Ricardo Arambarri Perez is from one of Spain’s most well known wine regions, La Rioja. In his experience, coming from this part of the country can mean only one thing: living a life that’s all about wine.
“Here in Rioja,” he assures me “everyone is related to wine.”
He may just be right. Ricardo’s great-grandfather and grandfather grew and sold wine, and his father did the same, eventually founding Vintae Wines in the late 90’s and handing it off to Ricardo in 2007.
“Actually,” he says with a completely straight face, “we are now conducting research to see just how far back our relation to wine goes.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a member of the Arambarri family who didn’t live, breathe (and drink tons of) wine. This is, no doubt, a very good thing for wine drinkers everywhere. How come?
Because aside from Ricardo’s unquestionable passion for wine and the charm of his rich accent and even richer beard, he and Vintae are helping to bring about a new era in Spanish winemaking.
“When I arrived at the company, we were making wines in Rioja, which pretty much everyone else was doing. The philosophy of our company now is to seek out local varietals in forgotten regions. We love to search for old vines in these regions and make unique wines that are still authentic.”
Far from chasing the market and growing whatever grape is in style, Ricardo endeavors to make “wines from the most exciting parts of Spain in a way that’s true to what Spain has been doing for ages, instead of growing Merlot or Cabernet.” He stops for a moment to think.
“You know, those are wines from France, and they’re great, but this is Spain. It’s different. We have so many climates, soils, atmospheres and cultures of winemaking. Our duty at Vintae is to respect, in all these new regions, what the authentic wines are there.”
Ironically, seeking out the authentic and forgotten grapes of Spain is something quite new. Tempranillo and la Rioja have dominated the market for years and overshadowed everything else, even the stuff that’s way worth drinking.
Since Ricardo took over, Vintae has taken big strides to update Spanish wine: they have branched out of la Rioja into 12 different regions, they have created a new appellation, Valles de Sadacia, by growing Muscat a Petit Grain Muscat and several other rediscovered and local varieties. They’re making organic wines without chemicals, oak or sulfites. They’re even pioneering sparkling wines in the Rioja region, known mainly for its proud reds.
Ricardo isn’t just trying to push the envelope, he’s actually doing it. He’s not growing trendy wines or devising fancy marketing plans, he’s simply putting all of Spain’s delicious and forgotten traditions first, and letting the rest follow.
After some talk of what makes Spanish cookouts so damn good, Ricardo’s time abroad in Texas and the pros and cons of American football, I ask him what he would do if he wasn’t involved in wine. His brows furrow and his eyes widen, he has to take a minute.
“I never thought there was anything else.” He laughs to clear the silence and then lists a few other hobbies of his to answer the question.
Still, it’s not hard to tell that he really does mean it. For Ricardo, wine is it.