RESERVA Y CATA: Ezequiel Sanchez-Mateos has been dealing with different sides of the wines business since he was 30 year old. Twenty years later it’s difficult to point out what he hasn’t done or accomplished.
First thing first: He started his career in Finance and then after few years he was one of the founding members of Reserva y Cata. Located between Paseo de la Castellana and the Chueca neighborhood, Reserva y Cata is an awesome place to become fond of wine in Madrid. With an offer that ranges between 600 and 700 references, 80% Spanish, it manages to combine affordable daily wines with classic brands and a good number of original labels from small producers, which are the result of the permanent curiosity of its owner Ezequiel Sánchez-Mateos.
The business started with three partners in 1997. It was a pioneering commitment to online sales supported by physical stores that wanted to follow the business model of the then successful British chain Oddbins and of which there were up to seven establishments. In 2005 Ezequiel began a new solo stage, keeping the current store and betting on the creation of his own brands oriented to export (and which, of course, can also be found in the store).
For sure he has an great vision and is pretty talented in understanding local wine trends and new small bodegas to keep a good eye at.
There is an awesome corner of the shop dedicated to Jerez emphasizing his deep passion for this region and, in fact, Ezequiel is part of the Los Generosos association that organizes many tastings and in-store events. He has access to limited edition wines produced by guys like Ramiro Ibáñez, the most iconoclastic producer of Jerez.
The craziest fans will be delighted to discover many wines from the guys from Envínate, a Les Tosses de Terroir al Limit (Priorat) or the exotic blend of Austrian varieties from the Kieninger winery in Ronda. And yes, there are also natural wines: from those made by Frank Cornelissen on the slopes of Etna (Sicily) to the labels signed by Fabio Bartolomei (Vinos Ambiz) in the Sierra de Gredos.
Daily contacts and friendship with local producers in different wine districts led to his direct involvement in the wine production starting already in the 90s. In 2005 his negociant activity took off and he began to co-produce wines with interesting small producers all over the Iberian Peninsula under the brand name of Galgo Wines. Currently his partnership compels him to travel and visit so many beautiful places (well…it’s not a boring job, right?) namely Alentejo and Douro in Portugal, plus Sierra de Gredos, La Mancha, Manchuela, Conca de Barberà, Calatayud, Rioja and Sierra del Segura. The main goal is to elaborate wines that are attractive, fairly priced and made with indigenous varieties.
Ezequiel’s main consultant is the oenologist Juan Manuel Gonzalvo. He holds a degree in analytical chemistry specialized in oenology. Between 1996 and 2002 he worked in Somontano, Carinena and Calatayud as oenologist. Since then he combines technical knowledge, sales and educational skills in the wine business. In 2009 he went back to winemaking and has been a cornerstone of the first ever produced wines by Galgo wines.
Now let’s move on to Napoleon Bonaparte. Someone could ask … “What the hell Napoleon has to do with the wine business? Napoléon is, of course, famous as a military leader, but he considered his greatest achievement to be his “Napoléonic Code” – a system of laws adopted by nations around Europe and even influenced the legal traditions of the United States.
Among the reforms included in the code was a new approach to land inheritance. Rather than allowing land to pass from father to eldest son, the Napoléonic Code required that land is to be divided equally among the children of the deceased. Over the centuries, this has lead to smaller and smaller plots of land, particularly in places where the code remained in effect for a long period of time, like Burgundy. It’s not unusual for a Burgundian vineyard owner to possess only a few square meters of individual vines – not nearly enough to support a full-scale business. This is where the negociant role began to be more and more accepted in the business, allowing small-scale producers to sell their fruit without having to fund their own winemaking and distribution.
From Napoleon to present days many things have dramatically changed. What is the real essence in being a negociant in 2020 and how has evolved the role compared to the pre-Internet era? Most likely the question is just too difficult to be examined here. To cut a long story short, these intrepid business people spend years developing relationships with farmers, winemakers, distributors, and importers. As their title suggests, they skillfully negotiate between all of the parties involved in the business to bring wine from the vineyard of a small farmer to your glass. Furthermore negociants nowadays strongly believe in their skills and have set a higher goal: co-producing and involving small producers in special wine projects. Often the wine is a result of this cooperation in which the producer and the negociant bet their money in a special wine release.
Although négociant wines are often viewed as inferior to their estate-bottled counterparts, we’ve got a few producers that are certain to shift that mentality. Today, micro-négoces around the globe are purchasing responsibly-farmed fruit and vinifying wines that rival some of the best estate-bottled juice from their respective appellations.
Galgo wines are produced from carefully chosen parcels that are farmed organically. Wines are vinified in accordance with Ezequiel’s basic guidelines philosophy, which incorporates minimal intervention in the cellar and letting the wines speak for themselves. The partnership with Steep Hill has given its’ first results and now we are ready to present some good wines to our customers.
Daniel V. Ramos is an Australian winegrower raised in Madrid with an intriguing professional background that allows him to take advantage of growing up between the old and the new world of wine and vineyards. Throughout the years he has learned all the tricks and put at work the best of this knowledge to create his excellent wines.
After his studies, Daniel has worked all over Spain until he completely fell in love with the Garnacha grape and more specifically with the one farmed in the Sierra de Gredos district near Avila. He has been making wines there since 2010 and currently farms 15 hectares of vines in several parcels.
He makes a good bunch of wines starting from entry levels all the way up to “parcela” wines (wine coming from single vineyards with specific characteristics) trying to embrace the difficult and fascinating personality of the original and most authentic Spanish cultivar (for who are a bit unfamiliar with Spain and its historical traditions, Tempranillo has gained the flagship role just for mere marketing reasons, while Garnacha has been considered the true little darling).
Daniel Ramos farms organically (no certifications) and with a minimal intervention in the cellar. He attends the most important international and national natural wine fairs, including the RAW wine. Located in El Tiemblo, Daniel shares the cellar with Fabio Bartolomei of Vinos Ambiz, another producer imported by Steep Hill in NY. A mainly granitic area, though with several hills of schist running through it, Sierra de Gredos area encompasses the towns of El Tiemblo, Cebreros, and El Barraco, where vineyards can be situated as high as 1400 meters! Many at this altitude have long since been abandoned, as the terrain is too harsh for most vehicles and the steep slopes are extremely hard to farm. Daniel is so passionate about this area, that he has saved, and brought back to life, some of the best remaining old vineyards nestled in the harshlands of the Gredos mountain range.
Galgo Wines has partnered with Daniel Ramos producing a couple of wines under the Insula Barataria brand label. The white is 100% Jaen Blanca, a local grape from Sierra de Gredos, while the red is a field blend of Garnacha (90%) and and Jaen Blanca (10%).
Located in central Catalunya, Conca de Barberà is well known for its production of Cava, but it is also home to Mas Foraster, one of the few producers to make a red wine from Trepat, a native grape that is typically reserved for rose wines and cavas.
For more than 150 years, several generations of the Foraster family have cultivated the vineyards and olive trees on their estate in the township of Montblanc. In 1999, after Josep Foraster died and with the first vintage about to be marketed, his sister Julieta Foraster and her son Ricard Sebastià Foraster joined the company, which they manage today.
The 29 hectares are planted with the red varieties Trepat, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah and the white varieties Garnacha Blanca, Chardonnay, Macabeo and Parellada. With these fruits they produce about 140,000 bottles a year, a wide range that has earned them the recognition of both consumers and experts. The rest of the fruit is sold to other estates.
Conca de Barberà is different from other regions in Catalunya, because it’s the one place where there’s a true Mediterranean effect. Unlike Priorat, Conca de Barbera is not blocked from the Mediterranean Sea by the Prades mountain range. According to Ricard, there are only 1100ha of Trepat planted around the world, and 1000ha are located in Conca de Barberà. Ricard decided not to use his Trepat grapes for a cava or a rose because the grapes “had enough potential to make a red wine–they had enough character.”
Allowing this character to express itself, Ricard uses no pesticides and no chemicals in the vineyard, relying instead on sulfur and copper. As compost, he uses the remaining skins, stems, and pips. “What comes out of the vineyard goes back into the soil,” says Ricard.
Using only indigenous yeasts, every year at Mas Foraster, they preserve the vintage bloom, by encouraging these native yeasts to reproduce, so that they can be frozen for future use, so that he can avoid the need for commercial yeasts. A finicky grape, Trepat thrives in alluvial soils of clay and sand. With light tannins, bright red fruit, and searing acidity, Trepat can be a star on its own or can nicely be part of a classic Catalan blend with Garnacha and Syrah.
Galgo Wines has partnered with the Foraster family producing Uva Attack, an organic certified fresh blend of Trepat (60%), Syrah and Garnacha (20 % each).
In a nutshell