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Ramón Bilbao launches Limite Norte and Limite Sur, showcasing Rioja’s extremes

Rioja’s Ramón Bilbao has launched a red and white duo – Limite Norte and Limite Sur – in a bid to bring back rare and “forgotten” grapes from the region.

Bottles of Limite Norte and Sur: Ramon Bilbao launches Limite Norte and Limite Sur, showcasing Rioja's extremes

“In my 22 years with Ramón Bilbao, I’ve explored all four corners of my home region – and am still doing so,” said Head Winemaker Rodolfo Bastida. “So much has changed in that time, particularly the climate: what was once impossible for grapes in the north now gives freshness and zest; where Garnacha was a lost grape in Rioja, it now makes elegant, fruit-driven reds when grown at altitude.

He added: “Limite Norte and Limite Sur are our way of showing that Rioja still has lots of possibilities to explore beyond the traditional classification.”

Limite Norte 2017 is a 50/50 blend of Maturana Blanca and Tempranillo Blanco, grape varieties which respectively count for 0.6% and 12.5% of those found in Rioja.

Residing in a plateau at 450m altitude, the climate is so extreme that it is one of the last places in the region to be harvested. “Spring frost is less common here now thanks to climate change, so we saw potential for these grapes to actually make a wine with freshness and acidity,” Bastida explained.

The wine is fermented in concrete at 24oC before being aged on the fine lees in concrete, amphora and 600-litre casks for six months and then moving to 225-litre French oak casks for six months. The final stage is a year in the bottle.

Limite Sur 2017 is a 100% Garnacha, with grapes selected from vineyards at 560 to 600m altitude in Monte Yerga in the south-east of Rioja.

“Recovering ‘lost’ varietals is a way of creating wines with personality,” explains Bastida. “Until the 1970s, Garnacha was the grape for Rioja but now Tempranillo accounts for almost 90% of plantings because it has been so reliable in the plains and valleys.

“But we grow our grapes at altitude and have developed a bit of a manifesto for winemaking with Garnacha: lower temperatures for fermentation to preserve floral character, and only a gentle extraction with shorter pump overs. The altitude means the grapes already have the freshness that we are looking for, and then we perform our signature move of using oak in moderation – and in bigger formats so we don’t over-oak or hide the grapes’ character.”

Both the Limite Norte and Limite Sur retail at £19.95, and will be available to the Off and On-Trade from Enotria&Coe in the UK.

Labels for the pair, which are being launched globally, are designed to look like the jottings of Snr Ramón Bilbao’s journals, where he wrote about the climate and vineyards and detailed how to make wine.

Did you know, wine waste can now be used to fuel race cars? Read more on that here.

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