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First Rioja offered on La Place sells out ‘in hours’

The entire 2017 vintage of Yjar, the first Rioja to be offered via La Place de Bordeaux, got snapped up within hours of going on sale, according to winemaker Telmo Rodriguez.

Speaking exclusively to db, Rodriguez said that he was delighted by the “amazing demand” for the wine when it made its debut on the revered sales platform last month.

According to Liv-ex, Yjar 2017 – a single vineyard cuvée from the foothills of the Sierra de Toloño in Rioja Alavesa – was released at €58 per bottle ex-négociant and is being offered internationally for £924 per 12-bottle case.

The grapes are harvested from an old, high altitude, 3.8ha vineyard planted with a massal selection of Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha, Granegro and Rojal on calcareous soils.

“Yjar went on sale via La Place on 16 September and sold out in a few hours. It was crazy. The demand was amazing and it was dramatic trying to manage it.

“Working in collaboration with the courtier Excellence Vin, I gave all 7,000 bottles from the 2017 vintage to eight négociants: Diva Bordeaux, Joanne, Ulysses Cazabonne, Duclot, Twins, Barrière Frères, CVBG and LD Vins, as I wanted small allocations to be sold to as many people as possible.

“When it came to the price I didn’t want to price it too cheap as it wouldn’t have been considered an important wine, but I also want people to drink it. La Place is an amazing loud speaker for great wines,” Rodriguez said.

The wine’s popularity on La Place was fuelled by glowing reviews from Bordeaux critic Jane Anson and Luis Gutiérrez of The Wine Advocate, with Anson describing Yjar as “a cult wine in the making”, and giving it a 98-point score.

Gutiérrez, meanwhile, gave Yjar 2017 96 points, describing the single vineyard Rioja as, “a wine that transcends the vintage, with spicy notes and a complex nose”, adding that the blend was, “really seamless and harmonious, with super sleek tannins, a polished mouthfeel and a chalky finish”.

It looks like there will be even less of the 2018 vintage to go around, as Rodriguez has produced just 6,000 bottles of 2018, which he says is “one of the best vintages in the last decade”. There is, however, “a little more” of the 2019 vintage, with Rodriguez having produced 9,000 bottles.

With Yjar Rodriguez is aiming to create “Rioja’s first icon wine” and hopes its arrival on La Place will elevate the perception of Spanish wines in France, particularly Rioja.

“It’s a long-term project. I want it to become a very important wine in the future,” he told db. “Spain is an old country with an amazing history. I wanted to launch this project using the history of Remelluri to show the French that we’ve been here since 1420.

“People think of Rioja as a supplier of cheap wine, which is frustrating, as they only know a very small part of Rioja’s history. Rioja boasts over 150 villages all making wines with a different taste, but that history has got lost. We need to re-learn the history of the region.”

Rodriguez hopes that by launching Yjar on La Place, other top producers in Spain may follow suit.

“I want to open a door for the great wines of Spain – La Place needs to be a loud speaker for the revolution happening in Spain today. I think the beauty of Spain’s top terroirs will be discovered, but we have to work together to achieve this.

“I’d love to see other Spanish wines on there that fit well in the system. La Place won’t create icon wines, but if we do a great job in Spain, it will help push the wines internationally,” he said.

Having just harvested the grapes for his revered Las Beatas label, Rodriguez is bullish about the quality of the 2021 crop, hailing it “the best vintage” he’s ever seen in Rioja.

“2021 will be an amazing vintage. We harvested the grapes in perfect weather conditions and during the growing season we had a cold summer nights and no diseases like mildew or botrytis. The analysis of phenolic compounds is excellent and the wines have good acidity – it’s a dream year,” he said.

Back in August db broke the news that Rodriguez was set to be the first Rioja producer to sell a wine via La Place. At the time Rodriguez said the wine would carry a recommended retail price of €120.

While Yjar may be the first Rioja to be sold via La Place, it’s not the only Spanish wine available through the network – the 2016 vintage of VivaltuS from Ribera del Duero, a collaboration between the Yllera family and former Petrus chief winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet, also launched on La Place last month.

A blend of mostly Tempranillo, along with Cabernet and Merlot, the grapes are harvested from high altitude, old vine plots in Ribera del Duero, some of which are over a century old and lie at over 1,000 metres above sea level.

Gutiérrez of TWA described the debut 2016 vintage as “ethereal and perfumed” with “ultra-refined tannins”.

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