Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Five minutes with... Roel Diterwich from Export Iberia

Roel talks to us about his Manium Crianza
Last week we welcomed Roel from Export Iberia into town.

As part of his visit, Bancroft's Sophie and Rob caught up with him over lunch at Bravas Tapas in St Katherine's Dock:

How long have you worked with Export Iberia?
I've been Brand Ambassador for Export Iberia since March 2013. It's quite a funny story of how I came to be here. One day Export Iberia's founder Rafael visited a winery searching for the right grapes to make his wines with just after harvest. In the winery's office there was a photo on the wall that I'd sent them from when I was working with the family there some years before - it was of us having a BBQ and eating 'migas' (like giant breadcrumbs, a traditional spanish tapa) after the harvest. One thing lead to another and here I am now!

Export Iberia's philosophy immediately interested me. We use top quality, healthy grapes bought locally and then work with small, family-owned wineries to produce wines with an international appeal. This means that we succeed in vinifying the grapes within the specific DO according to our international vision while maintaining the identity of the terroir within each bottle made.
Tell us about one of your wines...
Tough question. Can I really only pick one? All of our wines have an interesting story to them... If I have to pick just one I'll choose the Manium, our benchmark wine from Bierzo. When I first decided I wanted to live and work in Spain with beautiful wines, it was a winery from El Bierzo gave me the opportunity to do so. I left everything behind, work, friends, family, and started living my dream. This valley surrounded by mountains bordering Galicia has a special climate and terroir; less rain, more sun, old vines and slate and limestone soils. Once the authentic local variety gets to you, you'll always 'miss' something in other wines. In the Manium, the nose can be as nice as a Bourgogne but with all the acidity and structure of a Nebbiolo, just with more body and mouth-feel. Furthermore the winery we work with has 2 full time employees keeping track of every single vine in their vineyards - all of them here are old. They know each and every vine and tend to them according their individual needs. Preventive spraying, as one of them explained me, is like using antibiotics, every day. It makes your body lazy and will no longer protect itself which also results in the loss of character, the same goes for vines.

What's the best thing about Spanish wines today?
The best thing about Spanish wines today is what it has always been, VALUE. The only difference with now and before is that the quality has improved massively over the years while the prices are staggering behind. Many new regions are being acknowledged in Spain, each of them trying to perfectly exploit their identity, their terroir.

What is your best seller here and why?
Our best selling wines here are those in from Spain's Terra Alta. Probably because the wines are really unique in style, have an appealing character, and the price is attractive too...

Did you know... One third of the world's production of Garnacha Blanca comes from the small, somewhat desolate DO Terra Alta where you'll only find old vines. The high land (Terra Alta) makes fresher wines, something you need in Spain where the climate is usually very hot - here there is a lot of sun and only very little rainfall. The roots of the old vines (60-110y/o) reach deep into the soils where more moisture can be found even during mid-summer. The Continental winter contributes to the quality of the vineyards. Another major aspect of this climate/terroir is the influence of two winds, the Cerc (continental) and the Garbi (mediterranean) where the cooler one helps preserve the acidity in the grapes and the warmer one contributes to full phenolic maturity.

The result is an attractive nose and a surprisingly crisp sensation when drinking it.

As for the red Las Colinas del Ebro we are lucky to own some pretty special vineyards in this DO - those planted with old Garnacha Negra and even older Samso (Carignan). This adds roundness, finesse and depth to the base of Syrah on this wines. What results is something beautifully enjoyable for non-experienced wine drinkers and layers of finesse in this (what appears to be simple) wine for those who know their stuff.

You also look after Bodegas Neo – what is the story behind these wines?
Yes, Neo. A totally different story again! These are made by 3 friends who love the good life - eating, drinking and music. Whilst owning a bar together in town, the three amigos found a way to combine their
Julio, Jose and Javier at Bodegas Neo
passions by investing in and building a winery. Originally united by music, the three of them play in the same band so they also installed a music studio in the winery - not many wineries can claim that! Perhaps the only one in the world? Their passion and fun is reflected in each of their wines. Neo is their flagship, a sensation that stands alone, high up above the other wines from Ribera del Duero...some even dare to compare it with the famous Vega Sicilia.. and challenge it..

What are the biggest challenges of selling Spanish wine into the UK market? What do you recommend to retailers to help sell?
How should the retail world view Spanish wines? My advice is NOT to compare them too much with other wines/countries. Spain is still developing and searching for its identity, which is challenging because there are so many different incredible pockets of terroir to be found in this big country. Spain doesn't only offer value, but quality is really improving and terroir is being acknowledged more and more. Be vigilant when it comes to the wineries who only think in the short term - something that is becoming more of a problem because of Spain's recent financial crises. These short-term thinking wineries can often spoil the market with low quality wines over the successful names/regions that hard working wineries have worked so hard to develop. The result will affect the consumer's opinion, meaning they may well become reluctant to buy other wines from this region. No sales = no further investments = no development..

There has been a flurry of new tapas bars here in London helping with sales of Spanish wine. What’s your favourite tapas/wine pairing?
Surely such a flurry will help the sales and also the image of Spanish wines. I really love Tapas. If you ever go to Castilla y Leon you will find many towns where there is a tradition of 'tapeo' where they give free bites with ever drink you order. I can really recommend Ponferrada and Leon where every bar has its own special tapa. After 6 or 7 bars you'll have had enough to drink and enough to eat for dinner. One of my favourite places serves Jamon Iberico with Manchego cheese, another cheese and pepper croquetas, patatas bravas, morcilla, callos, paella and even pizza. What to pair with all of that?.. The beauty is in trying to find out! It is a happy exploration and something that can keep you occupied for many years ;-).

What are your favourite tapas/wine pairings?

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