Ramón Bilbao launches single vineyard project

Taking a Burgundian approach to terroir, Rioja’s Ramón Bilbao has launched a trio of single vineyard wines as part of its ambitious new Lalomba project.

Rosana Lisa and Alberto Saldon head up the Lalomba project

Aiming to illustrate the diversity of terroirs and climates within Rioja, the plots were singled out for the wines due to their distinct character.

The wines are made from four small plots – Valhonta in Villalba de Rioja; Ladero and Lalinde in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; and Aguilones in San Asensio. In order to best express the terroir, all of the wines in the Lalmoba range spend some time fermenting and ageing in concrete.

Finca Lalinde Rosé 2019 is made from 90% Garnacha and 10% Virua from Rioja Oriental. The Garnacha bush vines were planted in 1976.

The single vineyard wines are fermented and partially aged in concrete to preserve their freshness and purity

The pale pink rosé is made from must from the first pressings, which is fermented and aged in concrete in contact with its lees for five months. The “refreshing and floral” wine boasts aromas of citrus, orange peel and apricot.

Finca Valhonta 2017 is a 100% bush vine Tempranillo from Villalba de Rioja grown on chalk-clay terraces at 650 metres above sea level.

The grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete then aged for 14 months in 500 litre barrels. The wine then undergoes a second ageing in concrete for eight months to round out the tannins.

“Fresh, floral and fruity”, it has a herbal character and notes of red fruit and rosemary. Just 6,000 bottles have been made.

Finally, Finca Ladero 2016 is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20 Garnacha planted in Monte Yerga in Rioja Oriental in 1989 at an altitude of over 720m.

After being optically sorted, the grapes are fermented and macerated in concrete then racked into 225-litre barrels for 16 months, after which the wine is rounded out in concrete for a further 22 months. Its annual production is 7,500 bottles. The most structured of the trio, Finca Ladero offers aromas of liquorice, balsamic, black fruit and tobacco.

“Rioja is a small piece of land with a huge diversity of soils and climates, which we want to express with these wines,” said Lalomba director, Rosana Lisa.

Lisa and fellow Lalomba director, Alberto Saldon, have been studying the effects of altitude and UV light intensity on the ageing process of Rioja.

Monitoring wines made from grapes planted at 500m and 720m, the wines from the higher altitude had higher levels of tannin and anthocyanins, making them deeper in colour.

“You get more of a dry sensation with high altitude wines, so oak management and grain selection are really important – you need to use thinner staves,” Lisa said.

During a Zoom tasting to introduce the wines to the UK press, Saldon stressed the importance of concrete in the fermentation and ageing process.

“We’ve done a lot of research into concrete and it seems to fall between stainless steel and oak, as it doesn’t impart any aromas into the wine, like steel, but it is a porous material, like oak.

“We sourced our vats from the Veneto and the purity of fruit you get from them is amazing. The second ageing in concrete leads to more balanced wines with finer tannins that are approachable at a younger age,” he said.

The pair are currently experimenting with a Garnacha aged entirely in concrete and would consider commercialising a concrete-aged red if they were happy with the results.

“We recently held a tasting with Spanish sommeliers and they loved how the concrete-aged wines tasted because they are fresh and super pure, like a Burdungy, which is what consumers want at the moment,” Saldon said.

“This is a longterm project – we’re not in a hurry. Lalomba is our grand cru – we want to elevate the image of Spanish wine and move it away from being seen as a cheap product,” he added.

The Lalomba trio will soon be launched in the UK through Enotria& Co. The two reds will have a retail price of around £100.

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