El Vino Prodigo is the brainchild of Pedro Pecina Gil. Pedro, or “Pedrito” (aKa “little Pedro”) is the son of Pedro Pecina [Senior] of Hermanos de Pecina Rioja fame.
Pedro grew up with Rioja in his veins. His father worked for many years as the head agronomist at La Rioja Alta before starting Pecina in 1992. However, after having worked alongside his father for 20+ years, plus a couple of stints at two other Rioja Bodegas and even one in Texas, he decided in 2011, along with his wife Maria Ruiz, to begin his own project in Rioja.
The first release of El Vino Prodigo – or the “The Prodigal Wine” – was 2014. Given Pedro’s long-standing experience in the region, he was able to secure several extremely well-placed and mature vineyards in the Rioja Alta zone which, of course, serve as the back bone for his project. The winery itself is also housed in an old building built in the 1940s which he has been able to equip modestly, though extremely proficiently, with a nod both to the traditions of the past as well as clean winemaking technology of today.
El Vino Prodigo is made up of three different wines, each with a clear and distinct concept and origin.
· Placeres Sensoriales (or “sensory pleasures”) is a wine about the fun and joy of delivering just that, i.e. sensory pleasure through wine. “When you approach a wine glass and it is able to stimulate all our senses, that is the goal of this wine”, says Pedro. When he was young, he remembers visiting the castle of San Vicente with his grandfather during harvest and smelling the aromas coming off the old concrete vats as the wines were fermenting. As a nod to this somewhat forgotten past, the wine is vinified with carbonic maceration and no de-stemming, as was often the tradition in the region some 80-100 years ago. It comes from a vineyard called “Santamaria” planted at 500+ meters on clay, with vines between 25 and 40 years old. 100% Tempranillo, and 100% lo-tech, juicy, aromatic joy!
· La Vina de la Merce is Pedro’s next level up, and a more serious wine. It is named after his mother who passed away tragically in a car accident when he was a child. The grapes come from a 35+ year old vineyard at 580 meters in the Rioja Alta Zone planted in stony soils with a base of clay. The site is very windy, giving the wine an added dimension of intensity and brightness. Here, the wine is de-stemmed and fermented in tank and then aged 14 months in a combination of approximately 80% American and 20% French oak barrels, all used. It is textured and bright, with spicy red fruits, nice flesh, and an energetic palate.
· Prodigus Venit is Pedro’s top wine, made in tiny quantities from a single-vineyard (“Valseca”) of 80+ year old vines at 550 meters in San Vicente de la Sonsierra. It is fermented in concrete vat, and then aged in a combo of American (~60%) and French (~40%) oak, with a decent dollup of new. Given the pedigree and naturally low-yielding vines from this historic site, the wine itself is more intense and high-impact. Although drinkable on release, it should age well for a long time.
Of course, the million dollar question is…is El Vino Prodigo about being the prodigal winery, or is Pedrito also the Prodigal Son, breaking away from the family business to make his own mark on the world? The answer in fact seems to be a bit of both. Pedro’s story mirrors in many ways the history of this fabled region. Some newer generation winemakers say La Rioja is a region somewhat at a crossroads and looking for its identity. It is being pulled in many directions, at once steeped in tradition but also playing its card in the world of Modern Wine produced on a large, global scale.
Today, there is a small revolution happening in Rioja, and El Vino Prodigo is part of this new movement. Along with a few other intrepid next-gen and ex-pat winemakers, they are questioning the very soul of this region, embracing both the past and the future and working on a tiny, human scale to create wines that scream their identity and origins in a new way. Of course, these wines only amount to a thimbleful in the enormous sea of Rioja being produced today. Nonetheless, their flag has been firmly planted, and tiny wine ripples are being sent out for us all to enjoy and ponder.
As with other wine revolutions, we are extremely proud to be a part of this untold story as it unfolds. I guess that makes us prodigal importers perhaps…?!