David and Jonas Tofterup
David and Jonas's Wines
- 10 wines
- 4 styles
Two-time Spanish Winemaker of the Year David and his Master of Wine bro Jonas specialise in rule-breaking wines that unearth Spain's hidden gem potential
- Born in Denmark (not exactly a winemaking stronghold!) David and Jonas Tofterups’ lifelong love of wine was kick-started when their parents moved to Spain in the 90s, where they took trips to visit wine regions all around the country. 15-year-old David in particular was hooked, and after finishing school, he threw himself into a winemaking career which has seen him work at wineries all over the world including Spain, France, Chile and the US.
- Jonas, 10 years the junior, naturally looked up to his brother as a superhero. As he grew up, Jonas went the academic route, becoming a fully-qualified Master of Wine who now has degree certificates falling out of his back pocket. They both dreamed that one day they would make a wine together. And now, fast forward 25 years, because of Angels… they do!
- With Angel support, David and Jonas have been able to leave their large scale corporate wine jobs to devote themselves to making their boutique-style family wines with buckets of oomph and personality. They’re specialists in going off-the-beaten-track and unearthing all the hidden gem potential Spain has to offer. And we think they’re really rather good at it.
David and Jonas Tofterup's Story
Jonas tells the story of how he and David’s dream came together…
I was born in Esbjerg, in the western part of Denmark. So was my brother. Then our family migrated to southern Spain, my father got a job in banking. I was five, and David was 15. It was a big gap, and at that time, for logical reasons we weren’t that close.
But he was like a hero to me of course, he was very good at taking care of me, as a kid he even let me sleep in his own bed. I don’t remember but I’ve seen photos of it. He was also good at reading out these Donald Duck magazines, he was reading and I was looking at the pictures. But we moved to Spain in 1991, and our parents had wine on a daily basis, and we were encouraged to have a glass if we wanted. So we did. And our family at that point also got more interested in wine, and our holidays were spent going to visit different regions of Portugal and Spain, so that was the beginning of inspiring - mostly David at that point as I was too young - to go into the world of wine. And the same also from the world of Spanish gastronomy, which is much better than Danish gastronomy, to be frank, although we do a nice pastry, the cinnamon rolls are very good.
So David went back to Denmark after 3 years, when he turned 18, because he wanted to do a business degree in Denmark and study shipping, so he could travel the world, which was a suggestion from our father. But then he remembered an old school essay he wrote when he was about 14, that he wanted to make wine one day, which suddenly came to mind, and he remembered back then that one of the teachers said, you want to be a cellarmaster. So he looked it up, and there was only one place in Copenhagen that have this cellarmaster degree; they take one intern every 3 years. He contacted them, and they were actually looking for a new intern just then. He applied and he got it.
That was his first job in wine, for 3 years, and during the summer holidays, my parents would visit friends and family in Copenhagen, and I remember staying with David, in the fourth floor attic of his apartment. My parents wanted to visit their old friends but I didn’t want to go with them and listen to old folks, which was boring as a kid, so I said, can I just go with David to work. And they said, yeah sure you can, off you go.
I was only 11 then, in 1997, just turning 12. And David would show me the tanks, the pumps, and how to clean them. The bottling line was very fascinating for a young boy, the technology. And he’d give me a glass of wine and say, try this, try that. So I would. I loved the smells as well, I remember. I got really inspired, and when I got back to school (I went to a private school, English school, international one in Malaga), and we were asked by our teacher to write an essay on what you want to do when you turn 25. So I did, I wrote about my brother’s job and said I want to make wine with him one day.
There was one thing about me and my brother that I wrote in the essay, I’ll paraphrase it now, it went something like, ‘if he knows something I don’t know, he will tell it to me, and if I know something he doesn’t know, I will tell it to him, in other words we complement each other and help each other. And that’s how it turned out today because David’s got more practical experience, he’s worked around many many wineries, and I have a much more academic, theoretical background, given that I’ve studied oenology and viticulture at university, and I have WSETs and I have an MW title. So we complement each other.
I actually studied together with Ray the Master of Wine theory paper, so that’s where we met each other, and that’s also how we actually got into Naked Wines, because one course day we were studying and Ray and I connected really well, and we talked about Spain and Spanish wines. And I had it in my mind, and I said, hey Ray, we have this project in Spain and I think you should have a look at it. That was my introduction to Naked, basically.
He was talking to me about La Orphica, that style of wine that we could make. I know how to make it very well, so does David, and that’s where I mentioned ‘back then’. This was in 2017, something like that, but I didn’t work more on it, Ray and I we talked about he wanted a monastrell at some point, and then we brought in La Nymphina, and it turned out to work quite well. And then we developed the white wine, and that was something that Ray wanted. He gave a bit of an idea, and we said we can make that, not a problem using that season’s grapes, so we also created the Aurora. That was Ray’s idea, we created it.
The rose that was just David and me, thinking, rose is really booming, we’ve got a red and a white wine, let’s make a rose that will match that.
Going back to younger days, the letter was where it all began, the dream of making wines. We talked about it as well, in school holidays. We always got on well as brothers. It’s amazing to be best mates with your brother. (I probably spend more time with him than I do with my wife, ahem.) We speak on the phone about 4 or 5 times a day. We’ve got so much in common. You can relate to everything in life, we’ve known each other for always, and have shared values.
So David finished his three years in Copenhagen, and he didn’t just want to be at that importer’s bottling plant, he wanted to make wine, as his next step. He used the contacts from the wines they imported, and first moved to Pereiras and did a vintage there, of Cava. And we went up and visited him with my parents in the holidays, then he went off to Bordeaux, where we visited him, then he went to Chile, and we flew to Chile to visit him there, then he went to California, to work with a Californian winemaker.
Bordeaux and Pereiras were shorter stays, but Chile was half a year. Then he moved to California, and at that point I was 15, that was the time you have your communion in Denmark, protestant confirmation, usually you get lots of money so you can buy a new stereo, computer, scooter, motorbike, whatever you want. I didn’t want that, I wanted to visit my brother because he was working in California. So my parents being so liberal let me fly alone, at the age of 15, from Copenhagen to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Los Angeles.
He picked me up in LA, we went to the winery, I worked there for 3 days, topping up barrels, stuff like that, I have pictures of all this as well. Then we went to visit Napa and some different wine growing areas, and took a trip to LA.
So that was our trip together, and after that I wanted to focus on making wine, so I studied food science and technology in Copenhagen, then I studied viticulture and oenology in France, Montpelier and Bordeaux, I also had a semester in Geisenheim in Germany in the Rheingau region, and then I did my thesis in Stellenbosch in SA, and did some vinifications there, experimentations with yeasts and bacteria to see how that worked. Then I moved to Spain, and at that point David was working at a larger company in Spain, he had migrated to Spain with his Californian wife Jennifer.
Jennifer now loves Spain and never wants to go back to the USA. They've got the kids, and they’re all Spanish, and they’re happy there. David was with that larger company, making wines all around Spain, and I actually started working with him there, in 2012. The relationship was a bit challenging for us because David was my boss, so there was a bit of conflict there, and I felt our relationship was not really that strong so after 3 and a half years there I chose to quit. David continued in that role, and I moved to southern Spain where I found another job working for an exporter of Chilean wines, and doing a bit of consulting here and there, and I was studying my MW programme at the same time. I’d started the first year of my MW in 2014, while still working with David.
I did it basically to protect our relationship because it hurt me a lot, and he was pressured from the owner to make sure that I didn’t get special treatment. Basically when you hire a family member there’s three options. 1. You ignore they are family and treat them just like anyone else. 2. You give the person an advantage and really take care of them. 3. Or you treat them a bit tougher so you prove to the owner that you are not favouring them, and that’s what I felt David did, to make sure I was doing a fantastic job for the company, and not just there because I was his brother. And that was fairly challenging to David too, to be in that situation, so I said look, this is not good, so I left, and we were both happy about it. It’s tricky, being a loving family you have all those emotions, but you have the professional emotions too, and sometimes it can be difficult to separate, and I think at that point I was mid 20s, David was mid 30s, I was so young and insecure, it was my first full-time job, and you’re lacking security and so forth. I didn’t know if I could just go and get another job that easy. But it was the right decision I think.
Now we bring in all this experience from different sides. So we see each other on completely equal levels, as I brought in experience from outside, and my experience wasn’t just limited to working with David, I had worked for other wineries as well, and did harvests in Germany and South Africa and in France.
In 2004 David released a wine called Trenza Family Collection, I was just 19 at that point, Trenza means braid, and a braid is stronger than a single strand. It was a braid of different grape varieties, but also bringing together different knowledge and experiences, so Jennifer was doing the creative design, David with his experience, and me to contribute with my experience, so that was the idea behind the name of the wine (and winery) Bodegas Trenza. I would come down for two weeks during the autumn breaks from my studies in Copenhagen, to do the harvests. But this small ‘family production’ got a bit forgotten later, as we were all so busy getting on with our lives and jobs, and I was mostly busy with my studies. It was the initial moment that we came together as a team, but because we got so occupied with life and other things, it was de-prioritised. But it was always there, this family project. So moving forward again, to 2018, three years after I’d left the company David was working for, he was getting a bit fed up with his current job and getting the feeling that the place was growing so big it was becoming like a factory. And the beauty of creating good quality wines at a decent price isn’t just about the bottom line, which is what it was becoming more and more about, as the business became more corporate.
So he was not happy and we sat down and had many many talks over it, and I said, David how about we go back, and, we had a family dream, we have Trenza, you started it, we’ve got a history from 2004 we still have bottles of these wines, so we’re not starting from scratch, you’re in your early 40s, I’m early 30s, I was on my research paper and sure I was going to pass my MW very shortly, you’ve got lots of experience, how about we give this childhood dream a go. It’s now or never, we can’t wait ten years, early 50s is a bit late to start something new in life, so how about we do it now. So we were playing with the idea for a year, and then in 2019 David said he was going to give it a go, he quit his job and was without a salary for just over a year, living off savings, and we started developing the whole family of wines, adding onto the Trenza Family Connection.
We rent the winery space near the vineyards where we’re making a particular wine. But our dream is eventually to have our own winery in Yecla, and our own old vine vineyards too. That’s the region where we already make our Trenza Family Collection, and La Nymphina. But I think we will continue to buy grapes and probably rely on other facilities because in Spain you need to produce and often bottle the wine in the region it’s made, so if you want to make wines in 3 different regions you’d need 3 wineries. But the wineries are all friends that we’ve known for many many years, most of them came to mine and David’s weddings, so these are very close friends, and David has worked with some of them in his previous job. Also building a winery costs about 4 million, and you can’t go down to the bank and borrow that amount of money.
So with David’s winery I’ve been on the sideline, behind the curtains all the time, since 2018. I actually started making some relationships with the wineries, David couldn’t do it because of conflict of interest. So I’ve been involved in developing all the wines together with David.
So probably in 2019, just after David had quit his job, spring of 2019, Ray had reached out to me or I had reached out to him, I think it was Ray who said you were looking for Monastrell, what do you know. And I said, Ray, this is good timing, why don’t you take a look at the Monastrell my brother is making. That was La Nymphina. Then we had a meeting in March, all 3 of us. I don’t think I told Ray that I was actually getting so involved at that point, I just said it was David my brother I was helping him, but we didn’t want to risk two family economies so I needed to keep working for the Chilean winery while David was building up the business, but I was helping him on the side. The first order with Naked was one truck, just 17,000 bottles, but I think it went okay. Shortly after that we talked to Ray about La Orphica, the Monastrell, we’d developed it for Denmark but we suggested it to Ray. It’s also working extremely well in Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, really well in Europe. It’s got a really broad appeal to the palate, it’s our flagship wine, our best-selling wine. It’s great that people love it as we’re really happy with what we’re making.
I think we launched the Christmas before Covid. And it’s gone really quick! I’m very impressed how well the wines have been received, it’s been fantastic support.
There’s some amazing comments. Particularly to begin with, I was logging on almost every single week just to see what Angels were saying, how they’re reacting to the wines, and to engage.
It’s made a big difference. I don’t think I’d have been able to afford to quit my job and help David grow the family project without Naked backing. It’s basically Naked that’s allowed us to finance that. My old boss wanted me to stay in that job but even if they’d doubled my wage for me it’s not a question of money, it’s a question of living the dream, and that doesn’t have a price tag.
When I’m not making wine I like to run 3 or 4 times a week. I’m trying for my first marathon, the Medoc marathon, in September. It’s a wine marathon, there’s these booths where you drink wine and eat oysters during the race, after 5k you stop and have a glass of wine, after another 5k you stop and have another thing, and people get dressed up in big costumes, it’s a very casual fun marathon, my first one. And I like cooking too, love making paellas and stuff like that. Married, but no children yet, haven’t had time for that. Apart from that, wine itself is a hobby. A hobby of mine is actually WSET level teaching. I do level 2 and 3. I love to encourage and motivate people about wine. I’ve just bought a building in Malaga and we’re refurbishing it as we speak right now. There will be a dining room, couches, a chill out area, so students can go up there in the breaks and have a coffee or drink some wine. The idea is to play with concrete, steel, wood and glass to create a modern industrial feel. A winery is quite industrial, so I wanted the architecture to have the same feel as a winery. This is my hobby, I love spending time with students who want to improve their knowledge of wine.
I was at an international college in Spain for 8 years, where everything was taught in English by English speakers. But I speak 3 languages almost every day - Danish, Spanish and English. At home I speak Spanish, as my wife is Spanish. With David I usually speak Danish, with Spanish people we’ll speak Spanish, and with English people we’ll speak English.
We also asked David a few questions so you can get to know him better...
Why did you become a winemaker?
I was born in a country, Denmark, known more for wine consumption than wine production, however, my parents, were of the small few, who tried to make homemade " wine" in our basement. Their wine was not much of wine in the end, but as a child I got to see how much fun they had while making it. To this day, my family still laugh at the idea of them trying to make wine in a Danish basement, but what they did back then was plant an important seed within me. Moving to Spain, when I was 15 years old, really exposed me to wine culture. Spain, the wine, the food, the language, the people, the sunshine and the smiles. Our holidays were always spent in one Spanish wine region or another. This is when I knew what I wanted to do for living, it just took longer to get my father to agree.
What is it about your job that you love?
What´s not to love!? I love everything about making wine. For me, like most winemakers, it is not a job, it is a passion and a hobby.
I love seeing the very first sign of life in the vineyards. The little green buds, springing to life on the vines, immediately brighten up the brown scenery. Seeing this gets me really excited thinking of the new harvest. I really enjoy walking amongst the vines as I sample and make my selection. I also, really find it exciting to have all my wine batches out in front of me; tasting and blending them, crafting what would be the best I wine can offer other to enjoy. It is a mental and sensorial experiment that is really satisfying when you have the ah-ha moment.
What makes your wines special?
I am very selective about the quality of grapes that I work with. I am always looking for high altitude, old historical vineyards. These vineyards are typically dry-farmed, locally known as "secano" and many of which are un-grafted,and are yielding a very small crop. This is what I am after; the unique qualities and characteristics these epic vines offer. As a winemaker have a World of experience behind me. I have travelled around the World working with many grape varietal, and many talented winemakers. I have taken the best of all I have learned and experienced and have created my own special fusion-style in Spain. This is what makes my wines special.
Which varietal/style is your passion and why?
I love working with the Monastrell (Mouvedre) varietal because it is known to be slightly unpredictable and more challenging to achieve a complex yet balanced wine. I love this challenge. I also love the Tempranillo varietal because it is planted all over Spain and you really get to experience how climate and terroir influence and alter the character of the fruit.
Any tales of joy or sorrow along the way?
There are many joys of being a winemaker. When you are at restaurant and see your wine on the table next to you. A very great moment for me in my career was when UEC (Union Española de Catadores) awarded me the title as Spanish Winemaker of the Year, 2015 vintage. I was so surprised, and it was such an amazing feeling of joy. Then 2 years later, I was awarded the same title for the second time for the 2017 vintage! I was so ecstatic I can remember jumping around with my colleague. I felt so amazing and honored to be recognized for my work with Spanish wines by my peers. I think I walked around with a smile on my face for weeks.
What do you hope to accomplish as an Angel funded winemaker?
There was an important turning point in my career where I need to decide if I stayed at my previous position of 17 years, where wine production was continuously growing larger, or if I wanted to risk it all and go back to the roots of winemaking and focus exclusively on making boutique style wines with personality, where I can really pour myself into each little detail. You, Angels, have really been there for me, allowing me the chance and the freedom to go back to the roots of winemaking. Without your support I would have not been able to make this change. I hope that, with The Angels, I can continue to discover all the winemaking possibilities Spain has to offer us.
David and Jonas's Archangels
Mad about interesting dry white wine, definite fondness for good gin and occasional ventures into sherry, red wine etc. London based.