He is one of the great personalities of the oenology universe in Spain. José Hidalgo has participated actively in the creation of Pazo Baion’s fascinating albariños
José Hidalgo Togores (Madrid, 1954) is a reference in the enology world in Spain. Ph D. in Agricultural Engineering, professor and researcher, and with strong family roots in Galicia, his Oenology Treatise is a sort of bible for lovers of this discipline.
Today, thirteen years later, it’s possible to perceive in José Hidalgo the pride of a well done job. Also the ambition to continue. The unrenounceable roadmap that identifies Pazo Baion.
-Where does Jose Hidalgo’s wine passion come from?
-It comes from my family. My father was from a village in La Mancha, Mora de Toledo, where the family had a winery that had already belonged to my grandfather and great-grandfather. After them it was my father who was in charge of the winery, then he was a viticulture researcher at Investigaciones Agrarias and, of course, what I have seen at home since I was a child are vineyards.
And although I have an older brother who is a doctor who could have followed all that work, I was the one who liked it.
-What led you to work on this project? What attracted you to Pazo Baion?
-I came to this project because of the relationship I had with Condes de Albarei. I have been working with them since 1996, and you could say that now I am the oldest in the winery [laughs].
When Pazo Baion became part of the Condes de Albarei project, the possibility of working here arose and the truth is that we were, and still are, very excited about it.
This winery is spectacular, a real luxury. But also participating in the design of the winery was something very special because a project was devised to exploit this vineyard, to take full advantage of it. You only have to take a walk around here. Pazo Baion makes you fall in love.
-Does the fact that Pazo Baion makes single-vineyard wines represent an asset for Jose Hidalgo?
-No doubt. We are making a wine from a very specific area, which has a terroir, which has a microclimate. Here we are about 10 kilometers from the sea but the climate is different from what we find in Cambados.
The mountains that surround the property hold back quite a lot of rainfall throughout the year and this means that we have a very special microclimate. And then there is another peculiarity. Within Pazo Baion, there is a difference in elevation of almost 100 meters between the lowest and the highest property.
One hundred meters is almost half a degree difference in the average temperature and that makes the plots ripen differently. All these elements are what give character to Pazo Baion.
Instead of calling it vino de pago, I prefer to call it vino de pazo. It’s not regulated to call it that way, but I think it’s a very attractive idea.
-Does the fact that you can only work with grapes from this estate complicate the process of making Pazo Baion albariños or does it double the interest in the project?
-We are in a vineyard of 25 hectares that are all together. And this means that we have to be very careful in the viticultural work.
Of course, here you cannot afford to have a bad, regular or defective harvest. Here we take great care of the vineyard to ensure quality every year.
Then, of course, every vintage is different. But we have to watch over the quality of the grapes and preserve their typicity.
For instance, the style of wines we make at Condes de Albarei is very different from those we produce at Pazo Baion. Here, over the years we have learned that the Pazo Baion’s albariños are more citric, they have tones of grapefruit, tangerine skins….
This tells us that we are in a singular property. Distinctive. And that is why every year in the winery we have the challenge of interpreting this raw material and creating wines with a powerful personality.
-Talking about the raw material. When we focus about the different factors that influence the elaboration of a wine, the quality of grape obviously comes up. From your point of view, is it the differential element?
-Of course, there is no doubt about it. The raw material can represent 80% of the quality of a wine. Once in the winery, technology allows you to work the grape and polish some nuances (I am speaking in general) or highlight some virtue. But without good grapes it’s not possible to make a good wine.
-White wines have traditionally been identified with younger elaborations, but here at Pazo Baion they have already experimented, and with a spectacular result, with a three-year aging like the one that can be found in that delight that is Vides de Fontan. Is this a natural evolution to broaden the offer of Albariño wines or is it a more restricted path?
-It’s a reality, without a doubt. What happened is that when white wines became popular twenty years ago, perhaps too much work was done to create elaborations with a lot of fruit power, so that the consumer would accept them better.
Wines have to evolve and a well-made Albariño with a good grape can be better in a second or third year than in the first. That is why when we thought about the Pazo Baion project, seeing the variety of estates and the quality of the grapes, we considered making a more timeless albariño.
Here, what we tried from the beginning, and I think we have achieved it, is that you open a bottle of Pazo Baion two, three or four years later and it’s not only good, but better than the first year.
-I am going to ask you to identify me in two or three words and tell us what our three wines suggest to you. Let’s start with Pazo Baion…
-Pazo Baion evokes terroir, estate.
-Gran a Gran.
–Gran a Gran is a filigree. A gift of nature.
-Vides de Fontan.
-And Vides de Fontan is a timeless wine. Eternal.
José Hidalgo’s illusion
-Next year he will be 45 years dedicated to wine world, if I am not mistaken. Are you still surprised by this profession?
-This is not mathematics. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here. This job retains a component of magic, of good craftsmanship… And you never stop learning. And that’s what surprises me. Every year here in Baion has been absolutely different.
Right now, we are in April, the grape harvest is just a few months away and we are already looking forward to it. We try to do the same, taking care of the raw material and all those kinds of things, but even so it’s always different.
-We live in an era of almost a technological imperative that cuts across all industries, but in the world of wine it seems that the hand of man is above any technological element. Do you agree with this assessment?
-When we talk about terroir in this universe, we are referring to a wine that expresses what the estate is. But the man, the human being, men and women, are part of the terroir. That estate not only expresses the climate or the soil, it also expresses the way it is cultivated, how the vineyard is treated, how it is pruned or fertilized….
In short, the human being is also very present in single vineyard wines such as those of Pazo Baion. In the case of this estate, our wines are the result of a work that goes back in time.
-Albariños with five centuries of history?
-Indeed, all that background makes Pazo Baion a unique project. All that work of five centuries has left its mark on our albariños.
That’s José Hidalgo. A lover of his work. And of Pazo Baion.
It has been a real pleasure. See you soon!