You are currently viewing the International Edition. You can also switch to the Hong Kong Edition.
Sunday 5 July 2015

Rioja becoming ‘increasingly polarised’

16th January, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

Rioja is becoming “increasingly polarised” in terms of quality, according to one of the top winemakers in the region.

Jesus Madrazo of Contino

Jesús Madrazo of Contino

“Some producers are destroying the image of Rioja by putting Gran Reservas on the market for £8 a bottle, which is stupid,” Jesús Madrazo, chief winemaker for Contino, told the drinks business during a visit to London this week.

“The region is becoming increasingly divided between those at the bottom end producing volume wines, and those who are really serious about quality and terroir,” he added.

Madrazo believes the future for the region lies in the new generation of terroir-focused winemakers coming up through the ranks.

“The majority are based at small properties and are passionate about learning about the soils, the land, the terroir, and how we can make the most of it while at the same time respecting it,” he told db.

“Then there’s the other end of the scale, who are only interested in volumes and profits.

“There are two Riojas now and it’s only going to get more polarised as the market is so stressed. Such division is not good for the region – we should be unified in our goals,” he added.

Madrazo admitted it wasn’t always a question of size, as big operations such as Muga, CVNE and López de Heredia produce great quality wines.

“CVNE makes 300,000 bottles of Imperial and yet the quality is incredible, so it can be done on a large scale,” he said.

Madrazo believes the terroir concept is going to become increasingly important for Rioja’s top producers.

Contino's Olivo vineyard in Rioja Alavesa

Contino’s Olivo vineyard in Rioja Alavesa

“Rioja has a blending history, so the terroir story has got a bit lost, but it will emerge.

“Rioja Alavesa’s calcareous clay soils definitely have an affect on the wines. It also benefits from both a Mediterranean and an Atlantic influence, which sets it apart from the other two sub regions,” he said.

A long time pioneer of single estate Garnacha and Graciano in the region, Madrazo created Rioja’s first 100% Graciano in 1994.

He has 11 hectares of old vine Graciano and produces around 5,000 bottles most years.

“Graciano can be a headache, because it’s very low yielding and slow to ripen, but it was the best wine we produced in 2009,” he said.

Helping to spread the terroir message in Rioja Baja is Priorat pioneer Alvaro Palacios at his family’s 100-hectare Rioja Baja estate, Palacios Remondo, in the town of Alfaro.

Alvaro Palacios' new single vineyard Garnacha,Valmira 2010

Alvaro Palacios’ new single vineyard Garnacha,Valmira 2010

Palacios recently bottled the first vintage of his single vineyard Garnacha project from his 3-hectare Valmira vineyard in the Sierra de Yerga – Valmira 2010, which he hopes to release later this year.

Believing Baja boasts the perfect terroir for old vine Garnacha, he has steadily increased the percentage of Garnacha in his Rioja Baja blends each year.

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

Meanwhile, Madrazo is currently experimenting with a barrel-aged rosé made from 50% Garnacha and 50% Graciano – a unique undertaking in Rioja.

“I’m not sure if I’ll ever commercialise it, but I’m very pleased with the results so far,” he told db.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

If that's interesting, how about these?

Top wines of Bordeaux 2014

The 10 best wines of the Bordeaux 2014 vintage as voted for by Liv-ex’s more...

Rioja a ‘victim of its own success’

Rioja has become a victim of its own success, unsustainably driven by low more...

Rioja revellers soaked in wine battle

Thousands have taken part in Rioja's annual wine fight, drenching each other more...

International Business Development Assistant

London, United Kingdom

To be determined, based on the profile and experience of the candidate

10 richest people in the UK drinks trade

As The Sunday Times Rich List 2015 reveals the wealthiest individuals in more...

Top 10 wine brands 2015

In a year that saw major shifts in the global wine market, the drinks business more...

Top 10 ways to reuse a wine bottle

If you are anything like the db team, it won't take long to amass a collection more...

Supplier Relationship Manager

London, United Kingdom

How to become a 'wine expert' in four hours

A doctor of psychology has devised 10 simple steps which he claims can set you more...

Top 10 estates for en primeur returns

db rounds up the 10 best Bordeaux estates for en primeur returns on more...

Suntory's exquisite 3D-printed ice cubes

As far as advertising campaigns go, this collection of miniature ice cube more...

Business Development Executive

London, United Kingdom

£25-£30K + benefits, depending on experience

Top 10 modern wine drinker stereotypes

From Rioja lovers to Champagne quaffers, the drinks business has more...

Top 10 worst estates for en primeur returns

Using Liv-ex's data, db rounds up the worst 10 châteaux for en primeur more...

World's most extravagant wineries

With Château Margaux preparing to unveil its new winery and cellar, designed more...

Digital and Communications Executive

£22,000-£26,000 dependent on experience

Fascinating facts worth knowing about beer

Think you know everything about beer? This collection of beer-related facts more...

Top 10 US craft breweries

The Brewers Association has released its annual list of the biggest US craft more...

Top 10 banned alcoholic drinks

The drinks trade has seen its fair share of drinks banned from public more...

Marketing and eCommerce Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive, includes equity options

Top 10 new products

This month's top releases include a Champagne tankard designed by Pol Roger, more...

Top 12 Australian fine wines

Australian fine wines have made the headlines of late. But what are the names more...

Top 10 architectural wonders of the wine world

You don't have to look far to find stunning examples of architectural prowess more...

London Sales Manager / Key Account Manager

London, United Kingdom

Competitive - depending on skills and experience

The London Wine Fair in pictures

From red trews and foie gras macaroons to 2CVs, wine on tap and temporary more...

Top 10 Negroni spots in London

As the Campari Red Night District takes over London's Shoreditch, we round up more...