Known as “El Niño” (The boy) back in 1964, from one day to the next Santiago Ijalba (AKA Santalba) found himself immersed in the management of a winery when he was barely 20 years old. He knew how to make this unforeseen his way of life and his passion until he founded, in 1998, his own winery. Santalba is now the reflection of all that experience that, together with his family, vindicates the value of the traditional without losing a bit of innovation. Santalba is the result of “letting go”, of “trusting young minds to continue growing.” The combination of tradition and modernity is the essence of this winery that claims the family character from its foundations. “A way to differentiate itself within Rioja”, assures Santiago.

The different crises that Santalba has endured during its 56 years among wines show the evolution of a sector that, today, has managed to become a benchmark for the region. The awakening of Spain after the Franco regime followed, first, that of 1992 and, six years later, “the year of grapes at 425 pesetas”

A constant transformation that has also affected the skeleton of Rioja. «At the end of the 60’s it was the time of export of the wines in bulk. It was also La Rioja of the 40,000 hectares and just 40 wineries. Already in the eighties we grew twice and now, in 2020, we exceed 600 wineries and 70,000 hectares of vegetable mass,” recalls Santalba and adds that the technical characteristics of the wines have also changed affected by climate change too.

“It is a different Rioja, but I don’t dare say if it is better or worse,” he says. “What we have to think about now is where we want to go. Rioja is struggling to grow in plant mass, which can make us a very large appellation, but I think it has to fight to become a great appellation where quality prevails over quantity and prevents its wines from appearing on the shelves in very low prices “he adds.

Santalba wines are varied and differentiating. They make traditional and classic wines. Wines that do not surprise but never disappoint. Elegant, fine and timeless under the Santalba Viña Hermosa brand in different categories such as Selection, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva and of course an excellent white and rose wines. These collect the experience accumulated by Santiago. OGGA, 25 years ago it was a “high expression” wine with a modern cut and today it is a renewed classic and perhaps the greatest exponent of Rioja. Rioja in a bottle.

On the other hand, more modern, eclectic and daring wines are made by Roberto. Santalba Cotas Altas, Santalba Natural, even a Rioja in the Amarone style by appassamiento (drying grapes). It is clear that Rioja’s fame of being a reactionary wine region does not go with the wines of Santalba.

Bodegas Santalba is a totally family-run winery, located in a unique spot of Rioja Alta where they pamper their vineyards and wines and the doors are always open for the friends of CLASSICdrinks. Salud!

Côtes de Gascogne

Lou Gat means the cat in the local dialect occitan. A legend dating back to the 13th century tells that after a decade of disastrous climate, crops were scarce and famine settled. In the village, we decided to eat cats by cooking them, leading to cat’s extinction and a proliferation of rats who ate the vines. Thanks to Angeline, who kept a couple of cats hidden in her attic preserving their lives, 20 kittens were born. She then decided to drop them in the village and they decimated the rats, thus saving the viticulture.

Lou Gat is a mosaic representation of this long stretching area of Gascony, which includes different typicities of soils and climates. While in the north area the calcareous bedrock suits perfectly black grapes (Lou Gat Purple) and some of white like Sauvignon (Lou Gat Blue), the clayish tawny sand soils from the west and the south of the region favours aromatic white grapes as the colombard and Gros Manseng (Lou Gat Yellow).

The wines are intended to be straight, fresh and fruity, to which, in my opinion, suit perfectly non-specialist consumers. The purpose of the design is to simplify the wine in order to catch a large audience with a friendly animal easy to recognize. The rainbow of colors expresses the dominant fruit / profile of each wines.

MEET THE TEAM!

AIDAN MCNAMARA
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER | DUBLIN CITY CENTRE

What would be your dream job?
I work in my dream job, I love the wine business but if not in this business I would love to be working at SpaceX, I have always had a huge interest in space exploration from the time I visited NASA when I was a child.

What was the last wine you had?
Vallformosa Cava Brut Reserva was the last wine I had. I had a bottle for my birthday and it was excellent – refreshing, crisp and delightful!

Who is your biggest inspiration?
My father passed away but he taught me that I should always work hard and never give up. This is something that has stood to me working through recessions and pandemics!

What’s your favourite film?
This is too hard of a question to just give one answer but I can give my top five:

  • Schindler’s list
  • Forest Gump
  • The Shawshank redemption
  • Whiplash
  • Trading Places

What music are you listening to?
I listen to all types of music from metal to techno. Today I was listening to Mötley Crüe and Metallica followed by a live set from Armin Van Buuren at Tomorrowland.

What are your hobbies?
When I get time I like to hit a small white ball around, I also play drums! I’m addicted to the BBQ and any chance I get, that smoker is on and I’m trying out new recipes.I love matching CLASSICdrinks wines with whatever I’m cooking.

 

“In the blink of an eye! Time goes so quickly but I couldn’t let this anniversary slip by without a celebration. I’ve gone back to my roots to mark Stonewell’s 10th birthday. My grandmother was born in Cappoquin, Co. Waterford. All the ciders in this blend are from a single orchard grown by David Keane of Cappoquin Estates. With an apple pie and toffee nose, this is a medium dry tannic cider, with a rich, full mouthfeel and some yummy butterscotch notes on the palate. There are only 1250 bottles of this blend. So, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did making it!”
Daniel Emerson, Founder

Grüner Veltiner

This grape dates back to the 1800’s, it is still primarily grown in Austria, Hungary and Czech Republic and Slovakia. But you will also find countries like New Zealand experimenting with it. I love the quote from Janis Robinson when she wrote about this grape. “Today, no self-respecting restaurant wine list, whether in New York or Hong Kong, can afford to be without at least one example of this, Austria’s signature white wine grape”

This grape is very pure and full of minerality and acidity, but it ripens very late in the season. Wines can be perfumed and have substance, these are usually off dry, with a every so slight hint of spice. It’s a delightful grape and for those who enjoy aromatic wines it is a perfect choice. The biggest challenges this grape has is with the pronunciation. I strongly believe that the Gewürztraminer would be a hugely more popular wine style if the name was easier to remember and pronounce. The same I feel for this grape. It is a perfect match for foods that are a little fatty or acidic like, schnitzel, fried chicken, pork, veal and even sushi. Vegetables with acidic sauces can also be a great match such as asparagus etc. It is also a pure delight when served on its own and for those who like Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Viognier and even Albarino, it is a must try grape.

Gamay

A light fruity grape with lots of soft red berry fruits. Best drunk young but if from a Beaujolais Cru they can age beautifully from 3- 12 years. This grape is most famous as it is the main grape of the Beaujolais region in France, the lowest part of Burgundy.

This grape is also grown in the Loire and Savoie region in France, in Switzerland and in the Napa region of California.

At the entry level this grape can be a fruity, easy drinking wine on its own.
But you will find when it is from one of the 10 Beaujolais Crus, the wine becomes more complexed and intriguing. With a thin skin and low in tannins, this grape also has high acidity. It is intense, spicy, flavoursome, rich, deep and very memorable. The older wines from some of the Crus of Beaujolais are said to have taken on some of the characteristics of Burgundy.

Entry level Gamays are good with cheeses like, brie, camembert, pâtés and cold meats, like ham and turkey. More mature wines like those from Crus such as Morgan, Moulin A Vent, are best matched with game such as duck breast and veal but also works superbly with lamb, roast chicken or pork.

Beaujolais is currently very much so in vogue, some of the top Crus to watch out for are Saint Amour, Moulin A Vent, Morgan, Fleurie, Brouilly.

WHAT’S MY JOB? |

Antón Fonseca – Project Manager

“What´s my job?” That is quite a difficult question. I think if you asked every different member of the winery, you would get a totally different answer from each one, which makes me really proud! I have been involved in the day by day of the winery for 7 years now. On a regular day, if I am in the premises, it is not uncommon to start the day tasting wines in the morning, luncheons with a customer in the afternoons, and move some wine cases in the evening. It is the incredible thing about my job, each day is different of the other”

If we discuss my “international role”, it lets me get to know people from different cultures and countries, and even get to visit the best restaurants around the globe. Representing the values of the family, our partners and human team that make up Terras Gauda.

I have a future responsibility to lead a beautiful project, but it was already working before
my arrival. This is why, since I have never been a theoretical type, I have tried to soak up
everyones jobs trying to make them forget I was being in the way

My father started this small project in the O Rosal Valley, 40 minutes away from Vigo city and a few meters from the Miño river, a natural border with neighboring Portugal. He planted not only Albariño variety but, a coupage with the indigenous varieties of O Rosal Valley. To the extent that he was able to recover one of them , Caiño blanco, which quickly set us apart of the rest of the wineries.

In 30 years, the group has grown a lot, and we are now four wineries and a small vegetable cannery, that it was on the verge of disappearance and that we saved it with more heart than head is another story but that´s for another CD issue. Now my role is to lead the new projects like the new Rioja project Heraclio Alfaro, the modernisation of some processes, or the internationalisation, like taking good care of our friends from Classic Drinks!.

Everything without losing the essence that took us were we are: We will continue being faithful to the environment, respecting the uniqueness of the wines of each “terroir” and putting our efforts into team values”.

WINES IN THE SPOTLIGHT FAMILY WINERIES

Located within the Central Valley are the upper reaches of the Cachapoal Valley, one of Chile’s historic winegrowing valleys. In this valley lies the town of Rengo that is protected by the mountain range that creates an area cooler and more arid than the rest of the valley. The Torreón de Paredes vineyard built on alluvial soil, is situated in the heart of this and is flanked by the mighty Andes, which not only provides a stunning backdrop to our winery, but also creates the dramatic contrasts between day and night temperatures which result in richer, juicier grapes.

TASTING NOTES: Bright yellow colour with gold hints. The nose shows complex notes of vanilla, fresh pineapple and lychee. The palate is intense, fresh, and juicy with soft notes of herbs with spicy and toasted finish. The wine is harmonious with a well-balanced acidity and structure. Ideal to Serve at 10-12°C with salmon, sole, oysters, abalone, veal, quail or pasta in white sauce.

Masseria del Feudo is not just a company. Its history is a family history, whose values and ideals are powered from Francesco and Carolina, fourth generation of agriculture entrepreneurs, who work in a land where innovation is supported by tradition. Their philosophy is reflected in social responsibility towards the environment and production quality.

TASTING NOTES: Intense ruby red colour. Menthol aroma, together with sweeter ripe red fruit and pepper hints. Intriguing and complex. The taste is velvet, sapid, vibrating finish, with a typical acidity of the variety, which leds to appreciate the fruity aftertaste.

GREAT REVIEW FOR CAMINS DEL PRIORAT IN THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Considered one of the most sensational winemakers in Spain and one of the best in the world, Álvaro Palacios has truly revolutionised the viticultural landscape of Priorat, Catalonia. He was instrumental in bringing about the modern renaissance of this forgotten wine region by producing “L’Ermita”, a wine which has since then become a true symbol of Priorat around the world. After studying Oenology in Bordeaux and working at the legendary Château Pétrus, Álvaro Palacios was bound to take the reins of the family vineyard. But in 1989, led by his intuition, he decided to embark on a new adventure and settled in Gratallops, a small village located in the steep hills of the remote Priorat region, around 60km from Barcelona. In this mystical land, the vineyards are planted on steep, terraced hillsides whose dramatic slopes make it impossible for any type of mechanical work. Here, mules and horses are used instead.

Is Chablis a grape?
This is a very common question and one where people get mixed up. Chablis is a wine region in northern France, its part of the Burgundy region. Famed for its subsoil of Kimmeridgean which you will find sea fossils. In Chablis they only produce one grape and that is Chardonnay. So when you hear someone saying they love Chablis but hate Chardonnay you can now politely educate them.

Do all wines need to breathe before drinking?
All wines will benefit a little from being poured into the glass and left alone for a couple of minutes. Sometimes it can be that the white is too chilled and needs to warm up a little before all those fantastic aromas can start jumping out of the glass. The same can be said of reds. The higher the alcohol the warmer the wine. Wines have been trapped in a bottle for a long time and also may have been aged in a barrel so when you open a bottle the wine is screaming ‘let me be for a moment to get my through together’ So if you have the patience try and be kinder to your wine, if drinking a nice bottle of red and you have a decanter or a nice jug, pour it into it and let it stand for 30 minutes. I like to decant my whites – yes try it out, it does make a difference. Remember all the amount of work and people that are involved in getting that lovely bottle of wine into your hands. In a lot of cases it’s a work of art. So maybe treat it with more gentile and it will give you more.

ED’S SPEAK

Hi All,
Yes indeed strange times we are working through but also its where opportunities lie. Following on from my article in the last edition, this time I want to touch on a topic that is near to my heart.

ENTHUSIASM
This is one the most important ingredients in any business, without it, it can be a long, challenging road to create a successful business, if at all possible.

Definition – Having or showing intense and eager engagement, interest or approval. Words also used to express enthusiasm – passion – zeal – keeness – eagerness – ardour – warmth. People can display their enthusiasm differently, but it has been proven time after time again that people buy into people who are enthusiastic.

Enthusiastic staff can create really positive energy in the work envirnment, such as restaurants, hotels etc. Customers, when entering without saying anything, can pick up on this positive energy. It can make customers feel comfortable, relaxed and open. It can make them want to linger longer, be open to suggestions, spend more and tell people what a great experience they had. It’s not always about how the envirnment looks but more about how it feels. Down through the years I have seen so many businesses spend all their time on how a place looks and miss the whole area of having positive energy. This is only created by the enthusiatic, energetic staff being there.

Never underestimate its importance, it has been known for customers to buy into can-do enthusiasm and overlook a potential staff member’s lack of knowledge in a particular area of work.

An enthusiastic waiter in a restaurant can be the most memorable part of a diner’s experience. An enthusiastic wine waiter can be enough to make sure you buy the wine that you know is just beyond your comfort price point, but you know the experience will be worth it. An enthusiastic manager can drive a team beyond what they believed they were capable of. Enthusiasm is infectious and can be an incredible sales tool.

Enthusiasm in business today is quite lacking. We are living in a world of business where mobile phones get more attention than the art of face to face communication. Generations have grown up and are growing up where the amount of ‘likes’ you have on your Instagram/Facebook/TikTok account are much more important than becoming better at communicating with people.

Enthusiasm can be displayed by your smile, body language etc. But being enthusiastic all the time is not easy. Some people are naturally enthusiastic and love connecting with people, while others can find it a challenge when dealing with strangers. It takes time to build a team of consistent enthusiastic staff but when you do the results prove that it’s worth working on. When your business has its Vision Statement (previous CD Times) the next step is to it create an enthusiastic and passionate attitude within the workforce. It is important to monitor this. Small achievable goals can be put in place. People need to be rewarded for their care by the business, for the passion and enthusiasm they bring to it.

Sometimes people can feel intimidated by others who might be overzealous with their enthusiasm. The workplace should have a very open policy, open to new ideas, open to listening to what staff think.

Sometimes the members of staff know more about what the customer wants. Remember we can all learn from each other regardless of experience.

WHISKEY GALORE!
RED SPOT 15 YEAR OLD

Red Spot was originally produced exclusively by the Mitchell family who commenced trading in 1805 on Grafton Street in Dublin as purveyors of confectionery, wines and fortified wines. The family’s entrepreneurial spirit expanded into the whiskey bonding business back in 1887, whereby they matured their whiskey for many years beneath the cobbled streets of Dublin.The Red Spot name originated from the family’s practice of marking casks of different ages with a spot of coloured paint. There was a Blue Spot, Green Spot, Yellow Spot, and of course Red Spot. As a colourful history would have it, this revered Red Spot has remained underground until now.This Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey has matured for over 15 years in a combination of American Bourbon casks, Spanish sherry butts and Sicilian Marsala wine casks, all contributing rich and complex flavours, making it the top spot in the range.

NOSE: Pot Still spices with rich cooked fruit, baked apple, mango and black cherry. Hazelnut and a touch of new leather fuse with toasted American oak.

TASTE: A mix of ripe fruit sweetness from the Marsala seasoned wine casks. While the fruit remains, sweet red pepper and cracked black pepper and some spiciness, finished by notes of American oak and barley. FINISH: An extra long infusion of fruit and spices.