Interview with Pedro Mercado, winemaker and owner of the Pago Los Balancines winery.  today is

Married and father of three children, this 43-year-old from Madrid opted for Extremadura to create his winery, a winery that is giving prestige to Extremaduran wines. Today his brand is internationally recognized.

He is a fan of music, literature, cinema and basketball, and teaches classes in the Master of Viticulture and Oenology at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

When and why did you come to Extremadura? Did you know the region? What attracted you?

For years I was looking for where to start a wine project. I visited many Spanish regions studying options that did not come together, since the objective was to get really involved in the production and definition of wines, not to act as an investor. I was struck by the fact that Extremadura, being a wine-producing region, did not have wines recognized as among the best in Spain by the most important guides and prescribers. Upon getting to know the region, I realized that it had plenty of potential to achieve the objective. The challenge of achieving it was the main motivation driver.

How did you discover the area, the land where the vineyards were later going to be planted?

A series of coincidences brought me to this place, but I soon realized that the geoclimatic characteristics of the enclave were tremendously special. The La Zarza mine gave me a fundamental clue to identify one of the few areas of calcareous subsoil in the region, which gives a lot of uniqueness and finesse to the wines that come from it. We studied the terrain a lot before deciding the most suitable place in these mountains to plant the vineyard.

Pedro Mercado, in the vineyard / ASSIGNED

What grapes do you grow in your vineyards?

In our vineyard, entirely planted in glass and dry land and worked in a strictly ecological manner, we have plots of varieties such as Garnacha Tintorera, which is our most emblematic variety, Tempranillo, Graciano or the intentional ones but very well adapted to our environment, Cabernet Sauvignon, syrah or petit verdot.

What differentiates your vineyards from those of other Extremadura regions?

Being wedged between two mountain ranges, cooled by a permanent Atlantic wind current and with a very balanced soil, with clay, sand and a large calcareous stratum in depth, makes us unique. It is a unique place, on par with the great vineyards of any international region, capable of producing very high quality wines.

How did you get started in the world of wine?

The world of wine attracted me from a very young age. I have no family history with him, but he has always been very attractive to me. The magic, after opening a bottle of wine to celebrate, always captivated me. The possibility of integrating yourself into nature with a living product, the history that surrounds this drink… While I developed my professional career in very different fields, I began to train myself self-taught, then came formal training, which ended with obtaining from the Master’s degree in Oenology and Viticulture from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, a program in which I am now a professor.

What are the hallmarks of Pago Los Balancines?

Our philosophy is summarized in a phrase that we usually use as a mantra to explain the objective that guides us, “to make excellent wines at reasonable prices.” We want to lead something we call “the democratization of wine.” It is about making wines with an excellent level of quality available to a large number of people at sensible and accessible prices for a wide audience. It is possible to achieve it and we are demonstrating it.

What does it take to make a good wine?

It is essential to have grapes of the highest quality, from low-production vineyards, and to take care of even the smallest detail in production and aging.

Despite being a young winery, it has a large international market open. To which countries do you mainly export?

Our wines have or have had a presence in more than 20 countries. We are in all continents except Oceania, although our export work has really only just begun. We have a long way to go. Currently, Switzerland is our first market, followed by Germany, China, Japan, the United States, etc.

Pago Los Balancines has made its way into the international market

Pago Los Balancines has made its way into the international market / ASSIGNED

He has won numerous awards, both nationally and internationally. How important are awards for your winery? Which one would you stay with?

The truth is that we have been very lucky and from the beginning our work has been recognized with numerous awards in Spain and around the world. They are very important because they provide information to the consumer, in a very saturated market. It is difficult to stop at just one, they have all played an important role. Perhaps the Great Gold Medal that Haragán has just received at the Brussels World Competition, among more than 9,000 wines, because it blesses a wine in which we have put a lot of hope.

They take great care of the design of the bottles, their labeling… How important is the image?

For us the image that surrounds our products is key. All the work behind each bottle, the enormous effort involved in working to achieve the levels of quality we achieve in our wines, has to be enhanced by a presentation that highlights all that work.

Although we imagine that the choice will be very difficult, which of your wines is your favorite?

Sluggard. It is without a doubt the best expression of our vineyard, it is made with the most special grapes from each plot, meticulously selected and insanely cared for in its production. It is the faithful image of a place, of our place.

What relationship does Pago Los Balancines have with La Zarza?

The relationship is great and very deep. Since we landed in this mountain range and began to launch the project 12 years ago, our relationship with La Zarza has been continuous. We have workers from the town on our staff, suppliers who are already friends, restaurants where we go with clients or family… We feel very loved in La Zarza and we are very grateful for the hospitality and affection with which we are always treated. I think that in some way, many Zarceños feel Pago los Balancines as their own, and that fills us with pride.

And finally, what can you tell us about the mastiff breeding you carry out?

It is our other great passion. We work hard to reintroduce the mastiff into the herds, to care for livestock, to avoid the extermination of predators. It is a way of contributing to environmental balance and also connects us with the more than 4,000 years of transhumant history of our region, which would have been impossible without the help of the only race capable of confronting the wolf and the bear.

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