“Young wines are for fun, aged wines are for trading”. This sentence, uttered by the grandfather of the current generation in charge of Bodegas Abeica, perfectly summarises the mentality and way of life in a region where wine has been an integral part in the life of many generations devoted to growing vines.
The four Fernández siblings work at Bodegas Abeica: Pachi and Ricardo, on the numerous vineyard tasks; Isabel, on winemaking and management; and Raúl, on sales and distribution. They have breathed wine since their childhood and have wisely built one of the greatest brands in the local and north of Spain markets: Chulato is a popular, artisanal young carbonic maceration wine made with whole clusters.
Bodegas Abeica makes barrel-aged wines (crianza, reserva and gran reserva) under the brands Longrande and Abeica. However, after reducing its barrel stock, wines are aged in oak only on special vintages: “We live off Chulato and we ‘travel’ with Longrande -in reference to their exports-”, Isabel jokes. Abeica also makes a barrel-fermented Viura white called Abaris, which is aged on its lees.
Bodegas Abeica grew in the 1990s buying grapes from neighbouring growers until, against all commercial logic, the four siblings decided to stop: “It was a crucial turning point; we decided that we would not only carry forward, but that all our wines would be made exclusively with grapes from our own vineyards”, explains Isabel. “If we had grown further it would no longer be a family business. The four of us take care of everything, both in the vineyards and the winery. Our tasks are more or less defined, but we all lend a hand when someone needs help”.
The family behind Bodegas Abeica owns 30 hectares under vine in Ábalos and manage an additional six in San Vicente, which belong to their in-laws. It’s hard not to find Isabel at the bodega, whose tours are almost ‘à la carte’: “We visit the winery, the vineyards and the ancient rock art sites in the vicinity. We finish with a tasting but, truth be told, we encourage our visitors to enjoy wine, not to describe it with fancy, trivial words”. Rioja, the business of wine, has eaten away a good chunk of La Rioja, its traditions and genuine family winemaking customs but Abeica has managed to remain unabashedly immune.