This past week Enrique Olmedo joined me for an event and helped to host a luncheon featuring the wines from Bodegas Manzanos, which is located in Rioja, Spain. Selected wines from several of the properties or labels under the Manzanos labels were featured.
There is a long history with Bodegas Manzanos (see the website for full details) with the original winery being founded in 1801. The group now has estates, vineyards and holdings across Rioja and Navarra (located just to the east of Rioja), and in general produce many wines of very traditional styling. One of the things I learned from Enrique in our conversation was that they currently have vintages of Gran Reserva dating back to 1947 - yeah - 77 years! I have said many times that I believe Gran Reserva Rioja to be one of the singular best value wine categories in the entire wine world. You can routinely find current and library vintages that are not expensive - like seriously not expensive - especially when you take into account the age, the drinkability, and general fantastic style of these wines. Gran Reservas are aged a minimum of 5 years in a combination of wood and bottle prior to release, but this is only a minimum. The current Manzanos Gran Reserva is from 2015, and is delicious - but retail on this 9 year old wine is about $35. You don't get that from California, Bordeaux, Italy - anywhere really. Pro tip - get some Rioja Gran Reserva.
As a side note, we tasted wines at the event from Navarra under the Las Campanas label, and from Rioja under the Bercero and Manzanos labels. At the conclusion of the event I sat with Enrique and he was kind enough to give me a few minutes to answer 5 Questions...
Before we get started, tell me how you got your start in the wine business...
Actually, my first job in the wine business was as an intern working in Warsaw, Poland for the Spanish Embassy, there, and I was in charge of the Food and Beverage Department. We were in the embassy in the Economic Chamber. It was helping Spanish companies to make business in Poland, in general. I was in charge of food and beverage, and it was mostly wine. We organized a lot of wine tastings and trade shows for Spanish wineries in Poland. So that was my first experience in the wine business. Then I went to Chile, and then later I started working for Manzanos - they wanted people to work in the U.S.
Ok, that is the first time I have ever had someone tell me they started in the wine business in Poland - that's interesting.
Have you had any formal wine training, such as WSET, Masters of Wine courses, or similar - or have you just learned as you have worked?
Not really. I just learned along the way. I was passionate since I was pretty young and I learned by myself.
Did you ever work in restaurants or wine shops or anything connected to the wine business before going to Poland and working that government internship?
Not really. I had worked very occasionally in my home town but it was really in the tastings in Poland that I learned about wines and then along the way.
Outside of Rioja, where you/your winery is based, is there a style or type of wine that you like personally?
Outside of Rioja, I really like Jumilla in southeast Spain. Also, I like Priorat.
Anything outside of Spain?
I really like Malbecs. Chilean wines such as good Carménère. I was living there so I became fond of them.
So Malbec and Carménère are interesting because they are not super mainstream, at least here in the U.S. Obviously Malbec is more popular and we sell a good amount, but with Carménère we sell less by far. What do you like about Carménère? Is it something you can relate back to wines from Spain or is it because of a unique identity?
So, it is very unique, and to be honest I really like the story of how they thought is was extinct, but then they realized a lot of their Merlot was actually Carménère.
Thinking of your personal tastes, outside of your portfolio, on a Tuesday night - what do you like to drink?
I don't want to sound too nationalistic, but to be honest I really like to stick with what is grown in Spain. Any region really. Depending on my mood, I like wines sometimes from Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Jumilla, as I said before.
You have a lot of great wines in Spain - you don't have to apologize...
Not much is available in the U.S., but Granada wines (DOP in the south of Spain in the region of Andalusia) I really go for. High altitude wines and they are delicious local production. If you can find one they are really delicious.
How about cocktails? Spain is famous for cocktails - do you go for them, ever?
Yeah, I stick with classics. My cocktail go-to would be a gin and tonic. Now. I am getting used to the espresso martinis (you and everybody else) here in the U.S.
So not the Tuesday night wine, but in the past six months or so, what is the most memorable wine you have tasted? Anything stand out for being exceptional, rare, older, or just unique?
Yeah, yeah...we have wines from Manzanos from 1947 to 1989. Not every vintage, of course, but we have many older vintages. All in the Gran Reserva category.
You sell those? I'd like to get that list...
Yes, we even submitted the 1961 to Wine Enthusiast and receive 96 point, so that gives you a reference.
So, you have tasted some of these?
Yes, I tasted that one - the 1961. Phenomenal.
So at this point that would be 63 years old - that is pretty cool to get to taste something that old and from a completely different era.
Yes, pretty amazing.
Ok, that's it - thank you very much.
I really appreciate you taking some time and giving me a chance to learn about you and the wines, as well as attending the event today.
As a side note, a few facts about the wines from Granada, or as they are officially referred to...
D.O Vinos de Calidad de Granada
Authorized varieties for DOP Granada Wine:
ABOUT THE Author
Brian Mitchell runs The New England Wine Academy, and is responsible for the content of this blog. With 30 years of drinks industry experience, Brian has learned a few things, but everyday he is learning more. This blog helps to bring that knowledge to you.