This is the story of a fighter. Not a fighter in the style of those wearing shorts and gloves, but rather about those who are dogfighting in a daily basis to carry out their projects, their dreams, their life. Sometimes we think that people who have built a name themselves in their trade have everything easier, that their days of struggle have been left behind in the memory lanes. Far from that situation, these same people must keep on fighting. Not just only for them but also for those coming after them.
That fighter is Abel Mendoza.
Abel is one of those people who have been doing what they like for years, pursuing their passion day after day. Before him, his father dedicated himself to wine, and before him, his grandfather did. Always working in the vineyards as it had to be done. Taking care of the vines, taking care of the grapes, with the least possible intervention so that the vineyard offers the best possible. Abel has always cared about the grape expressing the terroir it comes from and showing the difference between plots. Because the wine is made in the vineyard and that’s where you have to work harder, always with your bare hands.
Abel’s is a constant struggle to make the wine the way he likes. But above all, to do it the way his ancestors did it before him, because that has always been the way to make wine and although there are nowadays other elaboration methods, nobody should limit or prohibit the winemaking style that has always worked. On the other hand, an artist like Abel has, so to speak, his audience, his faithful fans, those who are in love with his wines. And they are not just a bunch. What we want is Abel’s wines remain as before, the wines of Abel, and not just another wine tasting like the neighbor next door’s or the neighbor next town’s. Homogenization is never good, much less when we speak of author wines like the ones Abel does where the difference in expression is key.
Abel and his partner Maite have 20 hectares of vineyards spread over 42 small parcels that are located in three villages protected by the Sierra Cantabria ridge: San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Abalos and Labastida. Practically all plots are planted in the traditional way, with different varieties together. In some plots, there are four planted varieties, in some others there are up to six, white and red altogether. In some plots, the varieties are mixed in the rows, in others each row is one variety, so when the vintage arrives you have to be very attentive looking at each vine to see if your grapes are ready to pick up or on the contrary, you have to wait. Abel has someone who does the harvest knowing what needs to be done, but he is also present for the last decision.
In these plots Abel has five types of soil. There are sandy soil, red clay soil, stony soil … and all of them showing their own character. On the outskirts of San Vicente there is a small plot that Abel is working on under biodynamic methods, resulting in a completely natural wine. As he says: «From the vine to the glass.» This plot is Tempranillo 100%, one of the few that is a single varietal vineyard. Guardaviñas 2015 is simply a wonderful wine. A very elegant and very balanced wine, very easy to drink. It is a test that Abel does to see how this plot reacts to natural labor by following the phases of the moon. From what we have been able to taste, the test is a success.
Bodega Abel Mendoza Monge is a winery known because of its red wines, such as Selección Personal or Grano a Grano, but if something is well worth discovering, that’s its white wines. Abel makes really good white wines. Exactly 6 white wines are made. Five are monovarietales: Turrontés, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Viura . Then we have an assembly of them all: Abel Mendoza 5V. The vinification of the single varietals is very similar, aging in new French oak barrels for five months. We had the opportunity to enjoy their Turrontés 2016. Fascinating, a very tasty wine with a production of around 2,000 bottles a year, like the other white wines.
The visit was a great time with Maite and Abel because they made us see things from another point of view and with more perspective than what we are used to. He talked, he explained a lot and that is always appreciated. Maite was a great host as well, with her friendliness and hospitality during our visit.
It is very easy to say what others have to do while you are behind a computer, but without any doubt, people like Maite and Abel Mendoza are those who make the world of wine still alive and worthwhile to enjoy their work, as much as it makes them continuing their fight day-by-day. We can only encourage them to continue this way, in their struggle and without giving up their efforts. After all, is not it what life is all about?