La Mancha

Carmen Lopez and Luis Ruiz are wonderful and humble people. Softly spoken, with broken English, the couple lives in full harmony with their environment and what they do best: looking after their vineyards and producing wines oozing energy. Furthermore, as it transpires, the name of their estate Uva de Vida literally translates to: The Grape of Life.

After a serious illness, which affected Carmen, the couple came to realise that working with the land and the soil could restore her energy, and revitalise her. 

Looking to change their lives, they took the brave decision to purchase some land located in Santa Olalla, in the region of La Mancha, South West of Madrid. They planted a vineyard and from the outset, their resolute intention was to grow their vines and produce their wines, eschewing any kind of chemicals. In 2005, Uva de Vida came to life.

Carmen and Luis’ vineyards sit at a latitude of 40 degrees with respect to the Ecuador, and at an altitude nearing 500 meters. They are predominantly planted on strong clay soils, with nine hectares of Graciano, a rare red grape variety, along with three hectares of Tempranillo. There, in Castilla La Mancha, the climate is extreme, with exceedingly high temperatures and very little rainfall.

The plots of vines are punctuated by cereal fields and olive groves, which play an important role in keeping the biodiversity thriving. A neighbour’s herd of goats grazes in the vineyards in the Winter months, assisting with the maintenance. In this barren part of Spain, they were fortunate to discover water thanks to a dowser, and they subsequently dug a well.

Advised by a consultant viticulturist with experience in biodynamic agriculture, Carmen and Luis aim at preserving the life in their vineyards and they are farming biodynamically, and respecting the lunar cycles. They ‘micro-plough’ their soils to provide them with structure, while retaining moisture and protecting the land from erosion and the sun. They spray their vines with herbal tea preparations as to respect the flora and fauna that balances and reactivates life in the soil, and thus reinforcing the natural resistance of


At first, when the vines started to bear fruit, the neo-viticulturists expected to sell their quality grapes at a higher price than other wine growers in the area. This  proved to be a wrong plan, since no one seemed to appreciate their work and the way in which they took care of their vineyards. It was a pretty hard blow, so they decided to produce their own wine.

The grapes are picked by hand, and in the cellar Carmen and Luis explain that they are ‘mere spectators who accompany and observe’. Their philosophy is of minimal intervention, in order to let nature rule and they are able to do so because the quality of their grapes is impeccable.

Uva de Vida wines are structured, floral, elegant and well balanced, reflecting the essence of their landscape. They are produced without any added sulphites.

Carmen is a fighting and tenacious woman. Together with Luis, they have renewed their lives thanks to their vineyards and wines.

Uva de Vida is one of the few Spanish members of the prestigious biodynamic association ‘La Renaissance des Appellations’ of which less than 200 winemakers from around the world are members.

Profile © Françoise and Seán Gilley

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