The wine and its autor
Monte Real Gran Reserva 2004 is the result, as are all Gran Reserva wines, of a great vintage —an excellent vintage. “I vividly remember,” recalls the winemaker, “that 2004 was a record year. We had abundant rainfall and snow in the winter. During the growing cycle we had perfect temperaturas the whole time; little rainfall and hence very few health problems. And the icing on the cake was that there was very little rainfall during the ripening period too, with very sunny days and cool nights. The climate was ideal.” The grapes, 100% Tempranillo, came from vines of over a hundred years old around Cenicero. The winemaking process took the classic approach, with the destemmed, crushed grapes being treated with long macerations and new fermentation and control technologies. The wine was aged for between 24 and 30 months in second wine American oak barrels with regular racking when required. Once bottled, it rested for 36 months in the winery’s finest ‘cemeteries’ with barely any changes in temperature between winter and summer. “The result is a wine with a deep cherry red colour and a terracottarim with powerful, characteristic wine aromas with excellent oaky notes. It has a sensual, tasty, well-bodied structure in the mouth. The final impression is one of opulence, extending into a magnificent finish with a lingering aftertaste,” says Emilio Sojo.
By Antonio Egido
Emilio Sojo Nalda (Cenicero, 1963) says “I’ve had a relationship with wine since I was very young, as I come from a family that has always been closely involved with the winery. By the time I was four I was already playing among the vines, which I returned to at the age of 14 to work on the harvest, and when I came back from military service I spent almost a year working in the wine industry.” In between times, Emilio Sojo recalls that he wentto the Jesuit school to follow a vocational training course as an industrial draughtsman. After military service and a year in the fields, he started work as a labourer at Bodegas Riojanas, “taking the waste from the presses out by forklift truck.” That was in 1984. After holding a range of different jobs, in 1987 he started working with his uncle, Felipe Nalda, and studied Oenology at the current School of Arts and Crafts, rounding off his education with a couple of Masters. The fact that he worked in the vineyards before going into the winery gave him “a well-grounded training and made me understand that the wine is in the grape, and what we do is try to ensure that the wine reaches its culmination with the least possible intervention from the winemaker.” Since 2004 has been the winemaker at Bodegas Riojanas, with the invaluable assistance in the laboratory of Marta Nalda and Pablo Orío, head of the R&D department.
• What made you decide to work in the world of wine?
– I’ve always loved the vineyards, and the rest just came about when I started working at the winery and helping my uncle Felipe.
• How would you define a good winemaker?
– Someone who dedicates their body and soul to working on the land and in the winery to produce a quality product for consumers.
• Which is your favourite word in the wine lexicon?
– Winemaker. It covers everything.
• Which do you prefer, classic or modern wines?
– Both, both!
• Which wine brings back the best memories?
– I’ve got very good memories of the !rst Gran Albina we made in 1996 which was made with a lot of TLC and a very delicate process, so you end up becoming very fond of it, especially if the end result is good.
• The best wine you’ve ever uncorked?
– I remember a white, semi-sweet Gran Reserva from the 1950s that we opened a few years ago that was simply spectacular.
• Should wine be decanted?
– No, only the Gran Reservas.
• What’s behind a glass of wine?
– For me, memories, a lot of memories and feelings. The time I most enjoy wine is when I get together with friends and we have a tasting session of all the different wines that each of us has brought.
• Does everything about the wine come from the land?
– 90%, yes.
• Does wine go well with everything?
– No, it goes very badly with driving and an empty stomach. Wine should always go with food.
• Who would you toast with a good wine?
– All the people who have helped me to become a winemaker, especially my wife and daughter.
• Where there’s wine there’s love. Is this true?
– Yes, and lots of it.
• Define the world of wine in one word.
• Where has Rioja lost ground?
– I think on white wines, because we gave too much thought about what we were going to do and we should have taken a decision much earlier, especially considering that on a global level white wine is drunk much more than red wine.
• Which good habit from the past would you like to recover?
– The way we sell wine. The grower should make a profitt, the winery should have its cut, and the seller should make something… we’re getting down to some very tight margins these days.
• Which film on the world of wine is your favourite?
– I always think of La Grande Bouffe (The Big Feast/The Great Feed/Blow Out) by Marco Ferreri, because it not only shows the excesses of food and wine but also the other side of the coin, people who control their eating and drinking.
• Into whose hand would you put a glass of wine?
– Perhaps all these politicians who have run out of ideas and got bogged down in the economic crisis, in the hope that the wine would help to spark up a dialogue between
them and get us out of this situation.