Juan Antonio Leza and David González deconstruct the Gómez Cruzado business model at the Basque Culinary Center

They explained their value proposition for Rioja based on high quality wines that embody the region’s landscape and heritage

28 of February of 2018

Haro, February 2018.- Winemaker-oenologists Juan Antonio Leza and David González shared their Riojan experience with a classroom full of students at the internationally-acclaimed Faculty of Gastonomic Sciences of the BASQUE CULINARY CENTER (BCC) in San Sebastián. Leza and González broke down the revitalization initiative underway at GÓMEZ CRUZADO, a century old winery in el Barrio de la Estación of Haro. This project consists of a wine-growing and making proposal and marketplace positioning for premium wines rooted in Rioja’s landscape and heritage.

Leza and González explained their take on Rioja wine-making to the BCC students. The students in attendance are enrolled in the Sommelier Studies and Enomarketing program at the BCC, coordinated by Pilar García-Granero. Several significant figures from the winemaking sector participated in this seminar to offer students an international multi-disciplinarian take on the wine world, including perspectives from sumillers, cuisine and marketing.

Leza and González recounted their journey that started in the vineyard and led them to join the GÓMEZ CRUZADO project in 2008 as consultants. By 2013, they were embarking on a significant change of direction at the helm of this century-old winery founded in 1886.

Advocating for a quality-based business model in Rioja, Leza pointed out that “the extraordinary market concentration in Rioja has turned the region into a big designation of origin in terms of size, instead of a big designation of origin in reputation. So now, we find ourselves at the point of no return. The next step is to find an intelligent way to allow low-cost, high-volume wineries to co-exist with others wineries, such as GÓMEZ CRUZADO, that are more artisanal and focused on making premium wine. The goal being a regional model that does not pit one type of business against another".

Leza recalled that over the past 30 years the number of grape varieties in this designation of origin has dwindled. Meanwhile, the predominance of Tempranillo has grown, as the region is known for making the best varietal Tempranillo wines. “Diversity is a good thing. It’s always existed, but now it’s beginning to disappear. And there’s more to life than Tempranillo”.

Leza also noted that the region’s growing area has increased by 70% over the past three decades. “Soil that is not naturally suited to grape-growing is now being used for vineyards. While the growing area has expanded, the business model has adapted to accommodate greater production and therefore, lower prices – a more globalized approach”.
Regarding the characteristics of high quality wine, Leza declared that “when a bottle is sold at a certain price, the consumer expects it to embody a certain cultural heritage, including history, landscape, cuisine, and local know-how”. He went on to add that “our bush vines are cultural heritage, part of our humanized landscape, including the people of that land. It’s worth our while to safeguard our vineyards for their historical value. It is our duty as wineries to take on this responsibility".

Leza also recognized the challenges inherent to a market like the wine market which is flooded with brands and highly competitive. “Lots of wineries have great ideas and great wines. But they also need the right strategy. So in our case, we decided to set ourselves apart with wisdom and careful consideration”. Regarding the revitalization of GÓMEZ CRUZADO, Leza pointed out: “We chose the high road – and the longest, hardest, slowest and most expensive one. But it’s also the safest and firmest path. If you fail to intentionally position your brand at the right time and place and with the right price, you’ll end up with a low-price business model. You have to care for your brand like a newborn baby. And the brands that prevail and stand the test of time are those based on perseverance, consistency, and years of doing things the right way, on top of the essential ingredient of maximum quality”.

This century-old winery has also promoted wine tourism as a way to find brand ambassadors who are versed in the culture, land and gastronomy of the wine world, and as an important source of sales.

Building a wine portfolio

David González turned to the topic of branding at GÓMEZ CRUZADO. Over the past few years, the winery sought to create a corporate image that, like their wines, honestly portrayed their origins, by starting with the typography from the winery’s beginnings used in advertisements at the turn of the century. It’s a classic take on packaging but “without the dust of age” for a winery that is also “classical in methodology, but contemporary-minded when it comes to wine”.

During a tasting of the entire GÓMEZ CRUZADO collection, which was part of this seminar, González explained how the winery has managed to create a harmonious two-tier portfolio: “Our central family of wines embodies the best of Riojan tradition, with an updated profile. Grapes from different areas in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are blended to create a certain style of wine”. Our Terroir Selection consists of three wines. Through this collection, the winery explores “the microcosms across the entire region of Rioja. The wide variety in this small region is as diverse as other larger wine-growing areas, such as Bordeaux. The goal is to express privileged winegrowing landscapes found in the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria, Sierra de la Demanda, and Montes Obarenes”.


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