Single vineyard Rioja enters the spotlight

25th January, 2012 by Lucy Shaw

Single vineyard Rioja is coming into the international spotlight, helped in the past few years by perfect or near-perfect Parker scores.

El Pison, Rioja Alavesa

Rioja Alavesa-based Artadi and Alta-based Finca Allende are at the cutting edge of the single vineyard movement with El Pison and Calvario, according to Simon Field MW of Berry Bros & Rudd.

“The single vineyard movement is a very positive thing for Rioja, but it requires experimentation and the volumes are so tiny that a lot of them stay within the domestic market,” Field told the drinks business.

Working on a new single vineyard project in Rioja Baja is Spanish wine pioneer Alvaro Palacios, who is back at his family’s 100-hectare estate in the town of Alfaro.

Believing Baja boasts the perfect terroir for old vine Garnacha, he has steadily increased the percentage of Garnacha in his blends each year, with the ultimate goal of making a single vineyard Garnacha from his 3-hectare Valmira vineyard, which he aims to release in the next few years.

Since returning to Rioja, Palacios has noticed positive a shift towards regional thinking.

“People are finally starting to realise that the three sub-regions have very different personalities, like the Left Bank and Right Bank in Bordeaux,” he told db.

He sees the single vineyard trend as not only exciting, but crucial for Rioja’s future.

“We need to take more of a regional approach in Rioja and start putting both the sub-regions and the names of the individual villages on our labels like they do in France ­– it’s the only language of fine wine, but the Consejo won’t allow it,” he said.

Another spearhead of the single vineyard movement is David Sampedro, who makes a super-premium red and white from his limestone-rich, 1.3-hectare El Brozal plot dating back to Roman times in the town of El Villar, producing a mere 1,000 six-bottle cases a year, the majority of which is exported to the US.

Like Palacios, he wants to see winemakers putting village names on their labels. “I’ve had problems with the Consejo for putting the single vineyard name on my labels, but Rioja desperately needs to communicate this terroir concept,” he told db.

Sampedro hope to see more single vineyard Riojas emerge in the near future.

“It would lead to a better consumer understanding of Rioja’s terroir concept, but as a winemaker you need to be able to make money in other ways to stay afloat,” he admitted.

El Pison, which Sampedro considers to be Spain’s top wine, is made from grapes grown in a high altitude, south-east facing, amphitheatre-shaped, 2.5-hectare old vine clos a mile from Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa (pictured).

The brainchild of Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacaille of Artadi, the 2004 vintage received 100 points from The Wine Advocate, and sells for £300 a bottle.

An in-depth look at single vineyard Rioja will appear in the February issue of the drinks business.

2 Responses to “Single vineyard Rioja enters the spotlight”

  1. Very exciting times in Rioja. Just wish that they would speed up the process a bit!

  2. April Hennig says:

    Dear Lucy,

    It was such a pity that we were not able to introduce you to our 101 hectare estate in Rioja Alta at Bodegas La Emperatriz during your last visit to Rioja in 2011. If I can provide you with more information about our 4 single parcel wines, please let me know. If you woudl like to come visit La Rioja again, please let me know. We´d love to host you. http://www.bodegaslaemperatriz.com

    Sincerely,

    April

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