Bryan MacRobert is part of the new generation of winemakers in Rioja who are moving away from barrel-ageing as the defining characteristic of their wines, and instead looking to make fresher, more elegant wines which better reflect the essence of the traditional grapes grown in the region. In his own words, he “prioritises the vineyard over the cellar” and strives to make high quality wines with a strong sense of place that really showcase the diversity of soils, climates, vineyards and grape varieties that exist within Rioja.
Born in Cape Town, Bryan grew up in a winemaking family in Swartland. He studied Viticulture and Enology at the University of Stellenbosch and then spent several years travelling between South Africa and Europe working in grape harvests and wineries typically in dry-farmed, old-vine areas like Priorat. He moved to Spain in 2010 when he met his wife Clara, a fellow winemaker.
With help from Clara’s family, they created MacRobert & Canals, a small, family-run winery with its cellar in Logroño and vineyards scattered across the region. The vineyards are traditional Riojan vineyards, which means they were planted many years ago – most more than 70 years ago in fact – often on quite steep, hard to access plots which makes it tricky to use machines so the land is usually worked manually and with mules.
The focus in the vineyard is very much on sustainable agriculture, which means no herbicides or pesticides and clever use of plant cover which keeps erosion to a minimum and helps boost the organic matter in the soil.
In the winery Bryan’s focus is on the individual grape varieties of Rioja, and trying to show in each bottle how the grapes behave in different vineyard, soil types and micro-climates, rather than focusing on blends and barrel-ageing, which for so long has been the traditional approach in Rioja.