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Remírez de Ganuza – Mavericks of modern Rioja

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Understanding the philosophy and people behind one of the most important names of 'new Rioja'.

It’s impossible to understand the philosophy behind Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza without first exploring the character of the man behind this iconic Rioja winery. Fernando Remírez de Ganuza (1951-2024) founded his eponymous estate driven by two complementary goals: bringing the excellence and diversity of Rioja’s terroirs to the forefront, and highlighting the quality of the fruit hailing from some of the region’s oldest and most prized vineyards.

The vineyard as a starting point

Having spent more than two decades brokering vineyard transactions across Rioja, Remírez de Ganuza gained a uniquely comprehensive knowledge of the vineyard stock across the region’s diverse regions and terroirs. He also developed a critical view of how the fruit hailing from these prized plots was being handled. This in turn shaped his belief that a different way of working was needed to make justice to the quality of the grapes and the character of the different sites.

His insider knowledge and extensive exploration of the region, allowed Remírez de Ganuza to build his own portfolio of old vineyards in Rioja Alavesa as the basis of his namesake winery, established in 1989. The bodega, located in the village of Samaniego, at the feet of Sierra Cantabria, and largely designed by Fernando himself,  became the heart of the project.

Savvy pioneer

Born in Navarra to a family dedicated to the production of meat-based products, Remírez de Ganuza was unbound to tradition or prior expectations. His unusual, polymathic background, along with his ‘outsider’ status, gave him the freedom to fearlessly question assumptions and define a unique path, at the crossroads of heritage and innovation. Having trained as a draughtsman, Remírez de Ganuza put his technical skills, creativity and entrepreneurial acumen at the service of quality, precision and stylistic purity. Sorting tables and dedicated presses, devised by Remírez de Ganuza himself and never before seen in Rioja, set a new benchmark for quality and precision winemaking.

Remírez de Ganuza’s portfolio quickly earned international recognition, redefining the meaning of both classic and modern Rioja. By affirming a clear style and personality – built upon the understanding of terroir, careful selection selection and respectful reinterpretation of tradition – Bodega Remírez de Ganuza carved a place of its own in the international wine firmament across price points and settings, from trendy wine bars to three-Michelin-starred restaurants.

The winery and its charismatic, unconventional bodeguero became symbols of the ‘new Rioja’ – a movement, dating back to the 1990s, whose ripples can still be felt today, that questioned the region’s approach to viticulture, terroir interpretation and winemaking. Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza was hence shaped by its founder’s uncompromising and ever-evolving quest for quality, innovation and terroir expressiveness. The project has remained faithful to these fundamental principles, applied to each of the winery’s wines, many of which have gained iconic status among consumers and sommeliers alike.

Looking ahead

In 2010, Fernando Remírez de Ganuza – who oversaw all vintages at the winery until his recent passing – future-proofed his project by selling a 50% share to the Urtasun family, which has since acquired the business in its entirety. Jose Ramón Urtasun succeeded Fernando as bodeguero (general manager), and now serves as custodian of a unique heritage of passion, commitment and endless curiosity.

Having worked alongside Remírez de Ganuza for the past 14 years, Urtasun upholds the values – both oenological and human – that have inspired and sustained this singular project since its inception. Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza remains a family business, with a strong, fiercely committed core team, built around a yearning for constant improvement.

Jose Ramón Urtasun, photo by Nani Gutierrez

Born in Madrid in 1976, Urtasun studied Environmental Sciences but did not have plans to follow a professional path in the wine industry. However, upon his family’s purchase of the initial 50% stake in Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza, the estate and its vineyards became not only his career but also, and above all, his life project. Today, he oversees all aspects of the winery’s operations, from vineyard to market, with the same dedication, passion and attention to detail of his predecessor.

He’s been particularly committed to warding off commercial pressures, ensuring that the wines are not released prematurely. The priority remains the adequate and full expression of each terroir and grape variety for which, Urtasun believes, it’s essential that enough time is spent in barrel and bottle.

Under his stewardship, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza has consolidated its already prominent position in international markets and among leading chefs and sommeliers. Urtasun has also expanded the winery’s portfolio with very special labels that explore the future of modern Rioja in the face of climate change and ever-increasing terroir awareness. Flagship examples include the Blanco Gran Reserva Olagar, a single-vineyard Viura aged for ten months in barrel and a further seven years in bottle; Iraila, Remírez de Ganuza’s first single-varietal Garnacha (one of the varieties with greatest potential for freshness); and UV, hailing from a selected plot of Tempranillo.

Perfectionism and ingenuity, hardwork and inventiveness, knowledge and intuition – these complementary concepts have provided the framework for each Remírez de Ganuza wine for the past three and a half decades and will continue to do so for many years to come.

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