Wednesday, June 07, 2006

BSI, Bodegas Source of Investigation in Jumilla

BSI, the initials stand for Bodegas San Isidro, although Bodegas Source of Investigation could be applied as well. BSI, the eldest and only cooperative in Jumilla, exists since 1934. Nowadays it is a bodega for wine, an almazara for olive oil, a hardware shop and meeting point for the 800 members. The company has the capacity to produce 52.000.000 liters, but at the moment BSI uses more or less half its capacity to some 25.000.000 liters as a consequence of many new wineries in the area of Jumilla.

The huge building looks empty on the day we arrive. Many employees have taken a few days off as the week officially ends on wednesday. Estela receives us. She is the export manager. She leads us through the winery. No remarkable items here. Everything is well equiped. A couple of men and women are bottling wine. The sun light that enters the winery´s bottle installation creates a enjoyable atmosphere in the winery. The whole building is designed to receive the many grapes that enter the winery as quickly as possible.

With 3200 Barrels, BSI has the highest amount of oak barrels in Jumilla. Maybe for Jumilla it is a lot, but at the same time 3200 barrels is an indication that Jumilla in general is more an area for young wines and not for crianza wines.

The company decided to play a key role in Research & Development especially in the field of monastrell. The Technical Director Francisco Pardo is a monastrell expert. Together with BSI´s wine maker Diego Cutillas and with the help of national star wine maker Ignacio de Miguel, BSI´s success is guaranteed. The close relationship with the University of Murcia is vital for innovation in the area. BSI has been the first in applying many new viticultural techniques, grape varieties and oenological practices.

Wine Tourism
Jumilla is one of the biggest single wine areas in Spain within the boundries of one town. Other important wine towns in the D.O. of Jumilla are Ontur, Hellín, Fuente Álamo and Monte Alegre. At only 60 kilometers from the Murcian coast and more or less the same distance to the Alicante coast, BSI has an ideal position to explore the possibilities of wine tourism. Officially BSI is a member of the official wine route that the CRDO of Jumilla has created some 4 years ago. This route includes the most interesting wineries, monuments, a wine musuem, restaurants and 3 small hotels.

At this moment Jumilla has 30.000 inhabitants. However, the amount of foreigners looking for a plot of land in the interior part of Murcia is growing. Now several projects for a golf resorts around Jumilla have increased the influence of tourists and new residents. The future of wine tourism in this area is guaranteed. BSI organizes wine courses and tastings for free, and which are lead by Francisco Pardo himself. In this way BSI contributes to wine culture in a very direct and effective way. Many people in Jumilla and especially employees form restaurants already have followed the BSI tastings. No doubt that BSI creates a lot of goodwill in the area, which will be refelcted in the image of the wines.

From the total production 50% goes abroad. BSI has its main clients in Germany, where Rewe and some other small importers distribute all types of wine BSI produces, beside red, even white, rosado and ecologic reds and sweet wines. Other important markets in Europa are the Scandinavian market, Belgium, Switzerland. Outside Europe, Canada and the USA are the most important markets. In the Miami the BSI sangría was selected as Disney World´s official Sangria. For no specific reasons BSI is not exporting at this moment to the Netherlands and UK.

BSI bottles all its exports except for one country, Switzerland, that buys around 10% of the total bulk production. At this moment BSI forms part of a new consortium. The main goal of that consortium is to build a new brand with wines from Jumilla, Galicia, Penedès and other areas. The type of help BSI gets comes from INFO (Instituto de Fomento of the province of Murcia) and the Chamber of Commerce. 50% is for fairs, the rest is for commercial missions to export to countries and to invite buyers from export markets to Jumilla. Marketing is something Jumilla does well by offering great quality wines for extreme good prices. One of the best forms of marketing Jumilla has applied lately comes from the ten Robert Parker Predictions. He claims that in the near future (before 2020) Jumilla, Toro and Priorato will be the most important wine regions in Spain. That has increased inmediately the demand. The good scores in wine guides and at international competitions help Jumilla to keep pushing their image in the right direction.

San Isidro
The basic range of wines that includes almost all styles of wines made of monatrell, a medal awarded syrah as foreign varietal wine, and a barrel fermented airén, the first BF airén in Spain. The San Isidro range starts at a very competitive retail level.

This range of wines is the classical style of Jumilla wines. Estela telles us that the name comes from the time when the Spanish king Juan Carlos was based at the Marine Head Quarters in Cartagena. He used the pass word to communicate to his friends the Saturday afternoon appointment for a drink, Sabado Tarde Chateo, Saba-ta-cha. As Cartagena used to be one of the main markets for the local Jumilla wines, the place where the Juan Carlos used to go was a client of the cooperative. The king approved with pleasure the brand name for

Ecologic wines
Ecologic range: about 3.000.000 kg is produced as ecologic wine. With a young red and a crianza.

Genus is the international style, created after analysing the consumers wishes. It is a semi crianza with 80% monastrell and 20% syrah with a universal character. This wines goes mainly to Germany, USA, Japan and Switzerland.

Gemina, (the Greek word for Jumilla) is the top range. Its available in crianza, reserva and as a young red and
sweet wine.

Other brands, drinks and formats
Another brand is sold under the name Viña Celia, which is a slightly cheaper wine than the San Isidro, and also with D.O. Jumilla. The table wines, Casa Alta red, rosé and white have a outstanding quality for their price. Estela stresses the flexibililty of San Isidro to create private label wines, and own brands, all with an own design. Bag-in-box wines, sangría made of high quality wine. Normally sangría is made of an inferior wine, but at BSI the sangría is made of the same red monastrell wine that is used for selling.

The dulces, or sweet wines from BSI are like a desert wine.

After a guided tour through the winery we enter the tasting room. From the window you can see José Carrión Garcia´s trucks with Don Simon, one of the most famous Spanish wine brands for simple tabel wines in liter tetra bricks, in huge letters on the trailers passing by. We taste a large range of wines of BSI that can be divided into various types of wine. Francisco Pardo, his white laboratory coat makes him look like a real professor, guides the tasting.

Casa Alta White 2005 100% airen, very correct, neutral in the nose, fresh taste, fruity, juicy, nice aftertaste.
Sabatacha White 2005, 100% airen fresh fruity nose, nice acidity, light but sympathic wine.
Sabatacha barrel fermented 2004, 100% airen, 4 months in American oak. Closed in the nose, ripe fruit, fresh acidity, hints of caramel. Well made.

Casa Alta Rosado 2005, oxidized colour, fruity nose, bone dry.

Casa Alta Tinto 2005, fruity nose, still very hard tannic wine. Drying aftertaste.
San Isidro Tinto 2004, cooked vegetables in the nose, ripe tannins, still very strong and powerful. Balance is missing between nose and mouth.
Sabatacha tinto 2005, 100% monastrell, thick colour, fruity, medium ripe tannins, lacking balance.
Sabatacha syrah 2005: great nose, concentration of typical syrah aromas. Powerful wine, ripe tannins, good balance, well structured, 13º Vol. pleasant fruity aftertaste. Still quite young now.
Monastrell ecologico: made of monastrell vines with lower yields. Nice monastrell nose, ripe cherry fruit, good structure and balance, ripe tannins, best wine until now.
Genus 2003, 80% monastrell, 20% syrah, 4 months of oak. Fresh fruity inviting aromas. 13,5º Vol., good elegant acidity, powerful but ripe tannins. Structured and long aftertaste. Very nice glass of wine and commercial!
Gemina 2003 crianza, 6 to 7 months of oak, 30% French and 70% American. Original vines (Pie Franco) which means that the foot of the vine is not American. The soil is sandy. This avoids the risk of Philloxera. The vines are old and excellent. Concentrated wine, with loads of fruit, good balance, typical for monastrell with oak, cherry pie and cream. Long elegant aftertaste. Production only 14.000 bottles.
Gemina 1997 reserva, the premium wine of the winery. Elegant and juicy, velvetty, soft ripe taste. Ripe tannins, spicy, and good structure. Great balance. Great wine!

Lacrima Cristina, traditional wine from BSI, at least 10 years old sweet monastrell, 15,5º Vol. The bottle has a screw cap. This wine goes for at least 10 years in big oak barrels of 500 liters, the same style as in Jerez. The oxiditive character of the wine gives the Lacrima Cristina a very own taste.

Conclusion: BSI has a very good range of wines from well made low cost prices to absolute topwines in the higher ranges. This company is capable of serving almost every wine thinkable. Not only red, from what you would expect in Jumilla but also the whites, rosés and sweet wines are excellent. BSI work closely together with the University of Murcia which makes the winery one of the most important wineries in investigating the possibilities of wine making in Murcia. BSI is for Jumilla an extremely important and solid source of good, commercial and well priced wines.

Bocopa´s wines, local marketing success

Bocopa has its headquarters in Petrer at 50 kilometers from the capital of Alicante, next to the road from Alicante to Madrid. As we arrive at 9:00 AM at the parking of Bocopa, Pedro Calabuig, the young, ambititious and above all energetic export manager, smokes a morning cigarette just before he enters the office. We are invited to have an informal cup of coffee in Bocopa´s office kitchen. Gaspar Tomás, the winemaker and managing director of Bocopa, also drops in to welcome us.

A typical office morning start of the week, but Bocopa office is not just any office, it´s Alicante´s most important cooperative and biggest wine producer in volume, accounting for more than 40% of the total production. It also has created Levante´s most important white wine brand “Marina Alta”. There´s no other white wine sold more at the crowdy Costa Blanca restaurants and pubs than Marina Alta.

In 1988 Bocopa started with nothing, just a couple of cooperatives from a remote wine producing area with no clear goal but to produce bulk wines at competitive prices. Driven by the reduction of costs, the market in Spain started to consume considerably less table wine. A worse scenery for the new created Bocopa was hardly unthinkable. A tough job for Gaspar Tomas, the managing director. If keeping satisfied a few hundred members of one cooperative is difficult, just imagine what it must be like to manage several cooperatives, especially in those circumstances.

Marina Alta, marketing succes
Then the winery discovered that the Marina Alta´s young moscatel was a niche market at that time.They managed to create a brand around it. They offered a fresh and tropical fruity light white wine, with a touch of sweetness. A succes formula without forseeing its unexpected succes. Now it is the best sold white wine in the Levante coastal area. The wine is medium priced and goes perfect with all types of food of the Mediteranean. An ideal “summer costa wine”. It beats away traditional selling white wine brands like Peñascal, Castillo de San Diego (Barbadillo) and Blanc Pescador (Peralada). Not quite something you would expect from a cooperative in Alicante, better known as a red wine area. Marina Alta, supported by national broadcasted radio spots, is really taking off now, and expands to other national markets and of course international markets.

The export department of Bocopa started a massive offensive to sell their wines abroad. Pedro hops from wine fair to wine fair and visits all his new and potential clients. Just two years ago the export of the bottled wines was falling behind too much. Gaspar, decided to hire a new staff to boost the sales outside of Spain. Switzerland, Germany and Belgium are very important markets. And now also The Netherlands is catching up rappidly.

The Bocopa´s members together own about 2000 hectares of vineyard. The main grapes are moscatel and monastrell, with some foreign grapes like syrah, cabernet suavignon, merlot. The production is dominated by young wines (70%) and 30% crianzas, for which the winery has about 1200 barrels, 30% French and 70%. Another important range of wines is the ecologic range. Experimenting projects like a own sparkling wine of moscatel are carried out by Gaspar himself. As we walk through the wine shop, that lies next to the professional tasting room, I observe a broad range of labels, and ask Pedro to explain the different styles of wines Bocopa makes. “There are 4 ranges in Bocopa, and some ranges have several labels, which make it possible to serve several clients and distribution channels within the same market”, Pedro explains.

Laudum label
Laudum is Bocopa´s top quality range. Wines made of grapes that come from traditional 20 year old vineyards with very low yields. The selection of the grapes from the 2000 hectares of vineyard available garantees a high quality. The Laudum label has a chardonnay (barrel fermented). The Laudum crianza and Laudum reserva are both made of at least 70% monastrell and the rest with different amounts of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The Laudum “100 barricas” is a special selection of the best barrels. For these wines Bocopa only uses oak with a maximum age of three years. Laudum also has a high level ecological wine of 100% monastrell.

Young wines
Alacanta is a medium segment of fruity young red, white and rosé wines. But in this range Bocopa also includes the premium rosé Terreta Rosado and the white local marketing hit Marina Alta.

Ecological wines
The ecological range is called Castillo de Alicante. Bocopa makes one of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and 70% monastrell.

The special wines like Fondillon Alone 1983, Dulce Negra, made of monastrell, and a classic sweet Moscatel complete the range.

For tasting notes see

Alicante´s wine future
Bocopa is determined to play a key role in Alicante´s wine future. Gaspar´s personal goal is to provoke a change in the wine minds of the people of Alicante. “People must know that wine from Alicante is as good as any other wine and certainly as good as Rioja”. He doesn´t use the word but he surely refers to Riojitis (red. Riojitis is a kind of social and cultural “dissease“ that makes people ask for Rioja wine without even considering any other wine available). However, in Alicante the local wine sales are worse than in other places of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. At least in Catalunya everybody offers Catalan wines, Valencia is starting to offer Valencian wine and benefits from the upcoming America´s Cup in Valencia in 2007. Murcia has created a culture around their own Murcian wines, with Jumilla as world center of monastrell. But in Alicante nobody seems to care about wines from Alicante. Although Gaspar can be reasonably lucky with his Marina Alta success. He admitts that Marina Alta is an exception to the rule. In fact Marina Alta is so successful as a wine brand that many waiters offer Marina Alta without knowing this wine comes from Alicante. And as nobody asks where it comes from, Marina Alta misses hereby a huge opportunity to contribute to a positive image of Alicante as a wine region. Marina Alta is just Marina Alta, like any other brand. What only a few waiters and consumers of Marina Alta know is that the wine, in fact, is named after the northern part of the province of Alicante, where most of the best moscatel grapes come from. But who wants to complicate things as long as the wine is the most wanted white wine brand in one of the most visited touristic areas in the world?

In a certain way Marina Alta does and does not help to sell Alicante as a wine region. With the back label Marina Alta stressess its origin. But as a brand, nobody really talks about abut the wine as a Alicante wine. Gaspar comments: “All our wines are sold with the Alicante back label. Although Alicante is better known for its reds, and the white Marina Alta clearly is an exception, Bocopa underlines its continuous search for quality in all styles. Marina Alta just was the right wine at the right place. Bocopa intends to introduce similar wines successes in red and rosé. Rosé Terreta Rosado already received several medals and awards. Also the Laudums are fighting for recognition.

The Regulatory Council should do more generic promotion. Selling Alicante as a wine region was limited to some international wine fairs and local events. Wine tourism has never been a real issue in Alicante. There is still a lot to be done to make it work. Gaspar personally thinks that the sales starts at the table of millions of tourists at the coast. He says: “Just imagine a waiter offering a Alicante wine first in stead of a Rioja. This small change could provoke a radical change about how the Spansih consumer and the foreign tourists perceive the wines from Alicante. Automatically people will want to visit the local wineries and Bocopa will be one of the first to receive them with open arms”.

Wine tourism
Bocopa invested in wine tourism at a time when few wineries in the area even had heard about the concept. Gaspar Tomás is aware of the fact that a bridge between Alicante´s tourism and the world of wine is lacking. Bocopa wants to play an essential role. The professional facilities created some years ago for tastings are outstanding for organized visits. Bocopa also organizes courses and tasting for wine lovers with visits to the winery. But building on tourism is something few wineries can realise by themselves. “Wine tourism has started a few years ago in Spain. First in the most traditional wine areas as Rioja, Penedès and Jerez, but now it is growing everywhere in Spain. Millions of tourists drive from Alicante to Madrid several times a year passing our winery, which is visible from the main road. We should focus more on those passing cars and try to make Bocopa “a must see” local attraction. Now, that will be a difficult task. The winery was built a few years ago in an industrial area in Petrer as a functional office building with its bottling line, airconditioned abovegrounds cellars and warehouse. It is not really a sexy or flashy winery. Although compared to other cooperatives it stands out of the crowd. Gaspar knows that the building itself is not enough. But few wineries open their doors to show tourists around. As an anecdote I told Gaspar that indeed in 2003 I presented myself as a Dutch tourist at the official tourist office of Alicante to ask about wine touristic activities in the region. I received one brochure of a winery in Petrer that I could visit. Guess from which winery this brochure was? A poor result, from a touristic point of view, but at the same time, characteristic for how the situation is in this region. And again Bocopa stood out of the crowd, but this time not only as a cooperative, but as a winery with clear visions.

This summer 2006 I hope to be able to report on the moscatel harvest in Marina Alta, both as a wine and as a region!