2016 Sierra de Toloño
Sandra's wines seem to improve with every release. 2016 is a fabulous vintage for her here in the high hills of Alavesa on the north side of Rioja. The lovely long summer season has added a shade more fruit weight to the classic detailed frame she conjures up here. This is deliciously nuanced with just-ripe cherry juice and lovely darker notes of more brambling berries. Underpinned by a fresh line of graphitey minerality. For Rioja - this is a gorgeously fresh, clean-lined expression L&S (May 2018)
*Case price: Mix any 12 bottles of wine or 6 bottles of Champagne, Spirits or Fortified to get the 'case price' for each bottle.
At the annual tasting last week of The Bunch group of six independent wine merchants, of which Lea & Sandeman is one, most of the 60 wines had been made by women: it was this year's theme. I could have chosen any number for this slot, and no doubt will in the weeks to come, but this one, made by a woman, Sandra Bravo, wasn't one of the 60 (how contrary can I be?). Another of her Riojas was shown, the glorious 900-bottle Camino de Santa Cruz, but I've chosen the Alavesa at less than half the price, which I tasted the week before – and loved – at Lea & Sandeman's own tasting. Like all her wines, it's made from old Tempranillo vines grown high up, in this case at 650m, to give the fruit freshness, clarity and the vineyard signatures she seeks. Even when she uses it, oak is not the point. The Alavesa 2016 has plum and strawberry aromas, a deep, finely structured, velvety palate and a long, lithe finish. Drink it with? This is going to sound lazy but, honestly, the answer is almost anything savoury you like, except anything very acid or highly spicy. Joanna Simon, www.joannasimon.com(Sep 2018)
Rich and concentrated, dark summer berries. This is quite pure and fruit-driven. The palate has impressive depth and fleshy allure. Supple and even-paced, this is a very fresh, juicy and attractive wine. Drink or hold. Rating: 92 James Suckling, www.jamessuckling.com(Aug 2018)
The eponymous 2016 Sierra de Toloño is pure Tempranillo from a very good vintage in the zone of Rivas de Tereso, which has a Mediterranean microclimate and limestone-rich soils. It feels very young, as it was only bottled a few months ago. It does have the freshness of the zone, but it seems to still need a little bit of time in bottle and the oak seems too evident. The texture is good, with fine tannins with the grippy, chalky texture of the limestone, but the nose needs to come back. 26,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in July 2017. Drinking range: 2019 - 2022 Rating: 89 Luis Gutierrez, www.robertparker.com(Feb 2018)
Sierra de Toloño
Sandra Bravo comes from Rioja, and has returned there to start this project. 2012 was the first vintage. Sandra has trained in Bordeaux, Chianti, Marlborough, California, and is still currently winemaker for one othe bigger producers in Priorat. She has returned home to make a Rioja which reflects the land and climate of this particular corner of Rioja Alavesa. The wine comes from old goblet trained Tempranillo vines grown on calcareous clay are at 650m in Labastida - one of the highest vineyards of the Rioja region. The mountains of the Sierra de Toloño protect the vines from northerly winds and create a special microclimate, cold because it is so high, but dry with the Mediterranean influence despite being so far north. All this is perfect for the grapes to ripen fully over a long time in the bright light but relatively cool temperatures - the ripeness comes slowly, retaining natural acidity. The grapes are harvested into 15kg boxes, sorted at the vine, and taken to the winery in Laguardia. Here Sandra does a very conservative vinification, with a cold soak to start with to preserve the freshness of the fruit, and then only a gentle pigeage. After the vinification the wine is aged just six months in French oak barrels, and bottled without fineing of filtration. For the 2013 Sandra is delighted to have some amphorae, and will make a wine with no oak at all, aged just in these.
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