Wine Flight to the Rioja, Spain

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

1- Exopto, Rioja Bozeto de Exopto

Grapes: Garnacha 50%, Tempranillo 40%, Graciano 10%

Geography: Rioja, Spain

Appellation: Rioja

Features: Organic

Rioja is a wine region that is a “tale of two worlds”. There is the one world most known today comprised of wineries founded in the late 1800’s (e.g. Lopez de Heredia, La Rioja Alta) with a winemaking model taught to them by the Bordelaise who came to Rioja after phyloxera decimated Bordeaux.  This model often referred to as the “traditionalist school” is based on blending varieties from all over the appellation and long aging in cask with multiple rackings or trasiegos.  Before this time period, however, there was another model for wine in Rioja and that is of the “vigneron” or grape grower and winemaker – one that was a small family farm centered on a specific village and terroir.  For this style, the winemaking was natural and not focused on long aging in wood. In this model, the vineyards were often located in terroir, or soil-specific, areas suited to specific varietals and sometimes too extreme for other grapes or crops.

When Tom began Exopto, he wanted to do a project that produced wines within this historical context of Rioja - combining both worlds in a unique way.  His idea is to remain true to the blending of the principle grape varieties and to do so from the best terroirs/villages for those varieties crossing sub-regions of Rioja.   Each wine though, has a majority of a different principle grape – showcasing that variety specifically within the context of a blend.  The viticulture and winemaking model is that of the “vigneron” days – small plots of vines in the extremes, wild yeast fermentation in concrete or old oak vats and then aging in a way to showcase the fruit, minerality and terroir not the wood or aged flavors that people often associate with Rioja.

Tasting Notes: “The full, plum-cake nose and the supple and slightly sweet palate make this easy to drink, but there is some structure behind all that and the finish is well balanced and quite long. - James Suckling”

2-  Bodegas Abanico, Rioja Hazaña Vinas Viejas

Grapes: Tempranillo and Graciano

Geography: Rioja, Spain

Appellation: Rioja

Features: Organic & sustainable

Hazaña is a recently introduced custom cuvee made in partnership between Eric Solomon and Rafael de Haan. British born and educated, Rafael joined the UK wine trade in 2000, realizing early on that he would rather have a career closer to the vine. In 2001 he moved to Barcelona, brokered some wine and opened a tapas bar before he opened his first property, Bodegas Abánico, in Rioja with his partner Nuria Altes.

Named for the ancient poetic takes of heroism, Hazaña is made at Vinícola Real in the classical style of Rioja. The fruit comes from the vicinity of Logrono, where it grows at 500 meters above sea level on red clay and chalky limestone soils. A blend of Tempranillo with up to 15% Graciano, it is aged in French and American oak before released.

Tasting notes: “With hints of tobacco, toast and berry fruits, the palate delivers a balance of sweetness and structure with a satisfying finish.”

3- La Perla, Rioja Crianza

Grapes: 100% Tempranillo, hand harvested.

Geography: Rioja, Spain

Appellation: Rioja

Features: Organic

Located in Fuenmayor, the heart of Rioja Alta. The mountains and continental climate offer perfect conditions for the cultivation of Tempranillo. The altitude of the vineyards is slightly higher and cooler than much of Rioja, resulting in wines of great freshness. 

Our goal is to produce wines that reflect our respect for tradition and the environment. The rows are grassed over and only organic fertilizers are used. We encourage biodiversity and the dynamic it brings to the viticulture. The grapes are organically grown and carefully hand harvested. 

In the winery, spontaneous fermentation takes place with native yeasts. No winemaking additives are used and the wines are very minimally fined or filtered. The sulfite levels are below 55 mg/L. The resulting wines are traditional in style, with great balance. The concentration of the fruit comes from the hard work in and great care of the vineyards. Isaac Fernandez, winemaker, has been making wines for more than 25 years. 

Tasting Notes: “Bright red in the glass with aromas of fresh red fruit and hints of vanilla. Well structured bodied with great complexity and a long balanced finish.”

4- Bodegas Martinez Corta, Rioja Cepas Antiguas

Grape: Tempranillo

Geography: Rioja, Spain

Appellation: Rioja

Bodegas Martínez Corta is a family estate situated in the heart of Rioja Alta and was born out of four generations of viticulturalism. Since the 1960s Martinez Corta has consistently been the most important wine estate in Uruñuela, producing equality wines in a medieval cellar that has remained an important part of the estate since its conception. The estate includes 225 acres of old-vine Tempranillo located in Uruñuela, Cenicero and San Asensio, and all are at least 40 years old and head-pruned. Vineyard parcels are typically planted on high slopes deficient in organic materials, so that the wines can maintain a certain elegance and minerality.

A new gravity-flow bodega was completed in 2006 to produce fully extracted, fruit-driven wines that express the complexity and velvet palate of the noble Tempranillo variety. This is a notable and important characteristic of Martínez Corta that contributes to their remarkable production of high quality wines.

Tasting Notes: “Manually harvested from estate vineyards over 40 years of age in the Rioja Alta villages of Uruñuela, Cenicero and San Asensio. Black fruit aromas of plums and blueberries are followed by a rich and velvety palate and a lingering, refreshing finish.”