A man picks grapes during the harvesting season. / EP

Spain's rich list

Just five of the top 200 richest families in the country are in the wine business

ANDREW J. LINN

When we think about the world's great winemaking families, we can imagine them living a life filled with wonderful food parties, international travel, and of course the best wines available.

The reality is somewhat removed from this fairy-tale concept, and indeed has been for the last half century.

Possibly the most luxurious existence was lived by the great sherry barons of Jerez, along with the French claret producers in Bordeaux.

Back then the wines in question sold themselves, and in some cases were even rationed to the intermediaries who traded them.

In the latest Spain's Rich List, published by El Mundo newspaper, only five of the top 200 wealthiest families are linked to the business of wine. Some of the names are familiar. The Perelada brand of cava, founded in 1923, is famous for the 'champagne' mega lawsuit in London 50 years ago that firmly stopped Spanish bubbly producers in their tracks. The group's current turnover is a respectable 540 million euros.

The Zabala family that owns the Faustino brand sells 415 million annually, and at the other end of the quality scale is the intensely up-market Vega Sicilia bodega with sales of 305 million. The group also operates in Rioja and makes Tokay in Hungary.

Back to volume rather than quality, the mega García-Carrión empire, renowned for its tetra Brik Don Simón plonk, operates in ten Spanish regions, and exports more wine in bulk than it sells nationally.

The top names also include the Bodegas Olarra brands that embrace other supermarket favourites such as Ondarre, Añares, Cerro Añón y Olarra.