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The unsung hero behind Spain's 100-point Ribera reds
- Patricia Benitez is a bona fide Iberian winemaking powerhouse. She's dedicated years to iconic wineries, like Pingus and Vega Sicilia, to perfect Spain’s legendary reds — with perfect 100 point scores and $120 bottle prices to her name.
- Having achieved most winemakers’ wildest dreams, you’d think Patricia would be satisfied. But she had another goal yet to tick off her bucket list… making wine with her own name on the label and with her favorite Ribera area of Fuentenebro at its heart.
- Now, thanks to Angel funding, she’s finally on her way to unlocking this long-cherished dream. She’s on a mission to rescue neglected old vines in a remote abandoned village in Spain’s Ribera del Duero, to create wines of sensational quality — at Angel prices.
Patricia Benitez's Story
Patricia is originally from Cádiz, which is a port city in Spain’s southwestern edge, close to the famous wine region of Jerez. Jerez produces Sherry (with a capital “S” because it is the only place in the world allowed to call its fortified wines by the name). Due to proximity to greatness, Patricia grew up knowing how important wine could be. For years, though, it was just an important part of dinner. It wasn’t until a serendipitous visit to a winery in Priorat, where she “was inspired by a young passionate winemaker called Sara Perez” that she decided she would pursue winemaking as a career.
She had already worked her way through multiple chemistry degrees and was in the process of completing her PhD in chemistry when the wine bug bit. Clearly being a fan of research, she contacted many wineries to make sure her career decision would be a sound one. Then, she decided to specialize in enology.
"Although [I grew up] close to Jerez, my passion for making red wines led me to Ribera del Duero."
After school, she went north to what is widely regarded as the most important wine region in Castilla y Leon, Ribera del Duero, to make the red wines she dreamt of.
"My first harvest was in 2004, when I [worked] at Vega Sicilia, I have now worked 16 harvest in various wineries in Ribera del Duero. [This was] followed by a position at Pingus and an opportunity to be able to express an interpretation of a vineyard under the watchful eye of Peter Sisseck. I love being in contact with nature. Every vintage is a creative opportunity and a challenge to learn something new and meet new people. In this job you are always learning."
At Pingus, she was part of the winemaking team that crafted four 100-point wines in vintages 2004, 2012, 2014 and 2016. It was a challenge she was never tired of. An academic at heart, she was drawn to the way weather could throw a variable (or a wrench) into the carefully calculated fermentation process. As she learned more, and started paying attention to even the most minute details, she loved discovering how winemaking practices differed from village to village in a region with such deep winemaking roots. Winemaking became a way to transport herself into the Spain of the past!
Finding her passion
She found a way to use all her talents when she became involved in a project called 1076. It was a project started by Alma Caraovejas that focused on rediscovering old grape vines that had been planted and abandoned in small, high-elevation areas around Ribera del Duero. The project makes beautiful wine and creates jobs in communities that modern Spain has forgotten. Their rose is one of the highest rated in all of Ribera del Duero.
"This is a new passionate project focusing on a relatively unknown part of Ribera del Duero where old vines thrive. It is an area where altitude, climate, soil and vines are the protagonists."
"We work with local people who respect the biodiversity and ancient methods of cultivation. Tempranillo is without doubt my lifelong passion. Although it is a versatile grape, it is challenging due to low acidity and robust tannins and yet with skill you can bring out the best expression of Tempranillo in great vintages. It is a red grape with great potential."
She is passionate about the region’s celebrity variety, and equally passionate about “reanimating rural life and creating jobs and activities in a forgotten part of Spain.” With the help of Angel funding, she is elevating your drinking and elevating the lives in these small villages. If they could, the villagers would thank you personally, but you’ll have to settle for Patria’s thanks.
"Thank you Angels, I love the way Naked Wines enables us to transmit our passion to an international stage!"
I love wine and love running. I run to burn the calories to drink wine ;-)