If one pays close attention to the countless collections of wines offered by the large wholesale players across the US, it’s easy to notice that they are beginning to gradually embrace a bigger presence of wines from Spain. Whether Spanish wines are their specialty or not, these companies are focusing on a general shift in wine appetites around the US. With time, this has rounded off the supply chain and expanded the offerings of labels with diverse origins and styles.
The Rare Wine Co. (RWC) is a prestigious importer trading with some iconic names such as Selosse, Philipponnat, Giacomo Conterno, Mascarello, Rostaing as well as some of the top producers from Madeira. Additionally, one of RWC’s claims to fame is their vast wine library for sale.
Since 1999, they have been the sole distributors of Álvaro Palacios and Dominio de Pingus, two of Spain’s biggest stars. Since their beginnings, RWC was fixated on quality wine coming out of Spain, which has allowed them to forge important relationships in the country.
“I remember a trip in early 2001 when I first visited two new estates in areas that I didn’t know existed. In the town of Atauta, we saw an ocean of ungrafted old Tinto Fino whose fruit was, at that time, going to the local co-op. A couple of days later, I visited Álvaro Palacios’ nephew, Ricardo, in Bierzo for the first time. I vividly remember wondering just how many other treasures were hidden across the country,” recalls Blake Murdock, RWC’s managing director.
In 2014, a new trade colossus was created with the merger of two prominent industry forces: The Vintner Group and Winebow, both founded in 1980. Now, The Winebow Group claims a combined distribution network that supplies nearly half of the wine eventually consumed in the United States. Despite their size, The Winebow Group promotes high standards of craftsmanship. When asked about some of the current advantages offered by the wines from Spain they responded: “The New World of the Old World, the consistency of pricing and quality, vintage after vintage, remains steady in comparison to the varying degrees of quality based on vintage from the more traditional Old World producers.” The wineries that they have represented the longest include: Juvé y Camps, Castillo de Monjardín, Ànima Negra and Marqués de Griñón.
Michael Mondavi started Folio in 2005 with the belief that the best wines in the world were be made by family-owned and family-managed wineries. In 2006 and 2007 their repertoire expanded into Spain, with producers including Vall Llach, Fillaboa, and Palacios Remondo. More recently, Artadi has been a notable portfolio addition.
Spain now represents about 30% of Folio’s total offerings and they seem thirsty for more, but not without focus. “Folio only works with family-owned wineries. Working with wineries that make wines from indigenous Spanish grape varieties is also something that Folio values.” Even though this firm has not been around for long, the traditions of the historical Mondavi name are still present. Michael’s Spanish wine preferences clearly steer towards indigenous grape growers. “The best wines from Spain are made from local varieties that are best suited to each individual region. The flavor profile is both unique and recognizable.” When asked to describe the true Spanish Wine Lover in the US, Folio replied: “Someone who likes elegant, full-bodied wines.”
Fran Kysela was one of the first Americans to receive the highest award from the British Court of Master Sommeliers in 1989. Since he founded 35 years ago Kysela Pere & Fils in Winchester, he has worked as a wholesale representative, wine steward, national sales director and now wine importer. For many years, Fran has used the skilled services of Jens Riis (also an American), who has spent half of his life in Spain. Jens has scouted the Iberian Peninsula in search of wines worth trading and has provided logistical assistance to those on the ground.
At present, Fran’s Spanish selections comprise 15% of his total offerings. Kysela seems very sensitive about the over-the-top trends that may have been characteristic of Spanish wines in the past few years. “I look for authentic Spanish wines, wines that are clean, fresh, modern and balanced but not internationalized.” Even though Fran favors clean, technically well-made wines, he still believes that the strengths of Spanish wines are their “value, excitement and history.”