell and 50% Garnacha Tintorera from ungrafted dry-cultivated bush vines that are over a century old, and the VS is such a popular wine that it is the only one that Juan Cantos and Juan Pablo Bonete Piqueras sign. Juan Cantos has worked on some fun projects such as the white wine ‘Piqueras Wild Fermented Verdejo’ and the new ‘Los Losares’ which are two different single varietal wines from a single 3,000 foot elevation vineyard containing a soil stone. with vines over 80 years old; there are two bottlings, only 6000 bottles each, one is from the old dry grown ungrafted bush vines of Monastrell and the other with Garnacha Tintorera.

It is always difficult to publicize these special vines that are off the beaten track, nestled in this limestone mountainous region of Almansa, but at least there is a producer like Bodegas Piqueras who has been able to guarantee a salary for these farmers year after year. for over a century; if it weren’t for Piqueras, potentially all those old, ungrafted vines and a way of life that involves traditional viticulture techniques would be lost as other places in the world are certainly much more famous and may demand higher prices. high, unlike the unknown Almansa. And to think about it, it all boils down to one day, the day founder Luis Piqueras bought a lottery ticket for eight pesetas and he ended up winning the equivalent of $ 50,000. This not only changed everything for the home winemaker to invest in building a professional winery, but it changed the share price that could have taken place for the entire wine area as the farming families would have to pluck up those precious vines just so they could put food on the table. And it is normal that a woman who runs their administrative office in logistics is the granddaughter of the man who sold that ticket to Luis. A moment that changed the future lives of so many people, but this community still hopes to take it to the next level … where the world will recognize the value they bring to the world of wine.

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