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New Wine on Board: Vallehondo Syrah, A Sip of Andalusian Elegance

New to NZ and just landed this week, Vallehondo Syrah hails from the remote and picturesque region of Huelva, Andalucía, in the bottom tip of southern Spain.

The vineyard is located inside the Condado de Huelva biosphere, a unique national

park inhabited by Iberian lynx, imperial eagles and flamingos. The area is of enormous

environmental importance, as all the birds migrating from Europe to Africa and vice-versa stop

here on their journey.

Vallehondo Syrah by Contreras Ruiz
Vallehondo Syrah by Contreras Ruiz

The Unseen Gem: Huelva, Andalucía

Vallehondo Syrah originates from a truly unique vineyard nestled within the Condado de Huelva biosphere, a national park teeming with the richness of nature. Imagine sipping on a wine that captures the essence of the Mediterranean climate and is surrounded by the enchanting beauty of Doñana National Park.

A Symphony of Biodiversity: Doñana National Park

Doñana National Park is more than just a protected area; it's a living testament to the delicate balance between nature and human history. Spanning the provinces of Huelva, Cádiz, and Seville, this park boasts a remarkable 543 km² of marshes, streams, and sand dunes. It's home to a breathtaking variety of ecosystems and wildlife, including the iconic Iberian lynx, imperial eagles, and flamingos.

The park's history dates back to the 1500s when Doña Ana de Silva y Mendoza, the wife of the 7th Duke of Medina Sidonia, acquired the land. Over the centuries, it became a haven for artists, monarchs, and conservationists. In the mid-20th century, the González-Gordon family played a pivotal role in preserving the park's wetlands, showcasing the deep connection between individuals and the environment.

Safeguarding Doñana: A Legacy of Resilience

In the 1940s and 50s, Mauricio González-Gordon y Díez, a Spanish businessman whose family owned a vast estate in Doñana, became fascinated by the ecosystems and birdlife of the region. He extended invitations to ornithologists from across Europe, including Spanish ornithologists José Antonio Valverde and Francisco Bernis, who visited the property in 1952. Guided by González-Gordon, they observed that the wetlands, rich in diverse wildlife, were threatened by the Spanish government's plans to drain them for farming and eucalyptus tree planting. Mauricio and his father urged Bernis to influence Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to abandon the plans. The trio drafted a memorandum, presented to Franco by Mauricio's father, Manuel. By November 1953, Bernis completed a report highlighting the exceptional ecological value of Doñana, garnering international support. Despite the risks faced by González-Gordon, the Franco government conceded, and the drainage plans were halted.

Today, the Doñana nature reserve encompasses the Doñana National Park, established in 1969, and the Natural Park, created in 1989. This creates a buffer zone managed by the regional government. Classified as a single natural landscape, Doñana, strategically located between Europe and Africa near the Strait of Gibraltar, features a vast salt marsh serving as a breeding ground and transit point for thousands of European and African birds. During winter, it hosts up to 200,000 migratory waterfowl of over 300 species annually. Recognized as the largest nature reserve in Europe, the area was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994.

Contreras Ruiz Winery in Huelva
Contreras Ruiz Winery in Huelva

Contreras Ruíz: Crafting History in Every Bottle

Now, let's turn our attention to the small but significant Contreras Ruíz vineyard, a third-generation family winery in the Doñana biosphere. While the vineyard may be a pebble in the grand landscape, it holds over 500 years of ecological and cultural significance.

Contreras Ruíz's Vallehondo Syrah is a testament to the vineyard's exceptional terroir. Situated just 15 km from the coast, the maritime-influenced soils, rich in marine fossils, contribute to the wine's unique character. The earth is particularly calcareous due to these marine fossils and is interspersed with sand and clay. This unique terroir and aerated soil brings the wine great freshness despite coming from an area of Mediterranean climate.

Reflecting some degree of the salinity of the Atlantic nearby, the wine is unexpectedly fresh, vibrant and with a great deal of fruit character. The family makes wines that reflect the individual character of the region.

The harvesting crew at Bodegas Contreras Ruiz
The harvesting crew at Bodegas Contreras Ruiz

Savour the Moment: Tasting Vallehondo Syrah

As you uncork a bottle of Vallehondo Syrah, you embark on a journey through time and terroir. The wine reflects the family's commitment to crafting wines that resonate with the individual character of the region. With each sip, you'll experience the harmony of tradition and innovation, a perfect blend of history and craftsmanship.

We invite you to join us in savouring this extraordinary wine – a liquid narrative of a land with a story to tell. Vallehondo Syrah is not just a wine; it's a meaningful and humbling experience, an invitation to share the history of Doñana National Park and the Contreras Ruíz family vineyard.

St Vincent's Cave is honoured to bring this remarkable wine to New Zealand, and we look forward to sharing the joy of Vallehondo Syrah with our discerning patrons. Cheers to history in a bottle and to the moments that make wine an artful expression of the land it comes from!

Vallehondo Syrah by Contreras Ruiz

Grape: 100% Syrah

Region: Condado de Huelva (Andalucía), Spain

Ageing: 6 months fining in French oak, 6 months bottle ageing

Alcohol: 13.5% vol.

RS 2g/L

Tasting notes: Sight: Cherry red with violet hues.

Nose: Intense nose, elegant with a predominance of ripe red fruit. A hint of black pepper but predominantly vanilla and cherry.

Palate: Silky and smooth in texture. Fresh flavour due to its proximity to the coast, good length. Round and elegant tannins with lightly handled oak.

Drink on its own, or match with fish, vegetables, and salads (lighter dishes). It's also fantastic with quince/cheese for dessert.


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