Roda venture tackles “mistakes” of Ribera

Roda export manager Victor Charcán has set out three widespread winemaking “mistakes” in Ribera del Duero that the Rioja producer aimed to avoid with its own recent venture in the region.

The result of Roda's Ribera del Duero venture

The result of Roda’s Ribera del Duero venture

“Three mistakes are commonly found in Ribera,” he told the drinks business as he showed the wines at UK agent Mentzendorff’s portfolio tasting this week. “Over-extraction, which kills the fruit, over-ripe grapes and over-oaking the wine.”

Explaining the background to Bodegas La Horra, which produced its first vintage in 2008 and is due to begin building its own winery next year, Charcán recalled: “It was about finding another place for Tempranillo. We went to Toro, Cigales and Arribes del Duero, but we felt the nicest area was Ribera.”

As for the other regions considered for this project, Charcán noted Toro’s apt name, remarking: “It was impossible to tame the beast. We wanted our wines to be drunk, not just tasted and spat out.”

Despite setting their sights on a Ribera venture, the Roda team struggled to find the right location. “The problem was finding the vineyard, because they were expensive and people didn’t want to sell,” recalled Charcán.

Eventually the team met the Balbás brothers, growers whom Charcán explained “had 40 hectares of mostly very old bush vines, exactly what we wanted.” The result was a partnership that sees the Balbás family own a 10% stake in Bodegas La Horra.

Drawing comparisons between making wine in the Atlantic-influenced climate of Rioja, Charcán pointed to Ribera’s “high thermal contrast from day to night and winter to summer.” As a result, he noted how compared to Rioja, Ribera grapes tend to have “more tannins and they are a bit more structured.”

Thanks to this difference, Charcán pointed to some small differences in the team’s winemaking approach in Ribera, while stressing the extrapolation of Roda’s “minimal intervention” both in the vineyards and winemaking.

“We never go for long maceration in Rioja, but our maceration time is even shorter in Ribera,” he remarked. “We also play with about 20% American oak in Ribera, which we don’t do in Rioja.”

With total production now at around 100,000 bottles, Bodegas La Horra produces two wines, Corimbo and Corimbo I, which is made from the property’s older vines. The name translates into English as “corymb”, a flat-topped flower cluster, as illustrated on the wine’s label.

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