Winemaker Matias CallejaGET TO KNOW RIOJA
Matias Calleja is the winemaker at Bodegas Beronia situated in the wine centric village of Ollauri, located in Rioja Alta. Here, he supervises the production of red wines and recently changed the blend of Beronia rosé this year. Beronia was started by a group of Basque businessmen, who enjoyed food and wine in the spirit of Gastronomic Societies popular in Basque country. In a nine-year time span, the world-famous Sherry house González Byass purchased the bodega and entered into Rioja. In 1982, Matias joined Beronia the same year that marked Spain’s transition to democracy and the first full year of a full democratic Rioja Regulatory Control board. He believes these foundations are positively impacting Rioja’s capacity today to catapult forward into the 21st century. Vines planted at this historic turning point are now flourishing in spectacular quality at 25-30 years of age.
A native of Ollauri, Matias believe that the Ollauri terroir and the surrounding villages such as Briones, and Villa Alba, provide an exquisite calcario soils, average altitudes of 600 meters with distance from the riverbeds. He highlights the microclimates of Rioja Alta and the small plots that comprise their grower community as definitive factors of Rioja Alta and their vineyards.
Matias also produces the only Mazuelo Reserva in Rioja. Released in 2011, it is available on a highly allocated basis in select markets. Often overlooked for its intrinsic qualities, Mazuelo is an indigenous grape variety. In the later part of the 20th century it was on the verge of extinction. Matias believes Mazuelo is at its best when it has benefited from barrell ageing. It is a wine made to pair with barbecued meats, cheese and the curious consumer who wants to experience a different expression of Rioja.
Part of the attraction of the Tempranillo grape variety is its ability to produce a broad range of wines from young to aged. With this inspiration, Beronia produces a young Tempranillo and a range of Crianzas to Gran Reservas. They age their grapes in barrels of mixed French and American oak to highlight the desired blend of tannins and structure, while always respecting that the fruit is primary on the palate. Matias was a pioneer for introducing mixed oak barrels for aging.
Matías Callejas has been working at Bodegas Beronia since 1982 and has more than 31 years of experience producing the highest quality wines in La Rioja. Matías highlights the innovative spirit of Beronia, “We are always experimenting with small batches of wine to see if we can improve and adapt the style, tastes and flavours of our wines.”
Matías has created a distinctive style of Beronia, which encompasses both the traditional and the modern, and which are at present very representative of La Rioja. Matías is a fervent supporter of sustainable agricultural techniques, carefully controlling all aspects of the process throughout the growing season. It uses the most environmentally friendly techniques, both in the vineyards and in the winemaking process.
After calling himself an “enthusiast” of oak, Matías was one of the pioneers in the region to promote the use of mixed barrels, French and American oak. Today these are quite well-known but with years of experience, Matías has perfected his craft in order to ensure the most integrated and supple wines go into the bottle at Beronia, such as the multi-award winning Reservas and Gran Reservas that bear the brand’s name.