Bastida: It will take 100 years to tell Rioja’s terroir story

While applauding the region’s shift towards single vineyard wines, Ramón Bilbao’s chief winemaker, Rodolfo Bastida, thinks it will take a century to tell Rioja’s terroir story.

Rodolfo Bastida thinks it will take a century to tell Rioja’s terroir story

Speaking during an online tasting of the estate’s crianza, reserva and gran reserva wines this week, Bastida said any change in the region will be a slow process.

“Rioja isn’t Burgundy. We will need 100 years in order to transmit the terroir differences between the small plots witin our region. It’s a question of time.

“Wines like Contino need to be in the Viñedo Singular classification in order to promote it and raise the profile of the category.

“The Viñedo Singular classification is not in competition with Rioja’s traditional wines, it’s about giving consumers a broader offer of wines from the region.

“It’s magical that you can bottle wine from specific plots. I don’t think Viñedo Singular wines should be labelled as crianza, reserva or gran reserva, as they may only need 11 months in oak.

“It’s important to be able to detect the terroir differences in the wines from the different landscapes and soils, and keep the fruit of the plots, perhaps by fermenting them in concrete,” Bastida said.

He believes it may be best for the Viñedo Singular wines to be labelled as ‘generico’, so they aren’t obliged to be aged for a certain length of time in oak.

During the tasting Bastida also spoke of the increasing threat of global warming and how it is influencing Ramón Bilbao’s approach to grape growing.

“We’re starting to grow grapes from the west to the east now to protect them from the influence of the sun. We’re also growing at higher altitudes.

“Climate change is happening quickly and we need to try to adapt to the changes in weather, which is not easy.

“We’re starting to irrigate our vineyards more frequently, as rainfall has decreased dramatically in Rioja over the last five years. We need to study different grape varieties and clones of Tempranillo to find out what will work in the region in the future.

“We’re studying drought resistant Massal Selection Tempranillo with thicker skins and leaves at the moment. Vineyards are good at adapting but the changes are not always easy to detect. It would be good to differentiate the different clones,” Bastida said.

He admitted that Ramón Bilbao’s sales have taken a hit this year due to the brand being on-trade focused, though said he was hopeful things would soon pick up.

He also revealed a rising interest on the part of whisky and Bourbon producers for old Rioja barrels for finishing. “We sell our old barrels to a cooper, who sells them on to whiskey producers in Ireland and the US. There’s a big demand for old Rioja barrels at the moment.”

One Response to “Bastida: It will take 100 years to tell Rioja’s terroir story”

  1. Christo Eliott Lockhart says:

    The current DO rules and regulations make it almost impossible for producers to be able to highlight amazing diversity in the region. Particularly in Rioja Alavesa where they have always been in the shadow of the famous bodegas who make their wines in the traditional way based on time in oak.
    The laws need to be updated to allow vineyard and village wines (not just that of where the winery is) to thrive and give consumers greater diversity. Consumers are used to rioja being made the traditional way but embracing change will ensure that Rioja can remain strong into the future and the site specific wines can fight on a level playing field.
    If you translate the current rules over to Burgundy then a producer with their winery in Nutts St George, bringing in grapes from Meursault could not label this wine as Meursault…change is needed.

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