At the stately Palau de Pedralbes in Barcelona, INCAVI, the Catalan Wine Agency, presented the latest wines approved for the Vi de Finca classification.
With a total of five new wines entering the list, it’s suddenly grown by 36% to reach 19 wines certified under what is a region-wide, single-vineyard certification scheme designed to highlight the “top” examples from Catalunya. This 2023 announcement comes after announcing two new Vins de Finca last year when the process had seemed to slow down but was apparently just gaining momentum behind the scenes.
Vi de Finca runs in parallel with the Vino de Pago system that’s Spain-wide but in this case, it’s only available within the Catalan territory. If both of these systems are new to you, I’d suggest reading this introduction on how they work and more importantly, how they relate to the “Grand Cru” concept that’s pervasive in France and which they’re striving to emulate.
This year saw new wines certified from: DO Penedès, DO Terra Alta, DO Montsant, and two from DO Pla de Bages, all of which are reviewed below for paid subscribers. Interestingly, all of these DOs already have had Vi de Finca wines certified within them which speaks to how established the certification is at this point. In fact, with this new batch, it’s starting to catch up with Vino de Pago system which sits at 23 currently. Vino de Pago does have a bit more of an administrative headache however as a Vino de Pago exists as a PDO (which Vi de Finca does not) or essentially the same level as a DO, thus it requires legal certification by Brussels at the EU level…
The big pitch with both Vi de Finca as well as Vino de Pago is that they sit “at the top of the quality pyramid”. That sounds nice, but it’s not 100% true as shown readily with Vino de Pago in that it has a set of classifications for being a PDO and that’s about it. This means that if a winery does the paperwork and shows that it has a “unique” location, it can eventually get a Vino de Pago.
The same is largely true for Vi de Finca in that people apply for it and show the “uniqueness” of the vineyard from which the certified wine is sourced. The production yields also need to be 15% less than the DO in which the finca resides and while lower production is one aspect in how to better achieve a higher-quality wine, it’s not a guarantee of it.
There’s a tasting panel that evaluates the wines well, but these panels are usually comprised of winemakers from the region, not people with an internationally-recognized tasting ability. There’s an INCAVI-certified tasting panel as well, but it’s also comprised of only local tasters. It’s unknown as to which group is used in Vi de Finca nor the parameters for the tasting. This is an issue as has been shown in France, having question marks hanging above classification tastings can be a complex issue.
Beyond this, any wine that’s to be a Vi de Finca also needs 10 years of “prestigi i qualitat en el mercat” or “prestige and quality on the market” which is in theory where it’s given the ultimate test of its quality in that outside critics can rate the wine if they’ve access and consumers can decide if the wines are worth it or not.
While there are indeed some top wines in Vi de Finca (getting Clos Mogador and Mas de la Rosa from the start set the bar very high), there are others that are simply “fine”.
These issues deserve mention as unlike 2002 when Vi de Finca came into being, it is now far from the only game in town and the DOQ Priorat Vi de Paratge as well as the DO Penedès Vi de Mas are going to be strong challengers as to the strength of Vi de Finca. Priorat has in fact already proven this with three of the best wines in Catalunya (and many would argue, in Spain) holding the top Gran Vinya Classificada (a DOQ Priorat Grand Cru) but only one of these is classified as Vi de Finca as the other two opted to solely pursue the Priorat classification.
There’s a history here as when DO Cava brought out their Cava de Paratge classification, people dismissed it as trying to build the house from the roof down. An important item of note given that the Priorat and Penedès systems were both painstakingly built from the ground up.
There is however a great deal of institutional backing to Vi de Finca which is being captured in the campaign to launch next year called, #jotriovicatala or #ichoosecatalanwine. While they’ll be spending quite a bit on this campaign, I do back the premise of it given that it was only in 2017 when residents of Catalunya started drinking more wine from Catalunya than anywhere else. While it may seem a bit pointless to producers at times, the need to promote on one’s home turf is exceedingly important given that it’s a ready market with that also happens to have a very strong hospitality sector.
I also understand the issue of winemakers needing some manner to stand out in a crowded field. There are so many competitions now of varying quality levels that these can lose merit, especially when a 2.50€ wine gets a gold medal. And then on top of this, individual wine critics simply can’t taste every wine in the world each year.
It’s worth mentioning these issues as it definitely gives relevance to a regionally-backed classification system to highlight quality wines. The key of course in moving forward will be doing it carefully and with measure so that it does in fact ensure that wines are of a quality standard and not just checking off boxes on a list.
Please review the new additions to Vi de Finca reviewed below for paid subscribers.