Wine Industry Interview:

Manuel Louzado

CEO & Winemaker: Arinzano – Navarra, ES.

by L.M. Archer

Manuel Louzada is the CEO and wine maker of Arinzano winery in Navarra, Spaion, part of the Stoli Group

Sometimes a winery doesn’t just surprise you – it knocks you on your palate.

I discovered such a winery by happy accident while tasting wines from another country (Achaval-Ferrer of Argentina). Those wines lassoed me with their voluptuousness, verve, and vibrancy. Turns out the same team, part of the Stoli Group empire,  purchased an artisan winery in Spain in 2015.

Here, I talk to CEO and wine maker Manuel Louzada about his Navarra venture Arínzano (Outside the America market, the winery is referred to as Vino de Pago de Arínzano), the first Vino de Pago designated winery in Northern Spain, tantamount to a Grand Cru designation in France.

In 2017, Arínzano went full gaucho when it won Champion Best of Show saddle prize  for the Arínzano 2010 Gran Vino Chardonnay at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition. This event marked the first time in the competition’s history that a white wine emerged the winner, and the first time that the winner hailed from Spain.

Clearly, something is goin’ on down on the Pago…as Manuel Louzada shares here.

LMA:  Arínzano is Northern Spain’s first Vino de Pago certified vineyard, Spain’s highest category for winemaking, above D.O.Ca. Can you explain to readers the exhaustive requirements necessary to achieve this certification, including climate, terroir, and winemaking? Why was it so important to Arínzano to achieve Vino de Pago certification?

ML:  First, the Spanish Wine Classification is regulated by law and extremely strict, approved as well by the EEC (European Economic Community). In this particular case, the law 24/2003 de la Viña y del Vino contains the Wine Classification, which resembles a sort of hierarchical pyramid, from the Vino de Mesa (which has a wide source of grapes, being the least exclusive) to the highest, most exclusive both in quality and availability, as it comes from a single property, Vino de Pago (from the Latin pagus, determined district of agricultural land, mainly vineyards).

The Vinos de Pago have to go through exactly the same exhaustive requirements as the D.O.Ca, like La Rioja or Priorat. To start, vineyards must be located in a limited area and produce wines which have to be made and bottled in the region and before being release to the market submitted to the control organizations – Consejo Regulador, INTIA and EEC in the case of the D.O.Ca, while INTIA and EEC for the Vinos de Pago – so that these wines are authorized to be sold.

To achieve the Vino de Pago category, you have to demonstrate to the most important public organizations, INTIA and EEC, the uniqueness and exclusivity of your terroir, through a highly extensive in-depth study of soil and climate. Once this is proven, you have the obligation to produce wine for ten years and submit for organoleptic and physical-chemical analysis. This is not only to demonstrate consistency but, most importantly, to demonstrate that the wine has unique and singular characteristics. As you can see, it is not a simple process. On top of this, if at some point during that 10-year process—since you are the only representative—the wine does not reach the established standards for characteristics or the quality you risk losing this particular appellation.

The founding goal of Arínzano wines is to reflect the uniqueness and exclusivity of the amazing terroir where the different vineyards have been planted, therefore it was a natural evolution to become the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain.

LMA:  The history of Arínzano reads like something out of a Gabriel García Márquez novel – a noble estate founded in the eleventh century by Sancho Fortuñones de Arínzano, selected by another nobleman in the 1600’s for the site of a palace. Over time, the estate lapses into ruin, only to be rediscovered in 1988. Today, in addition to its Vino de Pago certification, it’s the only vineyard in Spain certified by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for environmental responsibility. Can you briefly touch on the efforts Arínzano has made in four critical areas*, and why the WWF is so important to Arínzano?

*The four critical areas:

  1. The conservation and restoration of the natural environment:  half of the estate is reserved for indigenous flora and fauna.
  2. Organic viticulture with a low-environmental impact, and integrated pest control.
  3. Use of only certified environmental materials in the construction of the winery.
  4. Natural waste water filtration through a series of lagoons.

ML:  Indeed, the history of Arínzano is fantastic. In some parts of Spain, the presence of vineyards was naturally tied to the economic situation of the area, especially in such a naturally rich region. During the least favorable economic conditions, some vineyards were uprooted to plant cereal grains, to feed the population, while when the economic conditions improved, vineyards were planted to enjoy wine, which was always recognized for its exceptional quality, with the locally produced foods. I believe that these cycles influenced the fact of having not vineyards in the property which led to its re-discovery in 1988. When you have in your hands such a magnificent estate, with incredible natural conditions, you feel immediately compelled to concentrate all your efforts to permanently take care of the environment. The fact that we have been recognized by the WWF is the result of all the daily efforts in the above mentioned areas. As a result, all the team is extremely proud and you can easily sense this difference when seeing the vegetal and animal diversity or the natural conditions of the Ega River.

LMA:  Arínzano lies in northwestern Navarra, in a valley formed by the last slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. It comprises 355 hectares – 128 dedicated to Vino de Pago certified vineyards. Soils include loams, sand, limestones, limonites, gypsum and dolomites. Both marine and Ega River influences impact the climate, and the region enjoys over 2500 hours of sunlight annually.

Talk about the varietals you’ve chosen to cultivate here, and how the mélange of soil types and microclimates impact the unique wines created at Arínzano.

When applying for the Vino de Pago Classification, we understood one of the most significant particularities of this magnificent property is the diversity of its microclimates. The grape varieties were chosen by taking into account the type of soil and the overall climatic conditions as well as the movements of the Cierzo wind (a cold and dry wind coming from the North) through the property, the orography of the mountains, and finally the proximity of the Ega River, which translates into a milder climate. The Chardonnay, for example, was planted in the higher parts of the property with very poor and superficial soils but optimal limestone. The temperature there is colder as the result of the combination of higher elevation and the Cierzo influence. On the opposite is the Merlot, which is planted in slightly richer soils, protected from the wind by the populus trees and benefitting from the naturally milder, slightly more humid conditions generated by the Ega River.

LMA: How do Arínzano’s production methods differ from other wineries in Spain?

ML:  At Arínzano, we are convinced that the style of our wines must reflect the terroir where they come from. {From the start,] my team, Diego Ribbert and José Manuel Rodriguez, and I dedicated our lives to understand[ing] each and every individual character of the Arínzano vineyards throughout all the vegetative cycle. We decided the most appropriate moment of harvest by walking each plot of vineyard and adopted the most appropriate winemaking technique to express and, if possible, help enhance the magnificent virtues of this terroir. Finally, the choice of barrels, only French, is in line with the wines obtained and the pursued style of the wine. The wines aging in barrel are tasted monthly to follow their evolution and to precisely decide when to blend and bottle.

In my opinion, on one hand, almost each and every winemaking technique has been discovered. On another hand, the majority of the high quality winemaking equipment is available for anyone. For me it is the importance of the terroir, the sensitivity to understand, protect and translate into the wine these particular characteristics together with maximum attention to details and handcrafted winemaking, as described before—this allows us to make the exceptional wines that we envision.

LMA:   Both Arínzano and the Stoli Group winery in Argentina, Achaval-Ferrer, share certain unique similarities, viz., geographically challenging sites with diverse soils, complex microclimates, and culturally rich histories. Is acquiring Arínzano part of a deliberate strategy, part pure luck, or a combination of both?

ML:  Indeed, it is part of a deliberate strategy to have exclusively included in our portfolio so far such fantastic brands as Achaval-Ferrer and Arínzano. As a matter of fact, the characteristics mentioned in your question are the pillars to achieve exceptional wines and afterwards to allow the brands to grow as references in the world of wine amongst the highest reputed wines.

2 thoughts on “ Wine Industry Interview: Manuel Louzado – Arinzano ”

  1. I hadn’t read your previous article about Manuel and Arinzano thus enjoyed this update. The WWF aspect is compelling and his dedication to reflecting unique terroir with his Vinos de Pagos wines. Would love to taste his Chardonnay from the higher part of the property!

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