Taking Wine Education Home – Bodegas Paco García’s ‘Experiences’

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An increasing number of Rioja wineries have embraced receiving visitors but only a few have made a visit to the winery an experience rather than just a tour. Bodegas Paco García, a small, family-owned winery in Murillo del Río Leza in Rioja Oriental has gone a step further by offering consumers experiences that they can enjoy at home with their friends.

To date, the winery has launched three experiences. The first was to discover the garnacha grape. The second was a crianza (≥ 12 months aging in oak casks) made exclusively from graciano grapes.

The third experience, called duelo de robles (duel of oaks) offers consumers a box with two bottles of Paco Garcia crianza 2014, one aged in American oak and the other in French oak, but you don’t know which is which. Before opening each bottle for tasting, there’s a detailed explanation on the inside of the box explaining the differences between each type of oak.

According to the winery:

American oak (Quercus alba)

  • Indigenous to the East Coast of North America;
  • The trunk is cut with a saw, not split. The entire trunk can be used.
  • Extremely hard wood, almost impermeable, making it difficult for air to pass through the staves, making for slower evolution of the wine;
  • Wine aged in American oak is powerful on the palate;
  • Typical aromas include vanilla, coconut, coffee, cocoa and tobacco.

French oak (Quercus petraea)

  • Found in western, central and southern Europe, mainly in France)
  • The trunk is split, not sawn. Consequently a lot of wood is wasted.
  • Wine aged in French oak has a silkier texture. The most characteristic aromas are honey, vanilla, dried nuts and sweet spices.

Following this explanation, the experience suggests opening each bottle, asking consumers to guess which wine is aged in French and which in American oak.

After everyone guesses, participants peel back a corner of the back label on each bottle to discover the secret.

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What an idea! We tried it at home with friends a week ago and had a great time! I’ve tasted other Rioja brands aged in both types of oak but none of the wineries have made the comparison so much fun.

I’m looking forward to the next Paco García Experience and am sure it will be both entertaining and instructive.

Bodegas Paco García www.bodegaspacogarcia.com

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Young Blood

After almost forty years in the wine business I have to confess that the business side is getting more boring every day – regulation after regulation by the European Union, legal battles with Argentina to defend the name ‘Rioja’, the ongoing disputes between the farmers and the wineries in the Rioja Regulatory Council, the 67 year old president of the Council who doesn’t know when to quit…. I could go on forever.

Fortunately, wine as a beverage continues to fascinate me in spite of the fact that lately my wife and I rarely finish a bottle at a single sitting.  This week I ran into two young people that have renewed my faith in the capacity of the wine business to innovate.

Juan Bautista García (the winemaker) and Ana Fernández (international sales) are young adults who wondered why their friends didn’t drink wine.  Fortunately, Juan Bautista’s parents owned a small Rioja winery and 40 hectares of vineyards so they had something to sink their teeth into.

Things have started out well for Juan Bautista and Ana.  Their wines have won gold medals in international wine tastings and received top scores in the ABC (a Spanish newspaper) Wine Guide which has created tons of interest in the brand.

I tasted the Paco García ‘Seis’ (meaning with six months’ ageing in oak, something they’re not allowed to put on the back label by the Regulatory Council – boring, boring – so they express it as part of the brand) and loved its fresh, grapey aroma and flavor that invites one to keep sipping.  I bought a bottle of their ‘crianza’ and will try it soon, along with their top wine, Beautiful Things, that I wasn’t able to carry home from the wine shop.

The label is a handprint of Juan Bautista’s father Paco, representing his status as the ‘alma pater’ and inspiration for the project. The winery’s motto is ‘vinos que dejan huella’ (‘wines that make an impression’, an allusion to Paco García’s handprint).

On the back label you can read ‘Ad astra, carpe noctem, nessun dorma.’           (Reach for the stars, live the night, let no one sleep.), a philosophical statement that is sure to resonate with young wine drinkers.

I’m sure Juan Bautista and Ana will be very successful as well as have a lot of fun with this new project.  I hope more young winemakers follow their lead.

www.bodegaspacogarcia.com