Daniel Landi: Grenache growing pioneer of the Sierra de Gredos

Just smelling, let alone tasting, the wines from Daniel Landi, you immediately know you are in some very capable hands. Looking at the pale ruby colour you might be surprised that this wine is 100% Grenache. This earthy, terroir-driven, mineral style Grenache has been described as “the Pinot Noir of the South”, providing amazing flavour complexity, intensity and persistence on the palate whilst retaining an ethereal quality. Tasting these wines provides a whole new perspective on the Grenache varietal with some similarities to the finest Southern Rhone examples but also a clear nod to Burgundy and of course its own unique schist terroir. This is seriously exciting stuff!

Could this be the beginning of a Grenache renaissance? The potential of regions all over the world for this varietal is exciting. Are there other untapped regions like the Sierra de Gredos that have the potential to make world class wines when grown in lower yields and managed correctly in the vineyard? While the Gredos mountains have a long tradition for grape growing, up until recently the region had been more closely associated with high yielding commercial wine over and above fine wine.

Wine production in the region dates back to Roman times and it continued through the medieval period with the local monks actively producing wines for the King’s Court of Spain, with the vineyards being ideally located just 50 miles south of Madrid. However, as Daniel explains, with the birth of the railways, cheaper bulk produced wine from La Mancha became the Capital’s tipple of choice due to its abundancy and relative affordability. The Gredos mountain vineyards lost their allure and, during the 20th/21st century, just finding enough workers to man these manually operated mountain vineyards meant much of the sites were abandoned.

Rediscovery of the Gredos mountains potential for fine wine

Daniel Landi was born in Spain’s Sierra de Gredos region and grew up on his family’s wine estate – Jimenez Landi. From 2004 to 2011 he was the vigneron of the family, before there was a clash over whether to take a quantitative or qualitative approach at the winery. Unable to reach an agreement, and as the wines started to receive international recognition, Daniel left and partnered up with his friend Fernando Garcia, setting up Comando G.

Comando G is completely focused on producing the highest quality wines possible in the region, working on small plots of old vine Garnacha, producing tiny yielding terroir-driven wines of exceptional quality. In 2012 after acquiring some plots from his own family vineyards he now produces four cuvees under his own name – Daniel Gomez Jimenez-Landi. The wines have received critical acclaim from the likes of Luis Gutierrez, who awarded his 2016 “Las Iruelas” an impressive 97 points in the Wine Advocate, and Jancis Robinson, who on a number of occasions awarded his wines “wine of the week”.

An archetypal millennial winemaker

Daniel Landi could be seen as the archetypal modern-day millennial fine wine winemaker. Not only has he chosen the qualitative path in his viticultural practices, he has importantly also looked beyond his homeland. As a wine lover more than a winemaker, he has made many pilgrimages with Fernando around Europe, tasting wines from all over the world. He has talked to and befriended producers from different regions, sharing knowledge and techniques in both the vineyard and winery, as well as each others wines. This cumulative sharing of knowledge, experience and passion for fine wine has helped push Daniel Landi to produce better wines every year. With Rayas as a benchmark for Grenache production, there is no doubt the estate was a huge inspiration to Daniel. But Burgundy too remains a massive influence for him with some of the best winemakers often swapping bottles with Daniel and sharing their knowledge in a bid to perfect each of their cuvees.

To call him an internationalist would be to miss the point. He doesn’t want to make the same wine as these people. Instead he has seen how different regions produce unique wines because of the place they are grown, and it is this ability for wines to express terroir that defines today’s modern winemakers. For many winemakers these days, “winemaking” in the sense of adjustments and materials used in the winery to flavour and enhance the wine, plays a quieter role in its production. Instead, the focus is on a more restrained approach in which winemaking no longer conceals a wine’s sense of place but instead frames it, allowing for the purity of its environment to dominate the aromas and palate of the wine.

The Winemaking

At Comando G, all the individual vineyards are picked and vinified separately in small tanks. The wines are 100% whole bunch fermented giving the wines a herbal sapidity and freshness. When using such a high proportion of stems, the maceration has to be incredibly gentle. He only extracts colour and tannin using foot pressing – no machines. With such gentle “infusion” methods, he draws out the maceration on the skins to two months. To retain the aromatic complexities and avoid any oxidative volatile notes, he has to delicately “wet the cap” two times a day for these two months – this is effectively him using a sprinkler type device for all 30 separate tanks. This works out around 10 hours of work every day just protecting the cap. It is painstaking work and it is this attention to detail that captures the magic in these wines.

For Daniel, 2016 was a sensational vintage in the Gredos mountains – cloudy and cold. It might seem surprising to hear such a thing but for Daniel cooler vintages are harder work yet the results are the best if you put the effort in. The Sierra de Gredos can be very hot, so a cooler vintage better protects the delicate aromatic complexity these low yielding Grenache vines can produce. He explains: “I hate over-ripe, I love the sapidity you get in the cooler vintages. I love when the fruit is not the main thing, fruit can become boring, wine is about place, tradition, history, culture and we need to enjoy our place in the glass. I could make wines much more fruity if I wanted to, but I don’t want to!”

G is for Grenache – and Gredos

Daniel Landi and just a handful of other pioneers have brought the Gredos mountain vineyards into the lexicon of fine wine. The latest release of his wines are quite sensational. Made in tiny quantities they are hard to find even on release. Luckily we have a small allocation each year so get in touch with your Account Manager to secure your allocation…