"The Spanish Wine Gurus" of Casa Rojo
With a slogan like "creative enology" and a repertoire dubbed The Wine Gurus, representing nine different Spanish wine regions; you just know that winery Casa Rojo has got a story to tell.
Text: Adrienne Smith/@ICEX.
In just seven years, Murcia-based winery Casa Rojo has made a name for its wines internationally thanks to their award-winning, exceptional quality; as well as the wines' colorfully artistic labels and witty names like Alexander vs. the Ham Factory, The Invisible Man, MachoMan Monastrell and The Orange Republic, among others.
Named one of the "100 Best Wineries in the World" by Wine&Spirits magazine in 2014, Casa Rojo's main pursuit is this expanding collection of The Wine Gurus wines, which serves as an ambassador for some of Spain's most diverse and important wine regions. In each of these carefully-chosen regions, the emphasis is on native grape varieties, limited productions and capturing the essence of the particular terroir. Not for nothing, the wines have received international acclaim, with the majority of production currently exported to over forty different countries.
Foods and Wines from Spain spoke to the winery's Communications Director Fran Hidalgo, to learn a little more about this fascinating enology project. This is what he had to say:
Tell me a little bit about the origins of Casa Rojo. How did this project come about?
Casa Rojo was founded in the year 2010 by the husband and wife team of José Luis Gómez and Laura Muñoz, the enologists and directors of Casa Rojo. Their passion for the world of wine led them to embark on a wine tour of Spain with the goal of representing the most important Spanish terroirs and native grape varieties, to faithfully reflect the aromas of each area. Thus, the first two projects to emerge were MachoMan Monastrell (DO Jumilla) and El Gordo del Circo (DO Rueda) in early 2014. During these years, they searched for the areas where each grape variety enjoyed its maximum level of expression. The project kicked off with the elaboration of crisp and dynamic single-variety wines, made to express the character of each variety. We are currently working on nine projects, making wine out of grapes we have selected ourselves in vineyards in Rías Baixas, Valdeorras, Bierzo, Rueda, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorato, Cava and Jumilla.
What are the main objectives that characterize Casa Rojo?
Our goal is to make the perfect wine, with this “perfection” understood to be a philosophy for day-to-day work, a way of outdoing ourselves, of trying to understand the terroir of each area. We are trying to respectfully and authentically interpret each terroir and turn the grapes into the true protagonist of the wine.
How does your project combine modernity and tradition?
At Casa Rojo we believe in a new kind of wine making, a new way of understanding wine for everyone who wants to discover other dimensions of pleasure, starting from the very moment they discover our wine on a store shelf. The modernity stems from this new way of understanding wine, of communicating it, of introducing it to consumers; always respecting traditions, and working hand in hand with the agriculturists. They [the agriculturalists] are the fundamental pillars that this project stands on and their work in the vineyards is essential.
What was your first wine and how did the expansion to various areas of Spain come about?
The first wine was MachoMan Monastrell. This is the wine we make in our place of origin, at our headquarters. Most of our team is from Murcia. MachoMan forms part of Denomination of Origin Jumilla. We make this wine in a spectacular location, in La Raja, in the extreme southernmost part of DO Jumilla, between two mountain ranges (El Carche and La Pila). Expanding to other parts of Spain has been a learning process for us. Books and trips alone can teach you things, and traveling around Spain we have discovered other ways of treating the grapes, as well as other harvest cultures. We learn from each of the denominations where we work.
In Spain we are lucky to boast an extraordinary wealth of vineyards. Isn't it worth it to get to know all of them before it's too late? It is absolutely thrilling, which is why we are on this journey through nine denominations of origin.
Tell me a little about The Wine Gurus project. How many are there and what characteristics are you looking for in vineyards or regions in order to add them to the project?
Our The Wine Gurus [collection] is comprised of the nine wines we make in nine areas of Spain using nine varieties of native Spanish grapes. These are limited productions that range between the 10,200 bottles we make of our Ladrón wine (DO Bierzo made with Mencía grapes), to the 103,000 bottles-maximum of our MachoMan Monastrell. They are small productions in order to control the elaboration process as much as possible, with manual harvests in small, 15-kg boxes, so that the grapes arrive to the winery in perfect condition, selecting the best from each vine in the vineyard, before they are placed in the deposits. The work that we do seeking out these production zones is meticulous. We look for the area that best represents each variety, the best terroir. We work in the nine regions that fascinate us the most, that we are enamored with, although there are of course other areas of Spain that we are passionate about and that– who knows? – we might integrate in the future.
Do you own all the vineyards? Do all of them have denomination of origin status?
All nine of our The Wine Guru wines have denomination of origin status. Some of the vineyards are ours and others belong to the agriculturalists we work with. We think it's important for the land and vineyards to be cultivated by the people who witnessed their birth and who have been caring for them their whole lives. No one knows better than they do what the vines need at any given moment.
Are there plans in place to include any other regions or denominations? Or is there any one in particular that you're interested in?
We have enough on our plate with the nine regions where we're currently working, although of course you never know...
How many wines do you make in total and in what quantities?
We produce less than 500,000 bottles in total of the nine projects that comprise The Wine Gurus.
How much wine do you export and to which countries? Do you export your entire line of wines?
We export all of our wines to more than 40 countries. Our markets include important destinations like Mexico, Holland, Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, the United States, Japan and Peru, among others. Of course we export the majority of our production.
In your experience, are there certain types of wines that sell better in some markets or others?
Yes, of course there are markets where wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero – two of the most well-known Spanish wine regions on an international level – sell better. Then there are other markets that seek out more limited productions and denominations with less international renown. Still other markets are drawn more to "price" than quality. We have no interest in being in the latter of these markets are
Apart from The Wine Gurus collection, Do you have any other wines or projects?
We produce a small amount of organic wines for our Musso line, the majority of which are made practically on demand and exported to specific customers in northern Europe. Different to The Wine Gurus collection, this line of six, single-variety, wines does incorporate some foreign grapes (Musso Merlot, Musso Cabernet Sauvignon, Musso Chardonnay and Musso Merlot), while the remaining two wines (Musso Tempranillo and Musso Cava Macabeo) are made with native Spanish grapes). With equally enticing designs, all of these organic wines hail from Tierra de Castilla (Castile-La Mancha) except for the Cava, which is made in Requena, Valencia.
How do you see the future of Casa Rojo, or what objectives shape your future plans?
Love what you do, do what you love. That is our motto. Our present plans are to keep working while we keep enjoying what we do. That's how we keep building our future.
"Our goal is to make the perfect wine, with this “perfection” understood to be a philosophy for day-to-day work, a way of outdoing ourselves, of trying to understand the terroir of each area."