Francisco José Robles Rubio’s past has been connected with the wine world and Andalusian fortified wine since his childhood. First-born to the third generation of the Robles family, one of the most emblematic family bodegas under DO Montilla-Moriles, he made an extraordinary decision at the end of the 90s: to develop the first range of fortified organic wines in the world. The result of his efforts has been acknowledged in a multitude of international competitions, confirmed anew in the latest editions of Les Vinalies Internationales and Biofach.
Bodegas Robles, under DO Montilla-Moriles, was established in1927 by Antonio José Robles. It was in 1964, the year of Francisco José Robles’s birth, that his father Francisco Robles, took the reins of the bodega, making it into what it is today. But it was Francisco José who, since the year 2000, when he took over management, began to implement organic viticulture. His efforts could not have hoped for better results, a clear example being ‘Robles Selección 1927 Pedro Ximénez’, which won a Gold Medal at Les Vinalies Internationales 2008 for the third year running and the same accolade at Biofach 2008. This wine had already won a Special Gold Medal, the German organic competition’s maximum accolade, in its 2007 edition. However, not to be outdone this year, the award was scooped up by the bodega’s ‘Piedra Luenga Fino’. Another wine from the same range, ‘Pale Cream’ also received a recommendation in the world’s largest trade fair for organic wine, held in Nüremberg.
But his vocation started long before that. “I can remember, from my childhood, the journeys my parents made using up their holiday time to sell our bodega’s wines throughout the length and breadth of the country. My three sisters and I took advantage to be with our father, whom we hardly ever saw due to his heavy workload. It was then that, since a very early age and totally unawares, I began to absorb the essence of the world of wine. In those lost taverns in remote and wonderful little villages scattered throughout the Spanish landscape of the 70s and 80s” recalls Francisco José explaining that he spent his childhood within the confines of a great bodega, “always surrounded by carafes, bottles, wine butts and a whole remarkably picturesque world of sensations intertwined with the wine world”.
Idealised memories that stayed with him during his adolescence, when play makes way for work, in the 80s Francisco José was already combining his studies with the harvests. “At the winepress I learnt to take in the grape, to tell the difference between the varieties (Pedro Ximénez, Airén, Balaí, etc.), how to separate the musts depending on their age and ripeness and how to crush to get the best quality product, that later becomes wines to replenish American oak wine butts. All in all, I learnt everything about wine in a practical way, while focusing my studies towards the family business: the bodega, both on the administrative side as well as the oenological side”, he explains.
Consequently, when he finished his studies he joined the bodega’s accounting and administration department. That was sometime in the 90s. “Although I had already received a formal education in Oenology, during those early years, I learnt to make wine from the back-bench, what I mean is that my work at the bodega was centred much more around questions of marketing and accounting”, Francisco José states.
However, the turning point at Bodegas Robles arrived between 1999 and 2000, when Francisco José took over management, starting a phase in his life totally integrated with the bodega’s agricultural and oenological activity. That is when he took the crucial decision that would change his future: to develop a range of organic wines for his product catalogue.