In northern Spain, some 95km south of Bilbao and bisected almost laterally by the River Ebro lies Spain’s most popular and famous wine region, a region of some 66,000 hectares of vineyards worked by 14,800 growers and dominated by some of the most celebrated names in the wine world. For many, Rioja is all about supple, fruity reds underpinned with toasty oak, wines that are unfussy, approachable, accessibly priced and equipped with some magical device that eases a sigh of contentment from your vocal chords the moment you take your first sip. To be fair, much of the region’s output falls into precisely this category and there is absolutely nothing the matter with that – these are the wines which put Rioja onto the global stage after all.
But, as any self-respecting sound engineer will tell you, backstage is where all the excitement lies and recent years have seen a flurry of activity in Rioja as ambitious, imaginative young growers seek inspiration from their counterparts around the world as they set about taking the reputation of Rioja up to the next level. Frequently flying in the face of the stifling bureaucracy of the Consejo Regulador they emphasise the importance of terroir, they adjust their winemaking to serve the interests of the wine rather than the rulebook, (whilst in no way seeking to discredit some of the great Reservas and Gran Reservas, the “one size fits all” approach to governing quality that insists wines spend a predetermined period in cask to rise through the hierarchy gives rise to far too many potentially delicious but ultimately tired and exhausted offerings whose fruit levels gave out before their sentence in captivity) they explore what can be achieved with varietals other than Tempranillo and, ultimately, they subordinate themselves to their raw ingredients, looking only to lend a guiding hand along the way.
Our promotion, which runs throughout October, covers a complete spectrum of growers from Domeco de Jarauta, a small, family bodega based in the slightly less fashionable region of Rioja Oriental, with whom we have worked for 13 years and who produce delicious, easy-drinking wines to superstars such as Marques de Murrietta, Roda and Abel Mendoza. Each week throughout October, we shall feature a different bodega offering some particularly cheeky deals, tastings in-store every weekend and concluding with a “book in advance – 1 bubble at a time” tasting of some of the region’s legends. We’ll be putting together mixed cases for delivery or collection to give you a a real flavour of the region and Abi and the Arch 13 team will be offering a range of wines by the glass with accompanying cheeses (if we’re not in lockdown)
Watch this space for details of the first featured winery and all of the promotional activity that will be unveiled.
(Pictures courtesy of DOCa Rioja)