2018 Rioja Sierra de Toloño
Sourced from two deep-rooted, 60 and 100-year-old organic vineyards situated around 500m above sea level in Villabuena de Álava, this pristine, unfined, unfiltered, small production (just 6,500 bottles) field blend of tempranillo and graciano was made by Sandra Bravo, one of the youngest members of the so-called Rioja ‘n’ Roll collective of nine brilliant winemakers from seven boutique wineries.
Made without ageing certification, this characterful red is spicy, floral, crunchy, refined and complex with bags of bright, refreshing, brambly, red berry fruits, framed by fine, sweet, caressing tannins and supported by a light chocolate note. Fermented and then aged in 3,000-litre oak foudres (not the standard 225l oak barrels).
Irresistibly good with cod with butter beans in a chorizo and tomato sauce, slow-cooked pork shoulder and pink lamb cutlets. This is fresh, elegant, modern Rioja at its outstanding best. It only gets better when left open for a day or two. Superb stuff from a soulful winemaker and winery on song. James Viner, Times of Tunbridge Wells (Oct 2021)
*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.
"A wild horse" says Sandra Bravo of this field blend of Tempranillo and Graciano, which hails from two vineyards in Villabuena de Álava, planted in 1920 and 1978 respectively. Riper than her high altitude reds, but not by much, this is spicy and meaty, with a hint of carbon dioxide, savoury tannins and an animal note. Drinking range: 2022 - 2026 Rating: 93 Tim Atkin MW, www.timatkin.com (Feb 2021)
SOIL Two old vineyards in Villabuena de Alava, 100 and 60 years old each. They represent the character of this people, calm pure and deep. They are protected in this Valley from North wind, letting grapes ripe slowly. The strong mineral character comes from the lastra (grey limestone).
VINEYARDS These two old vineyards are situated at 500 m altitude in Villabuena de Alava, and they represent the original taste of Tempranillo in this Region. Organic vineyards.
BLENDING Tempranillo and a little percentage of Graciano that appears mixed in the vineyards.
WINEMAKING AND AGING Fermented spontaneously and aged in large oak foudres of 3000 litres during a year. Not fining or filtering, maintaining the philosophy of minimal intervention in the vineyard and in the cellar. 6,500 bottles produced.
TASTING NOTES People in Villabuena de Álava used to be called ‘Raposo’. This wine has the perfect balance between freshness and structure. Crunchy bramble and red cherry fruit segue into a palate that’s savoury, dense and serious with the potential to age.Winemaker's notes (Apr 2019)
Sierra de Toloño
Sandra Bravo is a seriously exciting winemaker. Working with some of the highest altitude vineyards in Rioja – with plots of very old vines, she is hunting out freshness and purity. Having travelled the world and made wines in Bordeaux, Tuscany, New Zealand and California she has returned to Spain with her eyes wide open and a brave ambition to show the different expressions of Rioja. It does not all have to be blended and heavily-oaked any more. Her delicately shaped – intensely pure wines are a revelation. With a range now of different releases each profiling a particular vineyard or a particular grape variety she is making some of the most drinkable and delicious wines in the region. No surprises she was crowned the 2019 ‘Young Winemaker of the Year’ by Rioja expert and wine critic Tim Atkin MW.
Sandra originally comes from Rioja, and returned there to start this project. 2012 was the first vintage. Sandra has trained in Bordeaux, Chianti, Marlborough, California, and worked in two of the larger wineries in Priorat, where she was influenced by Ricard Rofes, (now in charge of Scala Dei). 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 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 neutral French oak barrels, and bottled without fining of filtration. From the 2013 vintage Sandra has also been working with amphorae, distancing herself even further from the oaky traditions of Rioja.
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