Lazarus Wine is one of the most exciting and interesting winemaking projects we have encountered in Spain. Lazarus Wine has pioneered a new winemaking method, Sensorial Winemaking, which incorporates the extraordinary sensitivity of blind winemakers into the process. The result is some of the best Syrah and Merlot made in Spain today.
The genesis of Lazarus Wine began with the tireless passion of Antonio Tomás Palacios, Professor of Enology at the University of La Rioja, and his time working with a blind winemaker in 1999. Antonio found that his blind colleague was able to detect changes in aromatics and taste earlier than he and other highly skilled, but sighted winemakers. The acute sensitivity of this blind winemaker and his ultra-low threshold for discerning aromatic changes allowed them to react more quickly to promote positive developments in the process and prevent negative developments. And this is how the idea for Sensorial Winemaking was born.
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Lazarus Wine Continued
In 2000 Antonio undertook a number of studies at the University, investigating different scenarios of aromatic development of Syrah and Merlot during the winemaking process, and different ways to act on them with the help of blind winemakers. Further studies were started in 2002 on additional grape varieties. The research led to devising more codified ways to build the sensitivities of the blind into the ongoing decision making process of elaborating wine.
In order to make Lazarus Wine a reality Antonio needed additional help and to find the right terroir and a state of the art winery in which to work freely on a small scale. He found that at Bodegas Edra, where Antonio works as consulting winemaker, and this proved to be an ideal place to launch the Lazarus Wine project.
Bodegas Edra is located in the town of Ayerbe, in the Ribera Gallego – Cinco Villas Vino de la Tierra designation, which is in the province of Huesca south of the Somontano DO in the North of Spain, south of France and west of Catalunya. The vineyards are 500 meters above sea level with soil composed of large alluvial stones and calcareous clay, and are subject to a continental climate.
Blind people learning the Sensorial Winemaking method take two courses. The first is a course of viticulture, winemaking and wine tasting at the Provincial Delegation of ONCE (The Spanish National Organization of Blind People) in La Rioja. The second is a Sensory Course, taught at the University of La Rioja by Antonio.
The Sensorial Winemaking method is adapted to each type of wine, and the blind winemakers are constantly tasting wines to identify key compounds of microbial metabolism throughout the process. Detected substances affect decisions on fermentation temperature, degree of aeration, time of maceration with skins and seeds, as well as assessing the quality of the lees and the time and type of barrel to use.
The same methods are also used for tasting grapes to determine the optimal time of harvest and crio-maceration treatments prior to fermentation. Amazingly, as Sensorial Winemaking is practiced today, blind winemakers are able to detect incipient problems even before they are discernible through chemical analysis.
Although the process is fascinating and quite technical, the end result is very pleasurable: rich, well-made wine that expresses the terroir and character of the area and the noble varieties of Syrah, Merlot and Viognier. We are happy to report that Lazarus Wine is also a boon to the blind community in Spain and we suspect eventually across in the wine producing world. We urge everyone to try and enjoy these special wines.