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Posted: Monday, 10 December 2018 08:28

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Bruñal: No Brunello but a Rare Gem from Castilla Y Leon- Spain

Dec 10: Bruñal is a rare indigenous Spanish grape variety which was near-extinct variety two decades ago and grows only in the province of Castilla Y Leon in Arribes del Duero Natural Park, but has been revived by a handful of producers like Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas which showcased it at a private dinner at Seville Restaurant at Hotel Claridges in Delhi last month, writes Subhash Arora who loved the wine for its character, age-ability like Brunello or Barolo and the collectible nature because of very small quantity produced but feels it has to go a long way before people can appreciate its intrinsic value

An excellent wine tasting with dinner was hosted by Virendra Mittal of Juberfam Mittal India Pvt. Ltd., a couple of weeks ago in the PDR of Seville Restaurant at The Claridges, New Delhi in the august company of Spanish Ambassador H.E. Jose Barañano, Deputy Head of Mission Eduardo Sanchez and a few other diplomats, with a unique Spanish wine from Arribes del Duero in Castilla y Leon, called Bruñal- a rare, almost extinct grape. Also present at the dinner was Antonio Huertes Garcia, owner of Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas, a producer of Salamanca in Castilla y Leon, the relatively unheard of but the largest denomination area in Spain.

I had been privileged to visit the region in May 2017 when I visited Arribes de Ribera del Duero in Salamanca in Arribes del Duero Natural Park that runs alongside the Spanish border with Portugal on the other side. I had been visiting Valladolid, capital of Castilla y Leon, as a part of the judging team at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles that was invited for a FAM trip to 5 DOs including DO Arribes.  We had spent one night in the town of Fermoselle at Hotel Posada Doña Urraca where a special tasting had been organised followed by dinner. The Tasting included wines from 8 producers, which included the local grape Jose Garcia and the unique rare variety Bruñal.

Bruñal is the indigenous, botrytis resistant vine- Spain’s answer to Brunello-at least it is a very tough and tannic grape and needs several years to make a wine approachable. It is a low-yielding grape with thick skins and very dark colour. Hardly 20,000 bottles were produced last year in the whole region. It’s a late ripening variety and is usually harvested on September 20. But the wines are very tannic and well-structured. They can sell for upwards of €40 a bottle and can go up to €200 with the fineries of packaging, we were told.

Earlier, it used to be a part of the blend. Since 2003, some producers started making it as a 100% varietal. If the yields could be improved, this grape will be used more and more as a varietal. In any case, based on the response of the consumers, a few companies have ventured into the varietal recently since they are finding takers at higher prices due to genuine higher costs.

Meeting Antonio Huertes Garcia

I had met Huertes exactly 4 years ago in December 2014 when he and his daughter-in-law and export manager Raquel Vela Pato came at my residence to meet me. She explained as his interpreter that Antonio had taken the advice in 2002 of my good friend and a well known Spanish wine expert Isabel Mijares who had told him about the almost-extinct grape variety Bruñal which was then a miniscule part as the field blend.

Isabel inspired him into reviving the grape that used to grow only in that region. Today only a handful of farmers and Antonio are growing this grape in the whole world, making a unique wine. Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas makes only 3000 bottles from this low-yielding grape with tight bunches and very small berries and cost over €70 a bottle then. With a yield of less than 1 ton/hA from 60-100 years old vines the quantity of grapes available was very limited and hence expensive.  But the prestigious Wine Report 2007 rated it the second best wine in Spain.

Solo Bruñal vs. Bruñal 2009

At the dinner that started with a Juan Garcia (the grape has nothing to do with Antonio Garcia), Virendra Mittal who is exclusively promoting the two grapes and 2 wineries Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas and Arbadengo.  Bruñal 2009 was a great match with the main course of lamb. The wine was very well structured, with perfect balance and elegance.  But as Virendra explained, the wine  is not for everyone- 2009 that we tasted is exported at a fixed 380 Euros to all the countries.

The 2010 was an exquisite vintage- only 1482 bottles were produced and it is called Solo Bruñal . There was a bottle available but not for opening  but one could take a picture only. It is identified by a thick metal ring and no label at all- Majestic looking bottle with the halo around it in the shape of the silver colour ring- but naturally FSSAI won’t allow it in the current packaging if it were to find buyers at over 1000 Euros in India!! It’s perhaps the most expensive Spanish wine!!!

The wine is a perfect example of how the supply and demand for such collectible wines can create havoc with the price, the higher costs notwithstanding. It won’t be easy to sell a wine that costs over € 1000 or even € 380. But if it is able to establish its exclusivity, it can command high premium as a collectible wine. It is well worth saving the grape that gives an excellent wine and which ages over the years-like Brunello-or Barolo.  

In the meanwhile, connoisseurs can await more tastings in the near future.

For earlier Articles, please visit:

Wine travels: Hidden Spanish Gems of Castilla y Leon

CMB 2017: Rare Grapes of Castilla y Leon

Tasting : Unique Spanish Wine for Connoisseurs

Subhash Arora

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