As is the case with so many other families from the Rioja region, the maternal grandfather, Pablo, a vine-grower, and the paternal grandfather, Florentino, a winemaker, formed the perfect ‘alliance’, sowing the seed for Señorío de Villarrica, which led them to sell from wineskins to bottles at local markets. However, it was Florentino, the father of the present generation, who built a new winery and extended the sale of Señorío de Villarrica throughout the country and even took the first steps in exportation. Nowadays, Señorío de Villarrica has two wineries, one in San Asensio, the original location, and another in Hervías, a spectacular ‘chateau’ surrounded by 40 hectares of vineyards featuring the latest technology for making and ageing wine.
As Ismael Fernández, the person responsible for the family’s vine growing reminds us, “our raison d’être lies in the vineyards.” Señorío de Villarrica makes wine exclusively from grapes grown on the estate’s vines, from the 60 hectares which are primarily located in San Asensio, but also in Briones, Haro, Sajazarra and Anguciana, and from the 40 hectares in Hervías and Bañares. A total of one hundred hectares.
The winery makes wines with a marked Rioja Alta profile, influenced by the proximity of the Sonsierra region and by the most Atlantic and extreme areas of the Western Rioja Alta. The crianza, making up some 400,000 bottles of the 550/600,000 which are produced each year, is the main wine, which is looked after meticulously both on the vine and inside the winery: “It is our workhorse, my brother Pablo’s great obsession, since it is this wine that holds up the ‘building.’” The four brothers have not had things easy despite inheriting the winery and vineyards. In 2005, they started out at the new winery in Hervías, having made a large investment in the latest technology in small tanks, wine barrels and, of course, the best barrels for making great wines. In 2011, at the height of the crisis, the premises went up in flames: “By 2013 we were up and running again, with all four brothers at the helm because we come from a winemaking tradition and we don’t know how to do anything else.” Señorío de Villarrica has the ‘honour’ of being the winery to have sold the most expensive wine from the Rioja region, and from Spain, at least at that time: 1200 euros per bottle, the 2001 Family Selection, of which 890 bottles were produced. “We took a barrel sample, which had aged for 24 months, to Custodio López Zamarra and he called us to ask us what it was,” Ismael recounts. “He organised a tasting with 24 great wines from around the world and we came sixth… the wine named its own price.” The 2010 vintage of a potential new Family Selection is in bottles and that of the 2016 vintage is in wooden barrels.
The wine comes from a small plot above an estate, planted by the grandfather of the current generation, in San Asensio, in 1911, four hectares which, together with other older plantations from 1926 and 1930, make up the twelve hectares from which the special wines are produced: Delicia de Baco and Marvelous: “They have very low yields, highly limited productions, but they give us wines with great character,” points out Ismael Fernández. Great wines which enhance the extensive range at Señorío de Villarica: “The credit is not ours, but rather that of our grandfather and great-grandfathers, who chose the best slopes and soil for planting.” “Our only job,” continues Ismael, “is not to ‘ruin’ what nature chooses to offer us each year.”