Passion for Spanish wine


Spanish wine
See more articles
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
  • Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary
1. The castle. 2. From left to right: Javier, Isabel and Miguel Suqué Mateu. 3. The new winery. 4 and 5. Premium facilities. 6. Winemaker Delfí Sanahuja. 7. New releases. 8. Sustainability certification. Photos: A.C., Perlada, Mario Wurzburger.

Wineries to watch

Perelada looks to the future as it marks its 100th anniversary

Amaya Cervera | June 6th, 2023

The Suqué Mateu family has deep roots in Catalonia. As well as wine, their businesses include leisure (casinos and hotels), food, cars and cultural activities such as the international music festival held every summer at their imposing estate in Perelada. The medieval village in Girona province has lent its name to the group of companies, with the notable exception of the wine business - a single letter was changed so that it could be registered as a commercial brand.

It has been 100 years since the entrepreneur Miguel Mateu bought the Peralada Castle complex in 1923, including a magnificent monastery where the Carmelite monks had been making wine for centuries. Until recently, it was here that the Gran Claustro cava was aged, the first wine to propel Bodegas Perelada to fame after it was served during the visit of American President Dwight Eisenhower to Spain.

New ground for wine

Although Arturo Suqué, Miguel Mateu's son-in-law and successor at the helm of the family businesses, began producing the sparkling white Blanc Pescador with winemaker Enric Serra in the 1970s, he preferred to concentrate on other enterprises. Of Miguel's three sons, Javier Suqué was the most enthusiastic about wine and the one who would take the winery a step further. "When I started working for the family group, I asked my father to focus more on wine, provided that it was quality-driven," explains Javier.

In the 1990s, he sought the help of Josep Lluis Pérez (Mas Martinet), one of the driving forces behind the revival of Priorat, and his former biology teacher at school. As a result, the family went from owning a single vineyard to four, including the stunning sea-facing Garbet property, which is a reminder of how the Costa Brava once flourished with vines on its coastal slopes. It was quite a statement as the 21st century dawned.

Javier Suqué also championed research (the Ex Ex, named after "exceptional experiences", was the first experimental range of wines to be released in Spain) and was keen to build new facilities to improve winemaking. The idea went back a long way. It had always seemed to him that the farm that his grandfather had built near the castle was the perfect place for a winery.

While his dream was 40 years in the making, the project took almost 20 years to come to fruition, as the 2008 crisis forced it to be postponed. The winery was finally built between 2018 and 2022.

A bodega without façade

The project was developed by RCR, a studio based in Olot, a town further inland in Girona. Founded by Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem and Ramón Vilalta, they won the 2017 Pritzker Prize for their 'uncompromising commitment to the site' and for creating 'spaces that relate to their contexts'. Perelada approached them in the early 2000s, thanks to an article about emerging architects under the age of 40. The family thought it would be a good idea to support young local talent. "We understood each other right from the start. At that time, RCR was talking already about sustainability and landscape adaptation," recalls Suqué.

The technical strategy was to take advantage of the 10-metre drop below the estate to build an underground cellar where the wine would flow by gravity. "We have just completed the landscape, using this slope to develop a series of functionalities," explains architect Rafael Aranda, recalling a particularly challenging moment when they told Arturo Suqué, who died in 2021, a year before the work was completed, that there would be no façade.

"We are not interested in producing eye-catching buildings," says Aranda. "In fact, we don't build objects in or on a landscape, but spaces that belong to a landscape. We see architecture as another layer in the landscape, next to the existing buildings. We love this timeless, quiet approach.”

The 16,000 square metre underground winery, with separate entrances and routes for visitors and workers, houses two cellars on the same site. The first is substantial in size and focuses on wines priced under €15, while the other is geared towards the premium range, with tanks of up to 5,000 litres and various sizes and materials for ageing vessels. Visitors are first taken on an immersive tour of five rooms dedicated to each of the family's vineyards in different areas of the DO Empordà: La Garriga, Pont de Molins, Malaveïna, Espolla and Garbet. A sixth space is dedicated to architecture and sustainability.

First impressions are encouraging. In addition to the obvious benefits for winemaking, the bodega welcomed 15,000 visitors in the first six months after opening and is expected to reach 30,000 in 2023. "The new facilities will allow us to grow in value rather than volume," says Suqué. "This is not just my achievement, but a commitment on the part of my entire family. The investment [€45 million] is huge considering the size of the business. We see it as a legacy for future generations and for the Empordà region as a whole.”

Javier Suqué is equally confident that it will strengthen Perelada's presence in Barcelona, in Spain and also abroad, judging by the positive feedback they have received from foreign buyers and visitors. "It has always been difficult for us to sell Empordà wines in Barcelona, which is why we organised the centenary celebrations there.” 

The other commercial aspect that Suqué is working on is the creation of a sales structure capable of distributing the company's brands nationwide, which he sees as a challenge given the trend towards regionalised consumption.

A major player in Spanish wine

Although wine represents less than 30% of the family business, its turnover is €60 m. With 16 m bottles produced annually and 1,000 hectares under vine, the figures are significant. This includes Blanc Pescador, which is produced in a separate facility, and the Chivite group (Gran Feudo and J. Chivite Family Estates in Navarra and Viña Salceda in Rioja), which was acquired in 2017 and is seen as a major asset in its bid to break into the domestic market.

In the same vein, a 40-hectare estate was recently purchased in Ribera del Duero, near La Horra, although it remains to be seen which business model will be adopted in this region.

The Cava division already produces 4.5 m bottles. The business was strengthened in 2017 with the acquisition of Privat, an organic brand successfully established by the Pujol-Busquets family fom Alta Alella, and a 100ha organic vineyard in Castellví de la Marca (mid-Penedès), which supplies grapes for this sparkling wine range, which is doing particularly well in Scandinavia. The other cavas, including Gran Claustro, rely on a long-standing wine supplier, with additional vineyard and winemaking monitoring. "We always keep an eye on the vineyards for medium and high quality cava," explains winemaker Delfí Sanahuja, who has 30 harvests under his belt in Perelada. Exports are particularly good for sparkling wines (53%) compared with still wines (35%).

In Catalonia, Perelada owns Casa Gran del Siurana and 50% of Cims de Porrera, both in Priorat, and a few years ago took over the small Empordà winery Oliver Conti. In fact, the company is behind a third of all the wine produced in this DO. However, Javier Suqué does not like to adopt the role of a big company. "I invited local producers to visit the new winery, because I see it as a community project; small wineries are doing very well in Empordà," he points out.

The Suqué-Mateu family's most distant investment is La Melonera in Ronda (Málaga), where they work with indigenous varieties such as the red Romé and Tintilla and the white Doradilla.

Other regions of interest to the family are Bierzo and Galicia, future projects in which Javier Suqué hopes to involve the next generation. While working on a family protocol (there are four heirs, two sons and two nephews), Javier has managed to enlist his son Borja, who has a career in design, in the centenary celebrations.

New wines

The anniversary, combined with the potential of the new winery, has resulted in a host of new Perelada wines, starting with a cava to toast the centenary.  Centenaria Edición Especial Reserva Brut (30,000 bottles, €18) offers a fine sweet-acid-bitter balance on the palate and is set to become a permanent fixture in the range.

More important, however, are the first wines to be produced in the new facilities. The Obsequi and Amfitrió duo is a reference to Peralada's cultural heritage. The former is a tribute to the artists who have performed at their summer festival, and the latter to the family's warm hospitality. The fresh yet opulent Obsequi 2020 (10,000 bottles, €9) blends Garnacha Blanca with 35% Sauvignon Blanc. It tests the capabilities of the new winery as it has been aged in concrete for four months. Amfitrió 2020 (€12, 30,000 bottles) is a pleasant Mediterranean red made from Garnacha, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet and Cariñena, aged in French oak, foudre and concrete. Both are presented in light, grainy-textured bottles.

Two super-premium reds proved particularly challenging for Delfí Sanahuja. RCR 2019 (€55, 1,600 bottles), a tribute to the winery's architects, was inspired by the character of Rafael Aranda, "a man who always wears black, loves deep, structured wines and, as he is attached to the small village of Olot, makes me think of a local variety," explains Sanahuja. He created a deep-coloured ripe Garnacha with extended maceration and concentration, although there are also violet floral notes and a sensual texture wrapped around the tannins. RCR designed a wide, almost square wooden box to display the wine, but the most striking feature is the absence of a proper label; instead, there's paper wrapped around the bottle with a drawing in the same colours as the cellar models and a written text explaining the project.

At the other end of the spectrum is Vi Centenari 2020 (€250, 1,070 bottles), inspired by Javier Suqué's style and taste (he loves fruit-driven, elegant, supple wines and has a particular fondness for the Mediterranean). The palate is also enveloping, but the aromatic herbs take centre stage, along with ripe red fruit and a hint of orange zest - the price, alas, makes it quite unaffordable. The wine could only come from Garbet, but this is the first time that the two varieties grown on the site have been blended (Syrah usually goes to Finca Garbet, which will not be released in the 2020 vinatge, while Garnacha goes to Aires de Garbet). The blend (67% Syrah, 33% Garnacha) works so well that it makes you wonder whether this might be the best expression of this windswept coastal vineyard. Perhaps this is one of the many things Delfí Sanahuja can consider in his brand new winery.


Priorat: is it all about terroir?
What’s all the fuss about Cava?
0 Comment(s)
Comment on this entry*
Remember me:
privacy policy
*All comments will be moderated before being published: