ESCONDITE DEL ARDACHO
2016 Las Guillermas Tentenublo
Wonderful aromas of ripe blackberries warmed by the sun along with more 'sauvage' notes of crushed stems and pith on the palate. Like the Veriquete, but possibly more so, this has immense complexity for such a young wine and shows great promise for the future - but the sample bottle was finished in double-quick time and we just kept wanting to come back to it - a wine that engages the mind as well as the senses. Drinking range: 2018 - 2030 L&S (Oct 2018)
*Case price discount: Mix any 12 bottles (or 9l equivalent) of wine or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits, Sweet Wine or Fortified to get the 'case price' for each bottle.
Las Guillermas is a 0.6-hectare parcel on sand and gravel soils and is co-planted with Tempranillo and one-third Viura. Located at only 350 metres, this is among the hottest sites in Lanciego. The resulting wine is whole bunch fermented, adding some texture and spice, but is kept fresh by the presence of 40% Viura in the blend. Fine tannins, notes of wild flowers and raspberry coulis and a balanced, refined finish. 2020-28 Drinking range: 2020 - 2028 Rating: 95 Tim Atkin MW, www.timatkin.com (Oct 2018)
Roberto Oliván is the force behind Tentenublo, and he is one of the growing band of Rioja winemakers who are much more interested in making extraordinary wines from single sites rather than volume blends. He has some vines which are in the family, and has gathered together many little vineyard plots around Viñaspre, his home village, near Lanciego in Rioja Alavesa. The high altitude helps define the brightly-defined style of his wines.
The name 'Tentenublo' comes from ringing bells - in Rioja, bells are rung to ward off hailstorms (to what effect is less clear) - which accounts for the animated bell chasing a rather blobby-looking hail cloud on the label. With the Xérico label - a wonderfully nineteenth century looking masterpiece which has a picture of a different ancestor of Roberto's in each vintage, these make up the bigger cuvées that he makes.
The second main line he calls Escondite del Ardacho, after a local lizard. So far he has released four wines from different parcels around Viñaspre and each with different grape mixes under this label, so you have to look carefully for the cuvée name...
Finally (at least for now), there are some new wines released under the Los Corrillos label, the blending of some of the Viñaspre plots.
For anyone used to the rather bland merchant blends of Rioja, these wines might be described as 'challenging', but if you are prepared to give them time to open up in the glass, to try them with food, you will be rewarded by the great complexity and individuality that they offer.
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