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Rioja’s Bodegas Roda unveils first white wine

Rioja’s Bodegas Roda has unveiled its first commercially available white wine: Roda I Blanco 2019, from what the winery describes as “one of the best vintages of the 21st century”.

The new wine is a field blend of old vines, dominated by Viura (more than 90%) and supplemented by Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca, sourced from a variety of high-altitude sloping plots – cabezadas – around Haro and surrounding villages in the north-west of Rioja.

Speaking at the wine’s London launch, Bodegas Roda managing director Agustín Santolaya said the winery had been experimenting with making white wine for some years.

“We had access to old vines and we have been doing tests, but we ended up drinking the wine ourselves,” he said. “In 2016, one of the owners [Mario Rottlant] got very serious and said: ‘I want a white Roda and I want it soon.’ So we had to get on with it.”

The idea was to produce “something new” – neither a fresh summer white nor a wine in Rioja’s traditional oxidative style. “The fact that we are presenting the wine as summer is about to end is a statement,” said Santolaya. “We wanted a wine that could go well with food, so we wanted volume, but we also wanted freshness.”

The grapes were harvested relatively early and fermentation took place in small French oak fermenters before maturation for 18 months in a combination of the 4,000-litre fermenters and 500-litre French oak bocoyes, not all of them new. The wine then spent a further 18 months in bottle before release.

The winery initially experimented with smaller French oak barriques, but found the wood influence too heavy. Lees work was also limited. “Excess is a word we’d rather not use,” explained Santolaya. “The oak, we say, is well-integrated and not too aggressive. We try to be careful with it because sometimes it can really dominate.”

Describing 2019 as the best vintage of the decade and “one of the greatest of recent times”, Santolaya said it was Mediterranean in character, with two heatwaves in June and July, but had produced healthy grapes with plenty of freshness.

The company debated whether to release Roda I Blanco 2019 commercially as quantities are very limited, with fewer than 4,000 bottles available. Volumes will increase in future vintages, but production is constrained by the scarcity of vines of the right age and potential for quality.

Roda I Blanco 2019 is available in the UK via Mentzendorff. RSP is £60 per bottle.

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