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Rioja: 100 km of diversity expressed in 6 wines

According to Wine Intelligence 2020’s data, Rioja is one of the most trusted brands internationally.

• winemaking model from Bordeaux

• use of American oak due to tradition

• operating like Champagne trade structure: bodegas vs growers

• aspired to be Burgundy

Rioja in numbers:

66,000 ha (half of Bordeaux)

1 River (Ebro) 7 tributaries

100 km distance E-W and 40 km maximum N-S. Altitude: 303m – 800m.

Wine types:

• 85% red wines

• 9% white wines

• 6% rosé wines

• 5 authorised red varieties (91% vineyards of which 75% is planted with Tempranillo_

• 9 authorised white varieties (9% vineyards) of which 70% is planted with Viura /Macabeo)

Wine categories:

• 35% Guarantee of Origin (Generico/Joven)

• 45% Crianza (minimum ageing Red 2yo total/1yo in oak; white 6 m total/6 oak)

• 17% Reserva (minimum ageing Red 3yo total/1yo in oak; white 24m total/6 oak)

• 3% Gran Reserva (minimum ageing Red 5 yo total/2yo in oak; white 48m total/6 oak)

Recent key development:

Terroir driven- Burgundian approach officially approved in 2017

Three tiers:

• Vinedo Singular (unique vineyard/lieu-dit) : 133 currently (59 in Alavesa/ 52 Alta/ 22 Oriental)

• Vino de Municipio (village wine): 144 villages/municipalities (identified in 1988)

• Vino de Zona: 3 sub-zones: Rioja Alta (400-600m), Rioja Alavesa (400-700m) and Rioja Oriental0-400m)

What is VS:

• Vines must be 35+ years old, have balance and limited vigour, from certified Vino de Viñedo Singular plots

• 20% less yield than average (restricted to 5,000kg/ha for reds and 6,922kg/ha for whites)

• Hand harvest

• Producers buying grapes from a grower must have done so for at least 10 years

• Produced in the same winery

• Approved after passing double-tasting test for every vintage

Wine 1 Finca Alto Cantabria Espumoso, 2017 Bodegas Valdemar

Rioja Sparkling wine - Espumoso

· Cava can be made in various location/95% of Cava is produced in the Catalunya region.

· since 2021, 23 towns in In Rioja which used to be allowed to produce DO Cava are using the new DO Cava sub-zone Alto Ebro labelling, located in the western sector of the Ebro Valley

· min 15 m on lees. Reserve 24 m. Gran Añada 36 m

· Style: only brut/extra brut/bruit nature

Key feature:

one of the first Vinedo Singular (VS) sparkling wine

Bodegas Valdemar: family owned vineyards (total 300 ha)

Finca Alto Cantabria

Location: Alavesa

Size: 11.5 ha (8.5 ha Viura)

Altitude: 114 m on a plateau

Vine age: since 1975

Certified as VS in 2019


· 2050 bottles-experimenting

· Viura chosen for ageing potential

· Base wine on its fine lees in stainless steel tanks and a part in new French oak barrels of 225 L for 8 months.

· 40 months on lees in bottle

· Importer: £95 RRP Berkmann Wine Cellars

· ABV 12%

Wine 2: Bodegas Ramon Bilbao, Limite Norte 2018 Reserva (Enotria & Coe/on-trade/£19.95)

Key feature:

Use of 2 rare native white varieties: 50% Temp Blanc-50 Maturana Blanca

Tempranillo Blanco (account for 12.6% white GV planting in all Rioja.)

· Discovered by accident 1988 amongst 100% Tempranillo – mutation. Produced since 2007. Native to the region

· Late budding/early ripen, high acid

· citrus and tropical fruit and floral notes.

Maturana Blanca (account for 0.6% white GV planting in all Rioja.)

· Oldest GV in Rioja – 1622

· Sensitive to botrytis

· Low pH/high acidity, can reach high ABV

· Light, apples, bananas and citrus fruit and grassy notes with fresh acidity

Bodegas Ramon Bilbao

Vineyard: 205 ha owned (40+ yo), collaborated with growers to farm another 900 ha.

Finca Alto Cantabria

Location: Alta- westernmost area/ is the last to be harvested in Rioja influences of Atlantic freshness

Village: Cuzcurrita, 450m/ N-S exposure/continental with Atlantic influence

Soil: Alluvium, shallow and gravel on the surface with little water retention.

2018 vintage: long rainy winter. Mildew. Growing cycle 15 days late, but production up 15%

Between 2015-2021, official vintage mostly very good apart from 2018 – good and 2019 excellent


· Settled by gravity. Fermentation with slight turbidity in concrete at different temperatures.

· White Maturana at 15ºC to favor the floral character and White Tempranillo at 17ºC to achieve complexity and structure in the mouth.

· Aging on fine lees in concrete, amphora and 600-litre French barrels.

· Assembled and aged in 225l French barrels for 6 months, plus 12 months in the bottle.

· pH: 3.24; 7.10 g/l TA;ABV12.5 %

Wine 3: Bodegas Vinicóla Real, 200 MONGES RESERVA, 2018 Rose (VINUM TERRA £47)

Key feature:

• Rose production in Rioja is merely 6%. Mostly average.

• Rose into premium wine category

• Organic, oak aged Rose

Bodegas Vinicóla Real

Organic 25 ha.

Location: Alta

Village: La Rad, in Albelda de Iregua, south of Logrono – long grape growing history dating back to 10thc. famous for Monastery San Martín de Albelda, destroyed by landslide in 17thc

Soil: Clay

GV: Viura / Garnacha+ (little Tempranillo, Calagraño…)

From 2 plots, 1.1 ha, goblet, 80 yo VV, 1 kg per vine production


· Viura pressed, inert gas, macerated for 24 hours, free run juice to SS tank – cold settled.

· Rack to new tank, add whole bunch grenache.

· Indigenous yeasts, 10 days ferment in SS of 15C, Saignee, 20 month in barrel

· 6,600 bottles produced.

· ABV 13%

Wine 4 Bodegas Manzanos, Voché Graciano, Generic. 2017 (£30.99 Alliances wine)

Key feature:

· 100% Graciano (2% planting in Rioja) Late bud/late ripening, prefers warm clay-limestone soil. Good drought resistance

· 2017 challenging but a very good vintage. Frost, drought, little disease stress, early harvest, small vintage with overall higher ABV.

Bodegas Manzanos

· On the border between Rioja and Navarra

· Victor Manzanos 4th generation

· Total 1,525 ha controlled 300 ha owned

Location: Oriental

Soil: clay-limestone

Altitude: 400 m

Harvest by hand in early Oct


14%ABV /TA 5.3 g.l,/ 12 m in new French and Romania oak, 6 month in bottle

Romanian oak: soft tannins, loose grains

Wine 5 Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza, Fincas de Ganuza, Reserva, 2016 (Bibendum - Mathew Clark £33)

Key feature:

· 2016 vintage: Very Good. Fresher year with great phenolic ripeness

Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza

Established in 1989, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza, sprang from a personal bet made by its founder, Fernando Remírez de Ganuza.

80 ha in 6 plots within the foothills of the Sierra Canta­bria

(The winery has invented a gentle way of pressing -by using a large yellow balloon bag. Their Tranoche wine is made that way - in small conical stainless steel tanks specially designed for them, and in French oak vats replaced replace every two years.

Then in brand new oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. So as not to contaminate barrels of wine which are ageing, they use the top floor of the winery for malolactic fermentation. This area is also used for grape selection.

Location: Alavesa (superior plots within the foothills of the Sierra Canta­bria)

GV: Tempranillo, 88%, Graciano 9%, Mazuelo (Carignan) 3%

Vine age: 25-40 yo


· Hand harvest

· Refrigerated 4-6 C for 24 hours

· Destemmed, fermented in SS of 7,000 L.

· superior plots within the foothills of the Sierra Canta­bria, and is distinguished by its use of stringent grape selection me­thods and use of new French Oak barrels

· ABV 14.5%

Wine 6: Viñedos de Alfaro, Eralena, 2016 Gran Reserva 17%ABV (£180 Sommeliers Choice)

Key feature:

· First vintage 2015 released in 2020. One barrel made, 288 bottles. 2016, two barrels were made just over 500 bottles.

· Eralen - Viñedo Singular, Viñedo Centenario

· pre-phylloxera micro-vineyard planted at the end of the 19th century and barely 0.2 hectares located in Préjano, at an altitude of 750 m.

Location: Oriental


  • Destemmed by hand

  • Loaded in large foundre

  • With rotary fermenter

  • Mature two years in new American oak.

Viñedos de Alfaro

· Founded in 1974

· 100 ha vineyards

· New winery built in 2005 in the vineyards started to make their own wine,

· 2018 – became part of El Gaitero family(5th generation)

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