The Ribera del Duero heritage: a family business.
Updated: Apr 12
We all have a special place in our hearts for those special wineries that built their legacy along with their family. In this article, I will talk about family wine pioneers from Ribera del Duero. Learn about passion, family values, and innovative wine-making techniques.
Alvaro Comenge: ''We believe passion for wine is a “sine qua non” condition for building a strong foundation, but not enough by itself. A clear project and view of what your objectives and goals are, as well as very clear idea of what your key success factor shall be. ''
Bodegas Comenge is an organic winery focusing on a wines’ elegance, naturalness, and quality. Bodegas Comenge was founded by Jaime Comenge in 1999, inspired by his father, Miguel Comenge, a doctor who was very passionate about wine as a great nutritional product with very positive effects on human health. His book was the first-ever encyclopedia about the wine panorama in Spain. The book was a compilation of all the grape varieties that grew in Spain back then, and all the wines that were made, all from a biochemical and bromatological point of view. This book, called ‘The Wines and Vines from Spain’, had enormous importance academically. It is still used as a reference book.
Located in the ‘Golden Mile’ of the Ribera del Duero, Bodegas Comenge is within the heart of the Spanish peninsula at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level and surrounded by pine trees and ancient castles. This picturesque view is ideal when touring the vineyards, all while customers can taste one of the most perfect wines from Spain- certified organic, handcrafted, and selected from the family itself.
Alvaro Comenge: ''Working with my father has been and still is a privilege. He is a very intelligent and cult man. It has given me the opportunity to learn a lot from him. I cherish every day I have the chance to spend with him share our common passion: wine. ''
Viticulture and new winemaking techniques
Although Bodegas is an artisanal producer, this family-run business is continuing its research
and development to improve its elaborate methods, to maintain and surpass excellence within the industry. Bodegas Comenge is continuously analyzing indigenous yeasts from their vineyards and researching methods to improve the quality of their wines, always respecting their naturalness.
Source: Bodega Comenge
Alvaro Comenge “Our farming practices are aimed at promoting and maintaining biodiversity, carefully working the lands on which our vines are based. We understand viticulture, and we take care of the vineyard as one more organism in our rich ecosystem, maintaining the natural cover of the soil throughout the cycle and renouncing the use of insecticides, or any other chemical product, in caring for the crop.”
The Comenge family has been in the industry for over 20 years. Since then, it has made
an internal effort to understand the land, surroundings, and magic that goes into making a
robust and beautifully crafted bottle of wine. Jaime Comenge originally founded the company, and while he didn’t have any previous experience within this industry, he was linked through the family. Jaime’s father wrote the first treaty about the wine industry in Spain at the beginning of the 20th century. Having that information and legacy under the belt of the family business, Bodegas’s reputation is known for its excellent production of natural wines, using incredibly avant-garde techniques gathered from the expertise passed down from generations. The most important part of the process for the family is to be respectful of the environment in which it grows its vines by not using any chemical products on the vineyard itself or the winemaking process. The motto of Bodega Comenge is:
''From the land, it’s a landmark”. This means Bodega Comenge tries to respect our as much as possible our surroundings, creating an environment that is good for the vines, for the ecosystem, and also for human sight.
Alvaro Comenge: ''At Bodegas, you want to taste the natural fermentation of the wine and not be held back by bitter, chemically enhanced after tastes. While the grapes contain the flavor, the full brilliance of the fruit comes from the surrounding essence – the soil, the sun, and the passion brought into the process. ''
While the wine industry is a highly competitive sector, the biggest threat to business is
Alvaro Comenge: ''This business is about passion and enjoying the ride. Unfortunately, until now, losses in our case are very common. That is where Jaime Comenge´s financial experience comes in handy''
So, the family had to develop a way to adapt without affecting its product’s
quality, unique flavor, and freshness. Alvaro states, “In this sense, we are in several lines of
investigation with different types of natural and indigenous yeasts, planting at higher
altitudes, using different clones, and several different actions.''
Although Bodegas is an artisanal producer, the family-run business is continuing its research
and development to improve its elaborate methods, to maintain and surpass excellence within the industry – the ‘grapest’ in the business.
Find out more about Bodega Comenge
Juan José Balbás: ''There is a land linked to wine forever, a wine that draws its landscape and creates its culture.''
The beginnings of Bodegas Balbás date back to 1777, with Abundio Balbás being the first member of the family who decided to start making wine. Before that date, the family was dedicated to working the skin (leather) of animals to make what we know today as ‘wine boots’ or wineskins. Should remember that at that time there were no bottles as a method of transport and storage, and these elements were a fundamental part of the production and marketing of wine. Another important moment was the decision to create the Denomination of Origin of Ribera del Duero since Bodegas Balbás is one of the eight initial founders of the same. It was Víctor, Juanjo's father, who signed the founding act. Likewise, Juan José Balbás, the current director of the winery, and the sixth generation of the family was president of the DO itself for some years. The next link in the chain is his daughter Patricia Balbás, who is already on the winery's management team. for about 4 years, continuing the family legacy.
Juan José Balbás: ''In the winery, there are several members of the Balbás family working side by side on a day-to-day basis. It is a luxury because not all families can share the same passion and carry it out in this way, every day. Effort, dedication, perseverance… Those could be some of the values that are shared. Always looking for each one to contribute their grain of sand and knowledge from the area in which they carry out their work.''
Viticulture and new winemaking techniques
The vineyard is very important to Bodega Balbás. The vineyards need to take good care of, just like their grandparents did, but combining modern techniques, and taking care of the vine throughout the year will help them produce a quality grape. To that, obviously add the location, the soils, and the weather. Bodega Balbás is located in the heart of the Ribera del Duero, the so-called Golden Mile, and within it, the Golden Diamond. The richness of the soils of their plots makes them unique. For example, the Bodega has Lamalata, from where they obtain all the grapes with which they make Ritus. It is located at an altitude of 940 meters, where Merlot and Tempranillo grow. Being able to do a manual harvest allows them to select the bunches in the vineyard, making extreme demands on the grapes. On the other hand, the time in the barrel is one of the keys to the evolution and development of their wines. Choosing the right kind of wood, the type of oak, and the intensity of toasting. The wines rest for a long time in the barrel room and it is necessary to take care of them during maturation.
Juan José Balbás: ''The passion for wine, for our land La Ribera del Duero, and everything that surrounds us is essential to continue working every day with the same enthusiasm with which our ancestors did. However, passion has to go hand in hand with knowledge and hard work and perseverance. There is a family learning base, passed down from generation to generation, coupled with dedication and constant study. The world of wine is constantly changing and you have to adapt every day.''
Source: Bodega Balbás
The creation of the Denomination of Origin of Ribera del Duero. Being present and being an active part of the entire process, from the development of the idea to carrying it out. Each and every one of the steps that were taken until the appellation of origin was established and the initial certificate of its formation was signed. Today we are more than 300 wineries and if Bodega Balbás look back, not much more than a handful of years ago, there was only a group of winemakers with an intrepid dream.
Find out more about Bodega Balbás
Elisa Martinez: '' Our core values reflect on tradition, passion for wine and land, making a compromise with the environment and team work.''
The winery Tinto Pesquera was founded by Alejandro Fernandez and Esperanza Rivera in the 70s before the appellation Ribera del Duero existed. They were pioneers in making high-quality 100% Tempranillo wines aged in oak. Elegant and traditional fragrant wines that started to be produced in an old “lagar” (an old winery with a wooden Roman press) from the XVI century. The first vintage of the prestigious Tinto Pesquera was made in 1975.
In 1982, the same birth year of Ribera del Duero, the family created Janus, one of the most important wines in Spain( and in the world!) In 1995 the family bought land on the eastern side of Ribera del Duero, Burgos, to build a “chateau” called Condado de Haza, and bought in 5 years small pieces of land surrounding the winery.
Elisa Martinez: ''We believe that in this life nothing is just about passion. You need to invest a lot of time and work, this is key. Putting effort in looking after the vineyard, prepare all the departments of the corporation towards the same target: make great quality Tempranillo wines. And of course, you need good sources of raw material, and we are very proud to have a diverse terroir, located at a certain altitude which helps us to produce well grapes with good acidity, sugar, tannin content to make structured and complex wines.''
Viticulture and new winemaking techniques
Tinto Pesquera puts a lot of work into the vineyards to get the best results. This way they optimize, in terms of quality, the production, which is always focused on quality instead of quantity. Vineyards are located close to the winery to avoid damage, or “pre-fermentation” during transport. Spontaneous fermentation occurs with indigenous yeast to express the terroir and style of the family. The last stage of the wine is aging in American oak as well as in the bottle to soften the tannin and enhance the wine. Tinto Pesquera uses its own clones of the tempranillo grape. Harvest and vinification go by plots, in order to optimize each vineyard and get the best out of each area.
Elisa Martinez: ''Our motto is to mix passion with respect for the land. A significant moment in time for the winery was when the 3rd generation joined the winery with new fresh ideas (2016). But this generation always respects tradition.''
Find out more about Tinto Pesquera
Do you want to find out more about Ribera del Duero? Make sure to visit their website for extra information.