During a stay in Spain, I had the chance to visit Bodegas Jiménez – Landi, probably one of the best producers of grenache in the Iberian Peninsula. Jiménez – Landi is a family-owned winery located in the village of Méntrida in the appellation of origin that bears the same name. The creation of the winery dates back to the early 60s. However, it was not until 2004 that José Benavides Jiménez-Landi, who runs the winery, decided to produce and market quality wines based on respect for the terroir and featuring Grenache.
Méntrida, an underrated appellation
The D.O. Méntrida is an appellation located in the province of Castilla-La-Mancha, west of Madrid and north of Toledo. The wine tradition in the region goes back as far as the 12th century! Mostly red wine is produced here. While Méntrida is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Spain, according to José, it failed to adapt to market trends 20-25 years ago, when consumers began to turn to higher quality wines. Even today, the focus is on volume and the cooperatives continue to produce almost exclusively bulk wine. While Méntrida produces 50 million tons of grapes each year, only about 600,000 bottles are bottled!
Jiménez-Landi is an exception in the appellation, as are the few other producers who have chosen to focus on quality (there are only 25 wineries in the D.O., of which only 7 bottle their wines!) The success is there, since today you can find Méntrida wines on the menus of Madrid’s restaurants, which was unthinkable 15 years ago.
The Garnacha from Gredos
Bodegas Jiménez – Landi grows mostly Grenache, but also Syrah and some Cabernet Sauvignon. In order to promote the potential of the region’s old Grenache vines and the unique soils in which they grow, the Garnacha de Gredos Association (of which the winery is a member) was created in 2003. The geographical area of Sierra de Gredos includes several vineyards spread around Toledo (D.O. Méntrida), Madrid (D.O. Vinos de Madrid) and Ávila (Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla y León).
As for the Syrah, it has acclimated very well to the terroir of Méntrida. According to José, it gives very different profiles from the typical dense and colorful Syrahs of Spain. The Syrah of Méntrida is more on the freshness, the elegance, like the wines of the Rhone.
Two Vineyards, Two Different Terroirs
Bodegas Jiménez – Landi has nearly 50 acres of vines divided into two distinct vineyards. 37 acres are located in the vicinity of Méntrida. The Grenache and Syrah vines are between 12 and 40 years old. The soils are sandy and granitic and the altitude varies between 550 and 650 meters. The sand has the characteristic of storing a lot of heat during the day, but losing it quickly after dark. The soils are very poor in organic matter, which gives the grapes a lot of acidity. This allows a more natural elaboration, without too much manipulation. The climate is continental with long, cold winters and hot, dry summers. Rainfall does not exceed 500 millimeters per year.
The remaining 12 acres belonging to Jiménez – Landi are old Grenache vines around the village of Real de San Vicente. The age of the vines varies between 40 and 80 years and the altitude between 750 and 850 meters. The soils also contain sand, but there are also large stones. These stones accumulate heat during the day and release it at night, resulting in wines with a more opulent, dense and complex profile. The continental climate is very marked by the Sierra de Gredos. Winters are cold and dry, summers are hot. The annual rainfall reaches almost 900 millimeters and is concentrated in spring and autumn.
“Our vineyards of Méntrida and Real de San Vincente produce wines with very different profiles. What gives our wines their uniqueness is not the winemaking or the ageing, but the soil, the altitude and the parcel from which they come. Our wish is to make singular, unique wines. When we elaborate our wines, we seek above all balance, freshness, elegance and complexity. The most important thing is to produce a product with a strong identity and the same quality standard every year” – José Benavides Jiménez-Landi, winegrower in Méntrida
Jiménez – Landi elaborates its wines according to the different characteristics of the terroirs in which its vines grow. José’s philosophy is similar to that of Burgundy with the notion of “crus”. José participated in his first harvest at the age of 12. Since then, he has participated in all the successive harvests. Although he later trained at the Politécnica de Madrid, he believes that the best training a winegrower can have is to travel.
The vineyard is worked in organic agriculture. In the cellar, this translates into the use of indigenous yeasts, no chemicals, and the least interventionist philosophy possible. Each parcel is vinified separately. The wines are all aged in French oak barrels from 500 to 3,000 liters.
“If you want to make a wine with personality and passion, you have to submit to the rules of nature. This is a fundamental rule. Nature is constantly changing, we have hot years, cold years, rainy years, dry years, so you have to know how to adapt. Some years you will age your wines for 12 months, others up to 15 and some only 7”, adds José.
From vineyard work to harvesting to winemaking, everything is done by hand. “You can make very good wine by producing 100,000 to 150,000 bottles, which you can’t do at 500,000 bottles or more. Conversely, if you’re artisanal and you’re only making 15,000 bottles, you can hardly make a living as a winemaker. With a production of 100,000 bottles per year, the size of the estate seems to me to be quite adequate and sustainable.
“I like the way the French make and understand wine. In Spain, what usually makes the difference in a wine is the length of time it is aged in barrel. We talk about crianza, reserva, gran reserva, etc. I find this a bit obsolete. For me, wine should not be defined by the length of time it is aged in barrels, if not from the vine! The vine is what gives a wine its uniqueness. One can follow exactly the same recipe all over the world to make wine, using the same grape variety, the same barrel, etc., but what makes the difference is that each vine is unique and represents a typical terroir”.
Bodegas Jiménez – Landi produces only four wines. All of them are of a very high quality:
- Bajondillo: a blend of 80% Grenache with 10% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, from the vineyards of Méntrida. Age of the vines between 15 and 40 years. Fermentation in stainless steel tanks and then aged for 7 months in stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels with a capacity of 3,000 liters. The Bajondillo is the entry-level wine of the estate. It is a superb thirst-quenching wine, fresh, balanced and full of fruit. Nose on the violet. A real treat and an exceptional value for money at only 7 euros!!! (recommended price in Spain). We would drink it every day!
- Sotorrondero: a blend of 70% Grenache with 30% Syrah. The grenache comes from 45 year old vines from the Real de San Vicente vineyard. The Syrah comes from 12 year old vines from the Méntrida vineyard. Maceration with 30% of the grapes not destemmed, then fermentation and aging in French oak barrels of 500 and 3,000 liters for 9 months. Very good wine. We find in this vintage more substance and complexity. A greater bitterness also in the finish. Recommended price: 13 euros
- Piélago: 100% Grenache from the vineyard of Real de San Vicente. The age of the vines varies between 40 and 70 years. Fermentation and aging in French oak barrels of 500 and 3,000 liters for a period of 14 months. A Grenache as I like them, elegant, with an exceptional freshness. My favorite! 23 euros.
- Ataulfos: 100% Grenache from a single plot of old vines (80 years!!!) in the village of Real de San Vicente. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels of 500 and 3,000 liters for a period of 14 months. This is the most prestigious vintage of the estate. Here, the terroir expresses itself wonderfully. A wine of great complexity with a silky tannic structure, made for ageing. We find the elegance and the freshness of all the vintages of the domain. Long finish with balsamic notes. Very beautiful. 45 euros.