God, we loved our stay in the Arribes del Duero! As we were driving towards the village of Fornillos de Fermoselle, to meet with a cheese maker, we ended up going from one farm to another! Everywhere we stopped, we were given a good reason to go see the neighbour too.
Eventually, this led us to meet Jose Manuel Beneitez, the man behind El Hato y el Garabato. The wines he produces combine fantastic cool & clever labels with a divine juice too! We drank from all the casks and vats, spoke for a good while, and thought it would be great to share his story and vision with you. So, here it is!
MEET THE MAKER: Jose Manuel, you are a producer based in the DO Arribes, Spain where you come from. However, your background in the wine world took you to several places such as California or Australia. Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself, your winery and how you ended up making wine in the Arribes del Duero?
It´s not easy to end up in Arribes because it’s like the “far west”, but I have a part of my roots here. I come from Madrid but my father’s family is from Arribes and we had a small vineyard that was planted by my great-grandfather.
El Hato y El Garabato is a very young and family-driven project. We come from the environmental and forest sectors, my wife and myself were looking for a common and exciting professional project, and that’s what we found in our craft winery.
We left our comfy life behind and travelled for 2 years, working in different wine areas with some amazing producers. We eventually started our own project back in 2015. At the moment, we manage 10 hectares of organic vineyards and elaborate four different wines, with our main goal being to express the terroir of Arribes in each one of them.
THE LAND & THE GRAPES: The DO Arribes is a unique environment in Spain: entirely located within a National Park, right where the Portuguese Douro becomes the Spanish Duero, with indigenous grapes full of character! Could you help our readers to understand what makes this part of the World so special?
In my opinion, this is one of the wildest wine areas in the world! Arribes is a small appellation, but it’s full of posibilities. You can make Mediterranean or fresh wines; you can work with an amazing terroir that has a lot of character, soils that are granitic, slate, etc…
You can elaborate wines from very old vineyards with unique varieties in the world, Juan Garcia, Rufete, Bastardo, Doña Blanca… Our land makes wines with a soul, thanks to its huge wine history and tradition.
Besides that, it´s a transition area between the Spanish “Duero Valley” and portuguese “Douro Valley”. The wine and the vineyards in Arribes are special, the people should really come and visit!!
THE CHALLENGES: Every wine region has different problems to face: drought or humidity, heat or cold, pests & diseases… I think the year 2017 was marked by devastating fires in your area, your first vintage was 2015, did you already identify your main Natural challenges in the area?
Arribes is a crazy area, I manage 10 hectares at the moment, with 30 different plots showing very different conditions, all within a 30 km radius. This presents a huge logistic problem but at the same time you reduce the risks.
It is almost impossible to have diseases or frost or hail in all of your plots! Maybe the most important problem was the 2017 drought during my very short history. For me, the most important challenges in Arribes come from the many varietals we have to work with and the very short history of quality-driven elaboration.
Arribes has potential for great red and white wines. In my opinion, you´ll be successful if you pair Arribes wines with the most typical Arrribes food.
With Arribes white: codfish, fresh goat cheese or octopus stew with potatoes.
With reds: of course with chorizo, mature sheep cheese, or cooked chickpeas.
YOUR FAVOURITE WINE IN THE WORLD: Now, the tricky question, except your own, what would you call your absolute desert island wine? If there are words to describe your choice, can you tell us why?
It´s a very difficult thing to choose only one wine!!
Some people try, but it´s not possible, the wine is not an objective thing. So, my favorite wines are always those whose I know the history behind or the face that made that wine or the landscape or something that gives me emotions.
I´d probably choose Charme by Niepoort, because that wine for me is the perfect example of how you can achieve the wine that you imagine in spite of the natural conditions you are given, only if you dare.
Big thanks to Jose Manuel for a lovely visit!
So & Max