Bodegas San Alejandro is not only one of the most progressive wine cooperatives in Spain, but they have been essential […]Keep Reading
Bodegas San Alejandro is not only one of the most progressive wine cooperatives in Spain, but they have been essential in the history of European Cellars. When Eric first visited San Alejandro in the early 2000s, he met a young visionary, Yolanda Diaz, and an equally youthful and talented Jean-Marc Lafage. With access to some of the finest old-vine and highest-elevation vineyards of Garnacha in all of Calatayud, the minute details of which Yolanda knew inside and out, combined with Jean-Marc Lafage’s astute and sensitive winemaking, resulted in a dizzying array of tank and barrel samples that just had to be selected and blended for the American market. Las Rocas was born from this auspicious visit. Twenty years later, after fourteen years with another national importer, the rights to sell the full range from Bodegas San Alejandro has returned to European Cellars.
What has changed in those 14 years? A better question might be, what has stayed the same? While the 2001 Las Rocas was the epitome of the prevailing style of the time – rich, luscious, heady, and fruit-forward – tastes have moved in another direction. This fresher style of Garnacha wasn’t only embodied by Evodia, which Eric continued to select and blend at San Alejandro, but also by Dani Landi and Fernando Garcia in the Sierra de Gredos, whom Eric began championing long before anyone was talking about Garnacha de Gredos. While the style of Las Rocas remained relatively unchanged, and the market became saturated with plenty of cut-and-paste copy-cats, Yolanda Diaz continued to improve the farming and winemaking facilities at San Alejandro. Old barrels were phased out sooner, more wine was fermented and aged in concrete, experimental vinifications were conducted, talented viticulturists were recruited, vineyards and soils were studied and mapped, and winemaking became more reflective of individual sites, villages, zones, and soils. All the changes that Yolanda implemented at San Alejandro haven’t only resulted in better wines, but they caught the attention of generation-next’s most passionate and innovative Garnachista, Fernando Mora of Bodegas Frontonio and Cuevas de Arom. The raw materials, team, and cellars at San Alejandro were so remarkable that Fernando Mora partnered with San Alejandro and moved Cuevas de Arom from Campo de Borja to Calatayud.
All this means that this isn’t your daddy’s Las Rocas. Despite access to over 1000 hectares of vines – 300 certified organic – the production of Las Rocas has been reduced to focus on exceptional vineyards of old-vine Garnacha planted on complementary soils. With better farming practices under a team of viticulturists, fermentations begin spontaneously with up to 50% whole clusters. Macerations are gentler and shorter, resulting in a more ethereal expression that preserves Garnacha’s spicy and herbal aromas, which can be lost to over-extraction. Aging in wood has been reduced to a tiny fraction in Radoux barrels, with most of the wine resting in concrete tulips and eggs. As great as 2001 Las Rocas was for its time, 2022 is infinitely better today, and Eric and Yolanda are just getting started.
But all the changes Yolanda and her team have made at San Alejandro are solely evident in Evodia and the new Las Rocas. Years of soil studies and experimental vinifications have made the cooperative realize that moving to organic farming wasn’t only the right decision for the environment, the health of their members, and the wider community, but it also resulted in better wines and healthier vines. All of this is embodied in Querencia – a range of wines from organically farmed vineyards close to the cellars of San Alejandro in the small village of Miedes. Despite its access to nearly 1000 hectares of vines, the “home vineyards” of San Alejandro, with their old vines and slopes climbing from 750 to almost 1000m, would be the fitting place to make their most personal Garnacha.Close