Mont Reaga Winery, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
VINEX talks to Igor Pérez, general manager of Mont Reaga about the care, and attention to detail that goes into making their quality, premium wines.
Can you tell us some of the history about the winery and how it has grown and developed over the years?
Mont Reaga is a family winery which started its own history in 1999 after years selling all our grapes (Tempranillo and Airen) to different cooperatives in our region. In 1999 we decided we wanted to produce our own wines, from that great grape variety, Syrah. But we wanted to do something different, we wanted to produce grand wines, that could age over many years - the kind of aromatic, round and complex wines like produced in other quality regions. To help do that we turned to our winemaker, Juan Fuentes Rus, who has great experience working with cooperatives and wineries in Castilla-La Mancha and Tenerife. He is one of the first Spanish winemakers to have graduated from the Rovira I Virgili University in Tarragona. When we explained to him what we wanted to do he said it was important we invested not just in Syrah, but also, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. We select rain fed plants for our vineyards, and limit the production of each plant to a maximum of 3 kg. We also harvest at night and do two pruning, in spring and when the vines are green to limit production so that we can harvest the best grapes. Juan designed the whole winery to produce these kind of wines. We use 25,000 litre conical stainless steel tanks for better grape extraction and 300 litre French and American oak barrels that we change every four years. We then age the wine in bottle for at least double the length of time they have spent in barrel. It means our wines need at least between three to nine years from start to finish. It meant the first nine years for the winery were the hardest, until we had our first 12, 18, 24 and 36 month wines finished.
What is the size and scale of the winey now in terms of vineyards and production and how has that grown over the last five years?
Today we have a constant production of long ageing wines, following our philosophy of low production of around 100,000 to 150,000 bottles per year. We look for premium quality in the entire range of wines we make. We have 130 hectares of land, of which 70 hectares are vineyards with a mix of clay areas and limestone soil. We also grow cereals and almonds. Innovation is constant at Mont Reaga. In the last five years we have certified our vineyards as organic, installed solar panels and a recycled water evaporation basin, and have planted more Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Verdejo vineyards. These efforts have seen us become one of the first wineries in Spain to be awarded a certificate by the Ministry of Ecological Transition that recognises the work we have done to reduce our CO2 emissions to the environment. We are committed to do more to help and look after the environment.
What is the split in terms of the wines you are making from different varieties (% of each grape variety you produce) and split between red and white wines?
We produce 10 wines of which 10% are white wines (Isola Young white wine, 100% Verdejo and Blanco of Mont Reaga 100% Sauvignon Blanc) and 90% red wines. Of the 90% red we have: 30% that are 100% Syrah (Isola Young red wine, Mont Reaga La Esencia 12 months in French Oaks, and Mont Reaga Clásico 18 months in French Oak); 10% are from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Mr Las Liras, 24 months in American Oaks); and the other 55% are a blend of Cabernet Syrah, Cabernet Merlot or Tempranillo and Syrah (Mr. Tempo, Mont Reaga La Espera, Mont Reaga Elección and Mont Reaga Altomira). Then we have a very little production with around 5% of one of our most exclusive, natural sweet wine, Fata Morgana, 100% Merlot.
Has that changed in the last five years and if so how and why?
Being a family winery, we make very quick decisions and every year we experiment with new barrels, with new blends or aeging, as we are always seeking to improve the quality of our wines. But until we are completely sure our wines have improved, we will not launch it on the market.
What proportion of your wines do you export and has that percentage increased in the last five years?
Since 2003, when we started with our Isola young wines, we have been working in a number of different international markets. Each year we look for new importers or distributors who want to work with these kind of wines. At the beginning we started in the United States, and then Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. Our wines are more appreciated in the international markets, where customers are looking for this round, complex and maybe old vintage wines.
What are your main export markets now?
Our main export market is the US, but after Covid-19, we are exploring other countries like, Brazil, Sweden, or Switzerland. Our international sales have fallen in the last year, especially in Asia.
Do you work with distributors and agents in each country or sell direct - what works best for you?
We have always preferred to work with distributors who know their customers and what kind of wines they prefer. We only sell directly in Spain to a few restaurants and hotels, who want to work directly with producers.
Which parts of the market are your wines aimed at - bulk/ bottle/ on-trade and off-trade and has that developed over the years?
We are usually only working with bottled wines for the on-trade and off-trade. We saw our off-trade sales increase a lot last year.
How were you impacted by Covid-19 in terms of the markets and channels you were able to sell to?
It was the first time we have sold in bulk, but fortunately, it seems international markets are reopening and we are again receiving orders from our regular customers and many other new customers.
How many of the changes you made do you think will be here for the long term?
I think this Covid-19 crisis has allowed many people to try new wines, and that has benefited us. There are markets such as Brazil, in which wine sales have increased by up to 45%. Consumers' tastes are changing and new windows of opportunity are opening up to taste different wines. That is the reason why we are opening new markets and I believe those markets are going to remain with us for many years.
What sort of wine buyers and customers are you looking to work with?
We are looking for importers and distributors who work with hotels or restaurants or specialised stores are looking for premium products, where quality is more important than quantity. Our wines usually work very well in mature markets, Europe and the United States for example, where the consumer is looking for an experience of drinking wines with complex aromas, that take you back to your forgotten memories of your childhood or adolescence, and yet also have the characteristics of a young wine.
Do you do private label and exclusive wines - if so do you have any examples of the kind of projects that have worked best for you?
We have developed private labels for some projects, like for soccer teams, a national artist or a restaurant. They are definitely good contracts, but we prefer to work with our own labels. Depending on the market, we have also used different label designs to capture the attention of the consumer. What works best is always our Mont Reaga label.
How was the 2020 vintage in terms of quality, volume and production?
The 2020 harvest was very good for us. Quality was exceptional, but we have limited production to a maximum of 3kg per vine.
What impact has that had on pricing and demand from buyers so far in 2020?
Demand for wines has certainly fallen compared to the years before Covid-19. The closure of restaurants, hotels, and the non-celebration of weddings, communions or baptisms, etc has affected all wine producers - not only us. So there is greater competition in terms of wine prices, which have fallen a lot, but we cannot enter that competition nor do we want to. We are sure of what we make and our costs are fixed.
Were you impacted by the frosts that came in 2021 spring?
We are located in a small valley called Monte Pacheco. It is a particular area because we have a microclimate. At just 6 meters deep we have aquifers and those small elevations that surround us protect us from the worst storms or frosts. So we have not been affected.
Your winery is in the "Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla" Protected Geographical Indication - what does that mean in terms of the wines you make and the rules you have to follow?
Working under the Protected Geographical Indication, Vinos de La Tierra de Castilla, gives us more freedom when making our wines. The ageing of our wines in barrels ranges from 12 to 36 months, and then the ageing in the bottle ranges from 24 to 72 months. They are very long, but it is the only way to have these round wines on the palate and with that personality we want. If our winemaker says that instead of 12 months the wine needs to age for 14 months then so be it. We prefer to bring a good wine to the market or not to bring it out at all. This is the greatest advantage of working under the IGP Tierra de Castilla. Another advantage is that unfortunately, despite the fact that Castilla-La Mancha is the largest extension of continuous vineyards in the world, and that the production here represents almost 50% of the national production, and that there are excellent wines, both from cooperatives and wineries, the overall La Mancha region is not very well valued.
Anything else you would like to say?
The world of wine is so vast. Today, it is more difficult to make a bad wine than a good wine. New technologies and the standard of winemakers has influenced the overall quality of the wines. The most beautiful part is that each wine is different. With different aromas, terroirs, production methods, etc. There is a wine for each person, and if someone says they don't like wine, it’s because they haven't tried the one they like yet. That is why I invite everyone to dare to try different wines from different varieties of grapes, regions or countries. Finally, yes, wine pairs very well with meals, but let's not forget that wine pairs better with moments. Moments that we create by ourselves for each style of wine. At Mont Reaga we have wines for each kind of moment. We invite you to come and meet us.
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