A few months ago, I attended Spain’s largest wine show [FENAVIN->http://www.fenavin.org/entrada.php], the equivalent to France’s [VINEXPO->http://www.vinexpo.com], and was fortunate enough to taste through some wines with the well-known wine exporter Christopher Cannan. Christopher’s company [Europvin->http://www.europvin.com] is a name synonymous with quality, representing wines as varied as Bordeaux, Portugal, Hungary, Priorat, vermouth and even a Single malt scotch.
Shortly there after, and with a bit of ping-pong like agility, Christopher agreed to respond briefly to few questions. With over 300 different products in his portfolio, life can never be dull. So with Christopher’s permission, I’ve augmented the following interview with a few excerpts from his website.
1) When did you start in the wine business and what was your motivation?
I started in the wine business in 1970 Ã¢€Â¦ out of interest in wine and desire to travel and use the languages I had learnt: French, German and Spanish.
2) What criteria do you use when looking for new estates?
My guiding principle for finding new estates is quality first but also those who make wines of character that truly represent their origins. The personality of the winemaker and his ability to work closely and constructively with us is also important.
3) Are you currently looking for new estates?
We continue actively seek new properties but only when the standards are extremely high and the estate in question fits in our commercial strategy.
4)Tell me a bit about your reasons for purchasing Clos Figueras?
The property I purchased Ã¢€Â¦ [Clos Figueras->”#1″] Ã¢€Â¦ in the Priorat Ã¢€Â¦ was an interesting opportunity – on the advice of [Rene Barbier->http://www.renebarbier.com/] (owner of [Clos Mogador->http://www.europvin.com/index.php?page=EpvLayout&portlet=Fournisseur&zone=2&by=3&code=MOGADOR&critere=SPAIN]) Ã¢€Â¦ Likewise our joint venture with René in Laurona ([Montsant D.O->http://domontsant.com/cat/home.html]) Ã¢€Â¦ see our website for more information on these products.
-from Christopher’s website: [europvin.com->http://www.europvin.com]
-Founded in 1999 as a joint venture between Christopher Cannan, owner of Europvin S.A., and René Barbier of the famous Clos Mogador estate in Priorat, Europvin Falset has several objectives. The most important of these is the production of high quality wines from the superbly situated vineyards that surround the now famous Priorat D.O. Furthermore the company is working closely with the town of Falset and the local cooperative, permitting a close cooperation with specific growers in the area, selecting grapes from old vines and controlling the entire production process from the pruning through to the date of picking the fully mature grapes.
Additionally the company fully supports the new D.O. Montsant control of origin which involves the villages around Falset and at the foot of the imposing Montsant Mountain. This D.O. was officially approved in September 2001 is being used for the 2000 vintage for the first time. The wines are made from the various varieties planted in the area, mainly Grenache and Carignan with some Syrah and small quantities of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ageing is in 500 litre oak casks, a large proportion of which are new. The? Seleccio de 6 Vinyes? is actually fermented in the oak casks, adding to the complexity of the wine. This, added to the long maceration period, gives wines of remarkable depth and smoothness. At the same time Laurona has wonderful lively fruit and rich spicy flavours that linger on a long soft finish.
In 1999 about 50 000 bottles of Laurona were produced and some 4 000 bottles of the Seleccio de 6 Vinyes. In 2000, slightly larger quantities have been made but the objective is to keep the company small and manageable while concentrating on extremely high standards of quality rather than quantity. The origin of the name Laurona dates back to Roman times when Pliny the Elder mentioned only one single vineyard of distinction from Tarragona called Laurona. It was quoted by him as being of high quality. Now in the 21st century Europvin Falset will make every attempt to revive the excellent reputation enjoyed by Laurona some 2000 years ago.
In December 2002 the Wine Spectator included the Laurona 2000 in its famous list of the Top 100 most exciting wines of the year. It was one of the only 3 Spanish wines to be included in the list.
-Christopher Cannan purchased Clos Figueres in 1997 on the advice of René Barbier of Clos Mogador.
The vineyards cover some 10 hectares. There are about 2500 old Carignan and Grenache vines planted more than 20 years ago for the Clos Figueres label. The remainder, about 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, some Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvèdre were planted in 1998 and are used for the production of Font de la Figuera.
The location is just to the north of [Gratallops->http://www.gratallops.com/frameset.php?lang=en] on terraced slopes of pure schist, the soil responsible for the finest wines of Priorat. From these high terraces, the views are wonderful…in one direction the famous Ermita vineyard and the craggy Montsant mountain range behind it; in the other a long-distance vista featuring the Ebro Valley and more mountains beyond. [René Barbier’s->http://www.renebarbier.com/] team takes care of the vineyards as well as the vinification and ageing of the wines. Clos Figueres now ranks with the best of Priorat, while the second wine, Font de la Figuera, represents remarkable value for the region.
5)At this point only Rioja and [Priorat->http://www.winesfromspain.com/icex/cda/controller/pageGen/0,3346,1549487_4946338_4944445_1108_-1,00.html] have achieved the status of DOCa, what other regions do you think deserve to belong in this category?
The only other regions in Spain that merit the Doca appellation are the [Ribera del Duero->http://www.riberadelduero.es/] and [Jerez->http://www.sherry.org/] in my opinion.
6) What other regions do you think are capable of producing “quality” wines that people seem to be currently overlooking?
Many regions in Spain have the potential to produce interesting to outstanding wines…especially where old vines are still dominant. I feel that several areas deserve more attention Ã¢€Â¦ including Montsant, Calatayud, Salamanca, Valencia, Yecla etc.
7) With the current worldwide “wine glut”, do you think Spain is in a good position to avoid falling victim to this problem?
Spain is likely to survive the current “wine glut” better than other countries due to the superb value and the dynamics of the trade. Spain has only recently woken up to the fact that it is not only the Rioja that can produce great wines (The Ribera del Duero DO only exists since 1982). A new generation of young winemakers who have international experience is pumping “new blood” into the production of Spanish wines. Taking advantage of the great climate and “terroir” Ã¢€Â¦ also the old vines Ã¢€Â¦ the results are often spectacular Ã¢€Â¦ wines with much more variety and character than many from the New World.
8) Spain is currently experiencing one of the [worst droughts->http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4086864.stm] in recent memory, how do you think this is going to affect this year’s crop?
It is early yet to know if the drought is having a major impact on the upcoming 2005 vintage. For the moment, we can expect good quality but less quantity than in 2004.
I’d like to thank Christopher for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I would also like to ask all of you to check out Christopher’s site, [www.europvin.com->http://www.europvin.com] and read more about Christopher’s properties.
Coming soon…I’m currently working on interviews with producers throughout Spain, and in the next few months, I hope to offer some early predictions on the upcoming vintage. I also plan on taking one day in September to offer you a first hand account of the harvest from the perspective of a harvester.
Till soon, Ryan Opaz