The newest Spanish Vino de Pago: Vallegarcía
What once was 14 is now 15 as the EU has just published official recognition of the newest Vino de Pago in Spain: Vallegarcía.
Maybe you’ve heard of this winery of the same name but chances are, it will probably be all new to you and there’s a good reason for that as the Vino de Pago scheme is awarded to properties that fall outside of other established DOs in Spain. In the case of Vallegarcía, its 31ha sit within the Autonomous Region of Castilla La Mancha (as do eight other Pago estates), but it sits just outside both DO La Mancha as well as DO Méntrida–a fact that surprised me as being possible given how ginormous both of these DOs are.
I feel for cellars in this situation as they’re working to to get better recognition for their wines. But, without a backing DO, they’re just cast into the “Vino de Mesa” category of Spain which can be for both the finest wines as well as the utter plonk.
I’ve just never been that fond of certain aspects of the Pago system, especially how it’s interpreted as whenever one it awarded, the “DO” side of it is pushed quite heavily as indeed, it technically falls under the Protected Denomination of Origin rules for the European Union. The main problem that often seems to arise is that wineries with a Pago will often cast it as being higher quality than the standard DOs of Spain.
This is not the case as a Pago is in effect what the French call a “monopole” which is to say a certified estate owned by one owner. There are a few of these in France but outside of Burgundy, it’s rare to find one with much acclaim other than its being rare, ie AOC Château Grillet in Northern Rhône. What does trump both the Vino de Pago and the standard DO is the DOC/DOQ certification and of those, there are only two: Rioja and Priorat.
The other problem is how the Pago is qualified. The premise is to show an identity and thus warrant one’s right to protect it. One would assume that this identity would be in the wines showing a unique character. I’ve had the wines of several Pagos over the years and there are but a few that stand out. All I’ve tasted are competent, but that doesn’t seem like it’s enough to justify certifying the estate.
As a side note, I have indeed tried the Hipperia and Vallegarcía Syrah from this new Pago, but years ago at a broad tasting, so it would be remiss to pass judgment on these particular wines as the estate is relatively young and undoubtedly changing each year. In fact, this certification marks 20 years to the day of the planting of their vineyards in the Pago.
It’s clear that there has indeed been a slowdown in Pago certifications with the last one happening eight years ago. I don’t know if this is due to lack of interest (it’s a good deal of paperwork), the EU getting more particular in requirements and “identity”, or the fact that instead of forming monopoles, there should really be work towards forming new DOs and defining territory better than Spain does currently so that you have multiple wineries in a protected zone instead of just one. As a perfect example, Vallegarcía sits but a few kilometers from another Pago, Dehesa del Carrizal which was awarded its status in 2006.
I wish all the best to Vallegarcía and hope to do a full tasting of their wines soon to see how they’ve evolved and what this new Pago status will mean for them going forward as I’m sure, much like any project in Spain, it took eons to come about.