Ribera del Duero winemakers face Madrid “vine grab”

LAST UPDATED: 26 Jan, 2011 @ 11:32
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ONE of Spain’s most celebrated wine regions could face ruin after the government announced plans to build a road through hectares of lush vineyards.

Twelve winemakers are set to lose a total of 100 hectares of vineyard in the Ribera del Duero region when work begins on the A11 Valladolid-Aranda de Duero motorway shortly.

Bodega Abadía Retuerta – whose Selección Especial 2003 was voted best Spanish wine at the Starwine International Wine Competition last year – looks set to be the hardest hit, losing almost a quarter of their 210 hectares of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and merlot vines.

“This is a true disaster for our company,” Donald Cusimano, the general director of Abadía Retuerta said. “It is not only about the loss of land, the overall quality of our wines will also be lost.”

These fears were echoed by Vega de Sicilia, one of whose bottles fetched 65,000 euros at auction in the US  recently. The company will lose 15 hectares of land under the government’s “vine grab.”

“Any disruption in the land will lead to a deterioration in our wine,” chief viticulturist Enrique Macías said.

Plans to improve the transport infrastructure in rural areas of Castilla y Leon were announced by the previous Partido Popular government in 2002. Then, with the backing of the Castilla y Leon regional government, a site for the proposed A11 road was chosen in the north of the region.

However, the present PSOE government scrapped those plans and decided to construct the road ten kilometres to the south – affecting the 12 bodegas.

“The option chosen by the previous administration was seven kilometres longer than the current plan. It would also have affected several vineyards and villages, too,” a government spokesman said.

Officials from the 12 affected bodegas have launched an appeal to the European Commission to stop the construction of the 70-kilometre stretch of road, claiming the new location also plays home to the Iberian wolf and a protected species of bat.

The Ministry of the Environment denied the claims.

This appeal, however, has left local residents and political groups divided. José Ignacio Delgado of the political party Tierra Comunera believes the bodegas have their own interests at heart rather than the environment.

“They want to hold up and delay this vital project. They are not interested in wolves only in themselves,” he said.

Óscar Soto, the PSOE socialist mayor of nearby Tudela de Duero believes the road, which will pass near the town, will bring much-needed employment and prosperity to the area.

“The industrial estates that will be built alongside the road will create jobs for many people. We have to think about what is good for all. The expropriations are inevitable.”

One local mayor slammed the decision to build the road on 100 hectares of local vineyards.

“This would never happen in France , where wine is part of the country’s heritage and culture,” said Quintanilla de Arriba council leader Antonio Castrillo.

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