jueves, 12 de febrero de 2015

Pedro Benito Urbina - The Winemaker's Hand (La Rioja - Spain)


"The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir" was recently published by Columbia University Press. The book is both beautiful and interesting. It is an ideal gift to share with friends, family, business contacts, and customers, you can order directly through Columbia University Press (cup.columbia.edu) in the United States, Canada, and most of Latin America, the Caribbean, and East Asia

In a series of fascinating interviews, winemakers from the United States and abroad clarify the complex process of converting grapes into wine. More than forty vintners candidly discuss how talent, passion, and experience shape their individual wines.

Natalie Berkowitz speaks to winemakers who work in diverse wine-producing regions, including Chile, England, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, and the United States. Each winemaker details a personal approach to the steps required to convert grapes into wine. These experts reveal their experiences with many grape varietals, their struggles with local terroirs, and the vagaries of Mother Nature. Some represent small family wineries with limited production; others work for corporations, producing hundreds of thousands of bottles. Together they provide rare insights into how new technologies are revolutionizing traditional winemaking practices. The interviews are supplemented with personal recipes and maps of winemaking regions. Moreover, an aroma wheel captures the vast array of wine’s complex flavors and aromas.

- Publication Date: June 2014
- ISBN: 9780231167567
- Author: Natalie Berkowitz
- Pages: 336; Illustrations: 43; Format: Hardcover
- Average Price: $27.95


“For those who are serious about understanding the essence of fine wine, The Winemaker's Handisamust. Through this book wine lovers can travel, at least vicariously, to important wine regions and experience the dedication and passion of vintners. Special wines come from special places, made by special people. This book is special too—worthy of its subject and deserving of your attention. Savor it as you would the wines of the talented enologists who inspire its story.” - ANTHONY VERDONI, “The Wine Professor,” and host of Eat Drink Italy with Vic Rallo.

“These interviews with winemakers from all over the world present an irresistible opportunity for other winemakers, students of winemaking, and wine lovers in general to get inside their hesads. Natalie Berkowitz has these fascinating people talking informally about their diverse paths to winemaking and what influences their winemaking deciions and preferences. An insider´s look at a life that many would envy.” - MICHAELA RODENO, co-owner,Villa Ragazzi Winery, and former CEO of St. Supéry Winery.

“Berkowitz provides compelling and authoritative in-depth research and interviews with top winemakers from all over the world. A dialogue with each winemaker is an intimate look at the individual nature of winemaking, along with the artistry and passion it takes to create world-class wines.” - JACK DANIELS, president and founder, Wilson Darnels.

“A unique book. I learned why certain wines are my favorites and constantly stand out from all others.” - ROBERT GUTENSTEIN, Member of the Council of the International Wine and Food Society and former president of The Wine and Food Society-New York.

“Few, if any, wine writers have devoted as much time and care as Berkowitz to clarifying the disparate paths to memorable wines from around the world that result from a winemakers skill, emotions, and intelligence.” - ARMAND GILINSKY, Sonoma State University.


Natalie Berkowitz is a wine, food, and lifestyle writer. Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and many other publications. She is also the author of the wine blog Winealicious and formerly taught a wine appreciation course to seniors at Barnard College and Columbia University.


Spain is europe’s third largest country and has more acreage under grape cultivation than any country in the world. The country’s diverse landscape produces a panoply of whites, reds, sherries and other fortified dessert wines, and Cava (the Spanish sparkling wine). Although many of Spain’s wines are sold at home, they are also exported to many countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. Russia and Italy are new, important customers.

Food and wine have been braided into Spanish life for centuries. The history of winemaking across the Iberian Peninsula has much in common with the long, complicated tale of conquest and trade that spread knowledge of viticulture and vinification. Phoenicians in eleventh century B.C. are considered to have started winemaking in Rioja. Many vineyards were founded during the Roman occupation of the peninsula. A Moslem ban against alcohol existed during the Moorish occupation from the eighth century to the fifteenth, although vineyards supplied table grapes and wine for commercial trade with non-Muslim neighbors. After Isabella and Ferdinand expelled the Moslems in 1492, the country reverted to Catholicism and winemaking rebounded. The ships of Christopher Columbus and Magellan carried wine for their sailors on long voyages of exploration.

In the 1860’s, French vintners, crushed by a phylloxera outbreak, brought their winemaking skills across the border to Spain. In recent times, the quality of Spanish wines went through its ups and downs, but the country entered the competitive fray of wine production, raising standards with modern techniques in vineyards and cellars in the late twentieth century. As Spain’s wines gained international recognition, Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Zaha Hadid designed avant-garde wineries that are juxtaposed with medieval palaces, churches, and monasteries.


La Rioja in northern Spain has the most name recognition of the country’s sixty-eight wine regions. Its reputation outweighs the limitations of its small geographical size. Rioja’s population runs to around a quarter of a million people. Around 500 wineries with small production, most comprising around 1 hectare, are handed down in a family for generations. Many small vineyard owners have a long-standing tradition of selling their red and white grapes to large cooperatives, called bodegas.

Rioja is divided into three regions: Alta to the north, Baja in the south, and Alavesa, which is sandwiched in the middle. The Ebro River divides the areas from each other. Winemakers have fifty native varieties, along with relatively new varietals like Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but Tempranillo is unquestionably the backbone of Spanish wines. Red wines dominate whites in production. Rioja is best known for Tempranillo-based wines, the varietal many Americans associate with Spanish wine. It is Spain´s noble grape, the foremost varietal in full-bodied tintos, the country’s best red wines. Tempranillo, which means “early ripening,” is considered to be an adaptation of Pinot noir brought by monks to Spain centuries ago. Rioja reds are blends of 60 percent Tempranillo and up to 20 percent of Garnacha, with smaller proportions of local Mazuelo and Graciano for good aging potential. Garnacha adds body and alcohol, Mazuelo provides additional flavors, and Graciano contributes aromas. White Riojas or Blancos are blends of Viura, Malvasia, and Garnacha blanca. In 1970 the Regulations for Denominación de Origen were approved, and in the early 1990s many Riojas were awarded the valued Calificada (DOCa).

At fine wineries, grapes in Rioja are primarily hand-harvested and go through a double selection to start the winemaking process. Joven, or young, wines are usually drunk early and are often the muy delicioso wine for Sangria. Crianza and Reserva wines spend a short time in barrel. Gran Reservas, selected from the best vintages, become more complex after two years in oak.


Pedro Urbina Sáez owes his perfect English to the five years he lived in Mendocino, California. The winemaker’s graduation from Ukiah High School was followed by a degree in business administration at San Francisco State. He attended viticulture classes and worked part time at the Fry Ranch for a year. He says,

Fry is a small winery, the first to be certified organic and biodynamic in the States. When I was young, I wasn't interested in making viticulture my career. But once I began, I enjoyed dealing with the world's oldest beverage. Winemaking is all about history and nature. Every new day is an adventure, and the constant contact with nature captivates me. Working with nature is like a religious experience. I tell everyone to pay attention to nature. Horses in a stable lose their instinct and are different from wild horses. Humans, like horses, need to use their instincts and common sense to deal with nature.

No one knows where and how humans first drank wine. Perhaps they were encouraged by watching animals get drunk on ripe grapes. We do know that Spanish wines have been famous since Roman times. Phylloxera sapped the vigor of French vines in the late nineteenth century and practically destroyed the industry in France. Many bankrupted French vignerons emigrated to Spain. They settled in Rioja and had a profound influence on Spanish winemaking. Before then, Spanish vintners picked grapes well before ripening and often blended red and white grapes together. Old traditions gave way to new techniques that raised the level of Spanish wines.

The French chose the terroirs for their new vineyards very well. Mountains in the north and south moderate the climate. Cool nights during August and September are an important factor in ripening grapes. The soil in the area is clay with a mix of limestone and sandstone. A high content of iron and chalk contributes to the reddish color in the soil. Some sources suggest the area is known as Rioja, since rioja is Spanish for “red,” although it may be named for the nearby river, the Rio Oja.

In the old days, customers came to wineries or bars and transferred wine from barrels to leather bags. It was the way we sold wine at our old winery, which began its life in a mountain cave. A cave was the only way to find cool temperatures needed to control fermentation in large vats. Then the winery moved to a garage, where wine was made in concrete vats. Bodegas Pedro Benito Urbina began bottling and labeling only thirty years ago. Modern equipment improves the standards at our family-owned, single-estate winery. Today we utilize many modern practices to produce a wide spectrum of wine that meets the demands of our customers.

Making wine today is a fashionable industry. Investors in countless regions want to make wine. It's possible for newcomers to read all the viticulture books and do the analysis, but the immense number of variables requires a well-honed instinct. A book cant tell a winemaker when to pick. I can buy new land and use American and Australian toys of technical equipment to test the land for nutrients in the soil. I find it more useful to go to the local bar and listen to the old winemakers. Using intuition and paying attention to our ancestors is key to good wine, but we adapted some new ideas. We farm organically, without pesticides and use natural rather than commercial yeasts. Stainless steel tanks are sanitary and the best technique to control temperature during fermentation.

Our credo is to sell happiness and to achieve that we work together in harmony without any disagreements. It isn’t easy to make good wine, but we do it. We believe wine is a liquid expression of a particular place. We take pride in the fact that our style of wine derives from three factors — the vineyard's terroir with fantastic weather, the right choice of grapes, and the winemaker’s intentions. Our wines are handcrafted to our particular style from vines that range from thirty-five to forty years of age. Some are merely eighteen to twenty years old, and then there are newer ones added to the mix. Our results can’t be imitated.

We produce several styles of wines: a red Crianza for our classic Rioja blend. A second Urbina Crianza Selección is aged in new oak barrels for twelve months. We produce a 100 percent red Granache made with carbonic maceration, plus an Urbina red Reserva of 100 percent Tempranillo aged in French oak for sixteen months, blended together with a second red Reserva of 100 percent Tempranillo aged in French Allier oak for sixteen months. The red Gran Reserva is again made with the three traditional Rioja red grapes aged for twenty-four months in too percent American oak barrels. All of Rioja’s terroir shows up in small amounts of white wine made from a neutral grape without complexity, usually used for Cava. The winery’s total production is 240,000 bottles. Young, or joven, unoaked wines and Crianza or oaked wines are both great value. Reservas and Grand Reservas from superior old vines with long aging in bottles are more expensive but priced within reason. The cost of a wine represents the work behind a bottle. The best wine values today come from Spain, as many wine lovers have learned.


4 large or 8 small lamb steaks; 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped; 2 tbsp olive oil; 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano; 1 cup couscous; 1 cup hot vegetable stock; Handful chopped fresh herbs: coriander, parsley, mint, salt and fresh ground black pepper. (Serves 4).

Cooks's tip: You can vary the flavor of this dish by using different herbs to marinate the lamb, such as rosemary, basil, or mint.

Place the lamb steaks in a shallow, nonmetallic bowl. Mix the garlic, oil, and oregano together and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the lamb steak and turn to coat in the mixture cover and set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the couscous in a bowl and pour over the vegetable stock. Let stand for 10 minutes. Heat a griddle pan until hot Remove the lamb steaks from the marinade and lay them on the griddle pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side, until just slightly pink in the centre. Stir the herbs into the couscous and divide between four serving plates. Place the lamb steaks on top. Pour the marinade into the pan and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Pour over the lamb and couscous to serve.

Serve with Urbina Reserva 2001 with a traditional Sunday lunch or with roast lamb, chicken, or duck. A great match with roast turkey and all the trimmings at Christmas.

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