Friday, February 27, 2015


Finca Sandoval owner and journalist Victor de la Serna and Carlos Falcó Fernandez de Córdova, Marquis de Griñon, presented a selection of two white and six red single estate wines yesterday at Absinthe in San Francisco that was well-attended by Bay area wine trade and media.

Grandes Pagos de Espana, or GPE, was formed in 2000 when a group of small-production single-estate producers from Old and New Castile gathered together to promote high-quality wines from individual producers rather than vast quantities of industrial blended wines, which Spain does very well. They founded “Great Growths of Castile,” or “Grandes Pagos de Castillo”, which became “Grandes Pagos de Espana” in 2003 to include all seventeen of Spain’s wine regions. GPE currently has 30 members.

At the same time, the Federal government introduced the DO Pago, or Vino de Pago, setting it atop DOCa, then Spain’s highest quality wine appellation. Spain has only two DOCa’s, Rioja, and Priorat. Ribera del Duero, home of Spain’s most famous wine, Vega Sicilia, was aggressively courted by the government to take DOCa status rather than the more typical process of producers petitioning for the status, but turned them down with the argument that their wine region and wines were already well-established and the new moniker would do nothing for them.

Both GPE and DO Pagos require the wines to come from estates perceived to be Spain’s best. DO Pagos wines may come from outside an established DO or DOCa, while GPE has no such requirements as it is a private group.

Perhaps feeling like a jilted lover after being turned down by Ribera del Duero, the Federal government saw an opportunity to expand the ranks of their upper end wine appellations. Just look at how quickly Italy ramped up to 74 DOCG’s. DO Pagos encourages renegades and non-traditional methods and grapes, similar to Italy’s IGT, a gateway into their DOC system – and dozen ‘s of those IGT’s are now DOCG, a ten year process. But Spain sent these non-traditional producers, from the four regions that have adapted DO Pagos – Castilla La Mancha, Aragon, Valencia and Navarra – straight to the top. These 13 DO Pagos are producing rich, fruit forward, supple, sleek international style wines that the market embraces, but they have very little to do with traditional Spanish wines.

I asked Victor de la Serna if GPE and DO Pagos were trying to align themselves, he replied, “We are a private club. Producers are more important than an appellation. DO Pagos is a Federal system but only four of our seventeen regions have adapted it. There are no DO Pagos in Rioja, Priorat, Ribera del Duero or anywhere else that have been established as our best areas.”

According to the Wines From Spain USA website, Rioja producers may be interested. For reviews of the wines tasted, visit us at and click "Wine Reviews."

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