The Stoli Group continues to diversify beyond vodka with the recent launch of a luxury wine division.
Longtime winemaker Manuel Louzada has been appointed CEO of this new portfolio. He’ll oversee brands including the newly acquired Arinzano Estate of northeastern Spain (pictured above), Argentina’s Achaval-Ferrer, and the Italian estates of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Castelgiocondo and Luce della Vite.
This past week I sat down with Louzada in the Stoli headquarters in New York. We discussed his vision for the portfolio, and sampled the first three Arinzano bottles that Stoli plans to import into major U.S. markets by early 2016.
“We’re focused on finding hidden jewels, places that have the potential to be developed,” Louzada said. “We will focus on growth of quality, and not the growth of volume.”
To that end, Louzada plans to focus on observation and technique.
“You don’t want to be where you are just making the same type of wine no matter where in the world you are,” he said. “You have to use the most appropriate techniques to make wines that best reflect their terroir. You have to be sensitive to techniques that are appropriate for the terroir.”
Perhaps still a “hidden jewel” to American drinkers, Arinzano has a long history in Spain.
Arinzano is located in the municipality Aberin, near the midpoint between Rioja and Bordeaux. The estate’s vines were originally planted in the 11th century. But over time, the vineyard fell out of use. In the 1980s, Arinzano’s 128 hectares changed hands and were replanted. Stoli acquired the estate earlier this year.
In 2007, Arinzano became the first estate in northern Spain to receive a designation of Vino de Pago (or D.O. Pago). This is a classification given to individual estates indicating the highest quality of Spanish wine. Qualification requires both growing all grapes and aging all wines onsite, plus a track record of consistent quality.
Since its first use in 2003, Vino de Pago has been granted to only 17 estates, with only four in northern Spain.
“I think it was a real eye-opener to other properties around Arinzano,” Louzada says. “You’re going to see more of it out of Spain. Today’s consumers are looking for something different. And they recognize that there are many improved vineyards outside of the major wine regions.”