García Carrión, blazing a path of its own
By Isabelle Escande - Photographs: courtesy of the company, posted on 06 March 2023
How did a bodega, founded in 1890 in Jumilla – perhaps Spain’s most under-the-radar wine region – to produce wines for France, then in the throes of phylloxera, become Europe’s leading winery by sales and the fourth largest in the world in just 130 years? Its director, José García-Carrión, recounts the incredible story of this exceptional company.
José García-Carrión has helmed the family-run company since 1968 and played a part in its exponential growth worldwide. Its wines, now produced in twelve Spanish appellations, are marketed across the globe.
How do you explain the success of your bodega?
García Carrión has always blazed the trail with its revolutionary projects. Through hard work and diligence, this has enabled us to become the leading winery in Europe and to win over consumers. “Constant revolution” is how we define our business model. From the outset, we have sought to innovate and implement new initiatives, but with one very clear rule – we put the consumer at the core of our business strategy. We relentlessly strive to meet their demands and satisfy their needs with our products, which are renowned for their quality.
Jaume Serra, the bodega in Vilanova I La Geltrú in Catalonia, where the famous cava is made.
Could you share two or three landmark events that have shaped the company’s history and contributed to its success?
Over the course of our history, we have risen to quite a few challenges, from our humble beginnings through to conquering over 150 countries... There is no doubt that one of our greatest moments was the launch of Don Simón, Spain’s first wine in Tetra pak format at the start of the 1980s. At that time, the most widely used container for young wine was the one-litre returnable bottle. To meet national demand, we needed several production centres in Spain. Tetra pak offers a practical, economical and lightweight non-returnable container and we were therefore able to meet this demand whilst also providing quality wine. Subsequently, we diversified our business by grouping different products – juices, fruit nectars, sangria, etc. – under the single brand, Don Simón. In 1997, the acquisition of Jaume Serra – currently the only fine Cava in Spanish hands – marked our first step towards expanding across Spain. Now we have a presence in 12 designations of origin where we make prestigious wines that display site-expressiveness.
Five successive generations have been at the helm of the family-run company García Carrión.
The company actually markets several brands, some of them spanning several appellations…
Yes, this is a pioneering approach in the wine industry. With Pata Negra, we have brought together several designations of origin under one brand, which is now present in the DOs Jumilla, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, La Mancha, Rueda, Toro, Cava and Valdepeñas. This has facilitated García Carrión's international development because we have been able to export wines from different DOs under a single name. This has made it easier for us to secure greater awareness outside Spain.
Behind this variety, are there common traits that represent the hallmark of García Carrión?
Absolutely. All García Carrión wines have one common denominator – quality. Our family comes from generations of farmers and we have a strong commitment to the land and its products. This is why we constantly make it our mission to ensure that our business has as little impact as possible on the environment, and even a positive impact. That is our pledge.
Since its inception, the company has focused on sustainability.
This year, extreme heat and very little rain during the summer and autumn defined the season. How did the harvest go? Was it early? What will the 2022 vintage be like?
This year we started harvesting at the end of August with the early varieties. Despite the heat, the quality of the grapes is very good. We are very happy with the results and we have very high expectations for the quality of the wine.
The company has chosen to go down the sustainable route. When did you make this pledge and how does it translate to your present-day wine business?
We depend directly on the land to make our products, so we have to take care of it, and we have done so since our inception. We market organic wines, such as our Pata Negra Apasionado Orgánico or our Jaume Serra Cava Brut Orgánico. We also work with zero-kilometre products and have long-term agreements with more than 40,000 farmers, which enables us to guarantee the finest raw materials. García Carrión is also rolling out plans for all of its production centres in Spain to use the energy they produce. Each facility will have its own photovoltaic equipment covering 30% of its energy needs. Another example is our Jaume Serra Cavas, which are bottled in lighter bottles – we have reduced their weight to 800 grams (12% less) – and our wine bottles are up to 5% lighter than others. Also, particularly for white wines, we harvest by night. This ensures that the grapes are cooler when they enter the vats, preventing oxidation and loss of aroma, but also removing the energy costs incurred from lowering the temperature in the vats, as these varieties require low-temperature fermentation.
García Carrión combines artisanal methods with the latest technological innovations.
Your wines are sold in about a hundred countries around the world. Which are your biggest importers and what are your newest markets?
Our overseas activity is a fundamental part of our business strategy. García Carrión is present in over 150 countries. Europe is our local market and the real international market is the two Americas, Asia and Africa, where people enjoy the taste of our wines. Our expertise and international experience have ensured that the specific features of each Spanish region reach out to a global audience. Generally speaking, the USA, the UK and Africa generate the highest growth for us.
You have helped strengthen the presence of Spanish wine in international markets. But do you feel there is there still some way to go before it is fully recognised?
Absolutely. The Spanish wine industry, whose prestige has been constantly growing, has undergone a step-change in recent years. However, we need to continue our efforts to ensure that the quality and expertise of our products continue to make a lasting impression. We have a challenge to meet and that is to win the hearts of young people who have not yet entered the world of wine. At García Carrión, we are developing our product portfolio to meet the demands and needs of this segment.
The acquisition of the Jaume Serra winery marked a turning point in the company's history.
Do you have any current projects that you would like to share with our readers?
We have recently developed wine tourism at our Viña Arnáiz winery in Ribera del Duero. Our guests can visit the bodega and discover how our wines are made, step by step, in one of Spain’s most prestigious designations of origin. They also have the opportunity to enjoy a wine tasting, while discovering the use of technology and the benefits of 4.0 viticulture. Viña Arnáiz is a historic winery that stands out for its innovative approach. Respect for the natural winemaking process is at its core, but it also incorporates cutting-edge technology to produce wines of the highest quality. Its vineyards are grown using the Viticulture 4.0 method, which uses digital resources to monitor the development and ripening of the grapes so that the best decisions can be made during the winemaking process. This is a glimpse of tomorrow's viticulture that should not be missed...
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