Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Q&A: Rosana Lisa, Ramón Bilbao

Published:  03 December, 2020

As part of our Spanish Headline Hero series this month, Harpers caught up with Rosana Lisa, director of innovation, Ramón Bilbao

How does innovation inform your role as part of the winemaking team?

As head of R&D and innovation within the winery group, in addition to launching products that are also being developed, my main role is to improve what we are already doing. And do it at all stages of the project, from the vineyard with pioneering maturation controls, during vinification with yeast selection studies, study of vinification materials, and improvements in the bottling process. All this with the main objective of improving daily, to achieve more authentic, differentiated and less standard wines.

How important is innovation when it comes to advancing sustainability?

We understand that both concepts go hand in hand. For Ramón Bilbao, sustainability or innovation are not just trendy words, they are concepts of our day-to-day working with alternative energies, reducing gas emissions, or making better use of our natural resources.

We have a sustainability plan with the main objective of improving the numbers of the four pillars of sustainability. For this, we make investments in both the winery and the vineyard.

Innovation allows us to better understand our vineyard, to achieve greater sustainability. This includes exhaustive studies of our soils, water retention, ensuring irrigation is done when the plant reaches a certain level of vegetative stress. There is monitoring of the microclimate of each plot, to know in detail what is happening in the vineyard, to decide actions in the vineyard, for example, before a rainy and cold season at the time of maturation, when we need to perform leaf removal to promote aeration and control fungal diseases without treatments. We have developed R&D projects based on the knowledge of powdery and downy mildew, through meteorological stations, mathematical models and big data, in such a way that we have been able to reduce our treatments by 20%. If this is extrapolated to Rioja, it implies a reduction of 10,000 litres of chemicals in our vineyard.

Another project modulates UV radiation with natural compounds. We apply three biofilters, one for each range of the UV spectrum (ascorbic acid, uric acid, and compounds extracted from algae), and we have obtained very good results in terms of greater acidity and more concentration of colour and structure

Why is sustainability important with regard to viticulture and what benefits does it bring?

It’s fundamental. We all know that the natural resources we have are not unlimited, and therefore we must make responsible use of them.

The vineyard is our most valuable heritage. We want a vineyard developed in a diverse ecosystem, with a healthy soil, full of life, full of micro-organisms that influence the vegetative cycle and the final result of the grape. In our microbiota studies, we have observed that in our soils, there are bacteria that help the plant to fix the nutrients necessary for its perfect development, the yeasts (non-saccharomyces) that provide aromatic complexity in the final wine.

Please can you tell us more about the various projects you have on the go?

A few years ago we acquired a spectacular 90ha plot in the Yerga area. There we work different terroirs separately, and we have allocated some plots to investigate. The wines of the future are being born today, but for that to happen we need to know in depth our soils, our terroir.

Two years ago we made plantations with varieties with a longer cycle, such as Maturana Tinta and Graciano, to see their behaviour at the level of maturation and final result. Monte Yerga is located in Rioja Oriental, but at altitude, this factor will be vital as a modulator of the effect of global warming. Thanks to its effect, we will achieve wines with a fresher profile and greater acidity.

Another experience is the plantations in the Cuzcurrita area, a village in Rioja Alta with an extremely continental climate. It is an area that has been destined more to the cultivation of cereal, but due to climate change, the perfect maturation of short-cycle white varieties (Tempranillo Blanco and white Maturana) is possible.

More experimental is the project that we develop in Mar de Frades, in Rias Baixas, based on the study of three ancestral varieties, from the region of Galicia – varieties related to Caiño Blanco.

And, specifically, your single vineyard Lalomba project?

This is one of the most interesting projects that we are working on: Lalomba is the response of Ramón Bilbao to a new trend – a collection of magnificent terroirs that represent the very best of our best vineyards.

In this project we have zoomed in on a single piece of land, the result of constant R&D in recent years. We have studied the 206ha of vineyards owned in detail, with the main objective of recognising and selecting the most charismatic vineyards, those full of personality. Now you can find Lalomba Finca Lalinde (a rosé – Provence style), that was launched in 2016, and we have recently launched our two first reds, Finca Valhonta and Finca Lalinde. All of these wines are born in different vineyards, in different locations, and represent the most prestigious vineyards in the Rioja DOC.