Miguel - Grandpa to Smith and Evans.

Miguel Merino.

The man in this photo is Miguel Merino who in some ways is the inspiration for Smith and Evans wine. In the mid 1990s when I was working for the Spanish company Freixenet, I was asked to have dinner with the export guy for a Navarra winery called Ochoa. This sort of thing could be a real chore but Miguel was great and we had a lot of laughs. He was talking about buying a building a winery from scratch.

 In his own words -
Since the beginning of my exporting career I have long dreamt of having my own small "bodega", where I could make a few bottles of wine of the best quality possible. Briones, in the heart of the Rioja Alta,  gathered all the conditions  I was looking for: old steep vineyards of Tempranillo grapes, chalky soil and a climate showing a marked Atlantic influence. Declared a town of historic and artistic merit, Briones is where we decided to site our bodega.
 Twenty years ago, we restored an old 19th Century house on the outskirts of the town. On the adjoining land we built facilities for  vinification, barrel and bottle ageing and planted a small experimental vineyard.
 Now, as one of the smallest and youngest wineries in Spain —our first vintage was 1994— our wines are among the most prestigious in the country, and we are exporting them to over 30 markets. This encourages us to grow, not in quantity, but to constantly improve our style; how to get the best from each grape and each barrel. To continue to enjoy our wine-making
Miguel's Bodega.
It had honestly never ever occured to us that a regular bloke with neither a trust or  hedge fund could do this. One of the first adages you are taught  is that to make a small fortune in the wine trade you have to start with a large one. Looking back on the first seven years of the vineyard I think that actually maybe that's true. Many of those that are now planting vines in England seem to have biographies that say so and so bought the land in their second life after making piles and piles of cash in their first life.

We have always called him  Big Mig in hommage to the great Indurain  and over the years we have always seen each other at the various wine fairs around the world but as is often the way, we rarely had time to properly catch up until this week when I showed him a picture of our bottle number 1 ( I doubt he remembers but he gave us his bottle number 4). Miguels advice? Congratulations, you have done the hard bit. Now that your wine is going out into the wide world the real worrying begins.  Suffice to say, he and his sons make truly great wine. You can read more about them at  www.miguelmerino.com/  If we ever finally get an online shop going, we must try to get some of his wines.


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