Tell us a bit about yourself (name, age, origins, etc.)
My name’s Javier Aldama, I’m 33 years old and I was born in Bilbao. Between the ages of 3 and 10, I lived in San Vicente de la Sonsierra before moving to Vitoria. Seven years ago, I found myself out of work and decided to return to San Vicente to help my father with the vineyard. When he died, I took on his vines. I’d like to use this interview to thank my family for all the support they’ve given me, most especially my mother, Mª Ángeles.
Why did you decide to take up winegrowing? What did you study?
I’ve always loved winegrowing. When I was little, my father and I would head out and I’d help him however I could. I studied geology in Bilbao. I chose the degree because my time in the countryside awoke an interest in this planet, how it formed and changed… Geology has helped me a lot with wine-growing: developing my understanding of the structure of our clay-calcareous soils, which are the perfect combination of clay and sand to grow vines.
How far back does your connection with Bodegas Sonsierra go?
My family has been with this winery since the outset as my grandfather Florencio, known to one and all as ‘The Roadman’, was one of the cooperative’s founding partners. Later, my father, Gerardo, took over and 6 years ago I took on the role. So, I’m the third generation of my family in this project and I’m proud to take on the nickname of ‘The Roadman’
How did you go about learning the ‘trade’?
Little by little. When I was a youngster, 14 years old, I helped my family in the fields during the holidays or at the weekend. I tended to help with the pruning, trimming, harvesting, etc. In other words, whatever was necessary at that time of year. So, I learnt everything from my father and grandfather.
What is the most enjoyable thing about your work as a vintner?
What I most enjoy about my job is that the office is outdoors. That’s just fantastic! I love vines. I value my freedom highly, not having things hanging over me or any stress. Having a more flexible timetable? That’s just grand.
What does being a vintner mean to you?
Doing the thing I like the most. I love the countryside.
What do you understand now about winegrowing?
I feel that a vineyard needs to be cultivated in a traditional way, albeit taking advantage of the progress and technology available to us. But that latter must never obscure the focus on the traditional. In the end, each vine must be as its meant to be, should be looked after and pampered so that it lasts as long as possible and produces the finest possible grapes.
What are the biggest challenges you face on a daily basis?
Adapting to what’s going on. I perform the same tasks in the vineyard year-in and year-out, but no day is ever the same. It is vital that you know how to adapt to what is going on with each vintage to get the best quality from your production. When you work in the country, you need to understand there are risks and things which are out of your control, so the ability to adapt is very necessary.
What do you have to do in the vineyard at this time of the year?
In these times just prior to harvesting, we are thinning leaves and some of the bunches, vital work to ensure the bunches ripen properly and to prevent any diseases.
How do you see the future of Sonsierra?
It looks rosy to me. I’m very enthusiastic about the new winery project that’s ready to go this coming harvest. What is important is that this is our livelihood, but at the same time we need to enjoy what we’re doing.