Once in a while I come across a brand that doesn’t exist any more and it always makes me wonder why the winery decided to stop making it. In this case, the brand was ‘La Finca’ de Campo Viejo, which brought a smile to my face because of my long association with the winery as a former export director.
Although the back label didn’t say much about the wine – nothing about the grape varieties or serving suggestions, just a tasting note, I tried to imagine what the wine was about based on my knowledge of the history of the winery.
It was founded in the late 1950s by three businessmen: José Ortigüela, Bernardo Beristain and Juan Alcorta. Ortigüela was the wine guy of the trio, coming from the village of El Villar de Arnedo before moving to San Sebastian. ‘Campo Viejo’ was a vineyard in Rioja Baja, I suppose in El Villar or Tudelilla, which in those days was probably planted to garnacha like most of the area, to be blended with the tempranillo of Rioja Alta and Alavesa.
Campo Viejo was part of the SAVIN group of wineries, whose core business was to vinify, blend and bottle table wines from all over Spain and sell them, both in bottle and in bulk to customers in Spain and abroad.
Campo Viejo’s success stemmed from the fact that it was created as an inexpensive Rioja brand m eant to be sold primarily in supermarkets, a new type of food distribution in Spain, at a time when most Riojas were sold almost exclusively in restaurants.
In my opinion, another reason for the brand’s popularity was that the basic wine in the range was a crianza, complemented by a reserva, a gran reserva, a white and a rosé. The unaged red was sold under another label, Castillo de San Asensio. When I worked for SAVIN, we aggressively pushed the idea of crianza and the fact that Rioja was best when aged in a barrel. San Asensio was sold internationally to distributors or supermarkets at low prices, while Campo Viejo had a healthy advertising and promotional budget. Other wineries such as AGE and Berberana mimicked this policy with Siglo and Carta de Plata (this last brand sadly has almost disappeared from the marketplace due to misguided, short term thinking by the current owners of the company).
More aggressive sales and marketing tactics by newer Rioja wineries eager to find a place in the market and seesawing grape prices have given young red Riojas more prominence today but I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Rioja had stuck to the philosophy of oak aged wines at the expense of volume in the 1990s.
Why did ‘La Finca’ disappear? I’m not sure but imagine that it was either an unsuccessful line extension or was a victim of the change of ownership when Allied Domecq sold the winery to Pernod-Ricard. In any case I really liked the wine. It showed ripe red fruit, depth and had a long finish. I hope I can find some more.