If Conde de Hervías were produced in Bordeaux, it would be a highly-regarded garagiste operation.
It is incredible to think that wine was produced in their historic Las Arenillas vineyard when the left bank of Bordeaux was still marshland. Based in Rioja, the project remains one of the hidden gems of Spain, produced from one of the most important vineyards in Rioja. Íñigo forgoes traditional reliance on the press (and forget about social media), focusing instead on delivering a singular, classic experience to his customers, private collectors who covet each release. As such, he has managed to fly below the radar of casual observers and trend chasers.
The flagship Conde de Hervías cuvée is produced from the Las Arenillas vineyard in the heart of Torremontalbo at 475m, on the right bank of the Ebro River. Conde de Hervías is only produced in the best vintages and in minimal quantities. Las Arenillas is one of the oldest and most famous pre-phylloxera vineyards in Rioja, with vines planted on their original rootstock in 1874 by Don Nicanor Manso de Zúñiga, the Count of Hervías, and his brother Don Victor Cruz, founder of the School of Oenology in Haro. Íñigo’s ancestors were at the epicenter of viticulture in the Rioja region during a time of great change, due to the phylloxera epidemic and partnership with the French in Bordeaux. To their amazement, the vines of their Las Arenillas vineyard survived the phylloxera epidemic, due to the sandy nature of the soil, while the louse wiped out the majority of the indigenous vines throughout the region. The indigenous tempranillo and graciano cuttings from Las Arenillas were utilized in the grafting of traditional Rioja varieties on American rootstocks in the wake of the phylloxera crisis. The same vines were also used to re-plant all of the other single vineyards at the estate: Llano Alto, planted in 1958 in calcareous clay soils with large river rocks; and Romero, planted in 1978 in pure calcareous clay soil. The estate vineyards carry an important, irreplaceable genetic heritage, pre-dating the industrialization of Rioja.
Íñigo utilizes the traditional goblet (bush training) method for all of his vineyards, which helps preserve acidity and freshness in the wines and guards against heat damage. Conde de Hervías is produced from hand-picked, organically-farmed grapes, of which roughly 90% are tempranillo and 10% are graciano. He works in a very intuitive manner, selecting only the best fruit for his wines, selling any fruit that does not make the cut, and never relying on chemical intervention. This has been the way at the property as far back as anyone can remember. Native yeasts are utilized for spontaneous alcoholic fermentations, bringing the character of the vineyard to the wines. Recently, he has been utilizing a method called integrated fermentation, where alcoholic and malolactic fermentations happen simultaneously, bringing great harmony to the wine.