- Author Joshua Elias
- Location Alquimie HQ
The wine world would benefit from more people like Jean Belondrade Lurton. Decisive yet inquisitive, well travelled yet distinctly French, he speaks of his family winery in Rueda with transparency and enthusiasm. Representing an estate that was established by his father, Didier Belondrade Lerebours, there is little sense that Jean is rehearsing company lines. Like his two sisters—neither of which entered the family wine business—it seems that Jean’s career choice was firmly in his own court. “I see a lot of potential in Belondrade y Lurton” Jean says, after retracing the education pathway that has taken him to Canada, France and finally, back to Spain. “I’m not done with studies, I want to study more and more. It’s about curiosity, for wine it is the same”.
The logo that forms the crest of Belondrade y Lurton, has its origins in another of Jean’s family members—his brother Diego—who passed away when he was young. “My parents had a religious state of mind during the time after Diego’s passing. They set off on a trip to look for the place where San Diego was born. They travelled to find San Nicolás del Puerto in Seville. Bare in mind that this was in 1988, when there was no Internet or GPS. Eventually, they found the tiny village, lost in the Mountains of Seville. They decided to buy a house in the area. After a while my parents developed friendships in the area and one of their friends used this particularly shaped branding iron—the shape of a rooster—for his cows and sheep. My father told his friend that he wanted to have one of these branding irons. It was this iron that is now used as the logo for the estate”.
The estate is firmly focused on verdejo and devotes approximately 94% to two expressions of the white grape; the flagship wine, labeled as Belondrade y Lurton and a varietally focused wine more typical of the region, known as Quinta Apolonia Belondrade. The small remainder of the production is devoted to a rose wine produced from tempranillo, known as Quinta Clarisa Belondrade. Apolonia and Clarissa are Jean’s sisters.
The winemaking processes at Belondrade are unique for the region. “We are the only winery in Rueda working 100% with our own plots of land and own grapes”. Jean goes on to point out that the 30 hectares are divided into 19 different plots. All of those plots have different characteristics because of the soils and the orientation. At harvest time, all the grapes are harvested by hand and each plot is fermented separately. “Since 2005, our wines have been entirely fermented with indigenous yeast (spontaneous fermentation). Working with Valladolid university, we have studied the yeast that is native to our vineyard and tried to concentrate it. It is dangerous to isolate this yeast because each barrel is different and you aren’t sure how they are going to react”. Fermentation of the white wines usually takes between 3–4 months.
The majority of Quinta Apolonia (70%) is comprised of young verdejo vines or particular plots of vines that are favoured for their fresh fruit character. These grapes are fermented in stainless steel to preserve varietal character. The balance of Quinta Apolonia (30%) is comprised of declassified stock of Belondrade y Lutron that lacks the depth and intensity, or as Jean describes it “‘the shoulders’ to take on 8-10 months more oak aging. “Usually verdejo in Rueda is very similar to the way that Apolonia is produced, it is fruit-driven, very aromatic. If someone is in a wine bar and they ask for Verdejo or Rueda, they would not be served Belondrade y Lurton, because this is something completely different”. That is not to suggest that Apolonia is an inferior wine to Belondrade y Lurton. Rather, the wine is labeled as a vino de la Tierra Castilla y Leon to avoid the comparison. As per Jean; “We didn’t want the wine to read on a wine list so that consumers think that [Apolonia] is a cheap Rueda and the other wine, Belondrade y Lurton, is the expensive version. They are two different wines. We decided to market the wines on different appellations for this reason. Belondrade y Lurton is not representative of Rueda. This comes down to a sort of state of mind.”
The estate wine—Belondrade y Lurton—is matured for a total of 8–10 months French oak; a combination of new and old. The aim is to reach an outcome where “the wood is present without marking the wines. Jean explains that the oak settles into the wine over time; “the older the wine, the more integrated that it gets. In Spain it is hard to make the make consumer understand that an old white wine, has not gone bad. In Spain usually, the consumer looks for the latest vintage. However, I’m constantly surprised by the longevity of our wines.” Tasting the wines from vintage 2010 back to 2006, the longevity of the style is certainly verified. The oak provides a strong textural counterpoint together with lees handling which are both integrated to the fresh mid-palate which speak of varietal verdejo flavours of fresh herbs and green tree fruit. Sure enough as the wines age, the oak does settle into the palate, with the 2006 and 2007 showing a seamlessness of structure that separates them from the previous wines. The 2006 and 2007 also speak of minerality more strongly that the younger wines, with flavours of flint and river stone coming through. Perhaps the flavours are suggestive of the Duero river that is 3km from the edge of the property. Jean believes that Rueda will follow in the footsteps of other appellations along the river, such as Ribera del Duero. The one anomaly in the tasting is the 2009 wine, which, consistent with the vintage, is generously forward with developing aromatics such as toffee to complement exotic notes of saffron and orange blossom. Richly textured, the 2009 is a drink now proposition. The 2008 was the highlight of the tasting; displaying a youthful vigour that defies its age as wine that is almost six years old.
The wines of Belondrade Lurton are exciting. Reminiscent of white Bordeaux, the wines display slightly lighter palate weight and gentler aromatics. For a young man whom made the conscious decision to live in Spain, rather than with extended family in Bordeaux, it is clear that lifestyle plays a major part. On buying wine, Jean explains, “In Bordeaux for less than 30 euros, it is hard to find something surprising. That is the thing that I love about Spain, is that for under 15 euros in Spain you can find something really interesting”. As a family venture pushing a new vision in Rueda, it seems that curiosity runs in their blood. A