Interview with Gorka Extebarria, our winemaker in Rioja
Over the next few months, we are going to publish some interviews that we’ve conducted with the winemakers behind some of our key wines. The first is with Gorka Extebarria, the winemaker behind the Finca Mónica range of wines, from an estate winery in Alfaro, Rioja Oriental.
Hi Gorka, tell us how you became a winemaker. Why did you choose the career?
Once I finished my Chemistry degree, I tried to find a job in the sector, but I couldn’t find anything, so I decided to carry on studying enology until a job opportunity arose. Although I don’t come from a winemaking family, I got hooked on vine growing and winemaking, and from then on I knew that I didn’t want to do anything other than make wine and look after vines.
What area or areas have you worked in? Why do you like Rioja?
I’ve always worked in Rioja. Although I looked into other options (the Basque Country – Txakoli de Bizkaia – and Navarra), Rioja, as well as the prestige and tradition that it represents, covers a huge variety of different wineries, terroirs and grape varieties. Aside from the fact it allows me to live near my family and friends, as I’ve lived in Logroño since I was a child.
What type of wines do you like to make? Do you have a preferred style?
I’m not set on any one style, in fact, I love to experiment – for example, not long ago, we made some Port-style micro-vinifications. But, of course, given my experience, I feel most comfortable making young and aged wines. The development of white wines in the Rioja region has been huge in the last five years, and they are perhaps the wines that I most enjoy making now. I’m not going to reveal anything new saying this, because it’s the formula behind quality wines, but I look for clean wines, with high aromatic intensity as well as complexity, wines that are long, enjoyable and persistent on the palate; I avoid high tannins and a lot of extraction, and I try to ensure that you can tell that every wine was made in this winery, using grapes from this area.
When you aren’t drinking your own wines, which are your favourite wines from other areas of Spain, or other countries?
In my opinion, a good winemaker should be able to appreciate the virtues of every winemaking area, so I enjoy almost everything I drink, while learning about another culture and another way of growing vines and making wines. Judging at international wine competitions has also helped me to discover unknown areas. Saying this, white wines from Alsace, Burgundy and the western part of Germany are among my favourites; as for red wines – Bordeaux, Northern Italy – and of course, good Rioja.
What is the best thing about being a winemaker? And the worst?
The best thing is being able to create something new every year: getting to know people and their way of interpreting the same job. The worst thing is all the paperwork that comes along with the role.
What do you like to do when you aren’t in the winery or the vineyard?
I like to spend time with my daughter, my wife, and the rest of my family. I also play rock ‘n’ roll on the electric guitar, and if I’m feeling inspired, I compose the odd tune.
How long have you worked with Long Wines? Do you think international clients seek a different type of wine to those in Spain?
We’ve been working together for over five years. Rather than adapting tastes to different countries and fashions, I think that winemakers should look back at the past and see what sort of wines have always been made: as well as keeping up with new trends. And as well as this, interprete our terroir to know how to make the best of it. But that’s not to say this profile is fixed, it is essential to know how to balance customer demands with retaining the personality of the region and winery.
And what about the 2020 vintage, how did it go?
The last of our grapes arrived at the winery on the 7th October. We can now say with satisfaction that – despite not being a trouble-free year- there is a great vintage in the making in the tanks. As we draw off the wines, we see great clarity of juice and impressive aromatic intensity, plenty of colour and smoothness on the palate. The only thing that some wines perhaps lack is freshness, so we will have to carefully select the wines that go into barrels for longer ageing, but the average quality is very good so we can be sure that the wines will be exceptional.