One man, one hectare, one barrel and one hell of a wine

1.9 hectares, a 1,200 litre foudre (a large oak barrel) and a red wine, sometimes 1,500 bottles produced, that sits right up amongst the greats. ‘Las Beatas’ by T.Rodriguez.

The good fortune, for us, began in 1994 when Telmo Rodriguez founded his Compañía de Vinos in Rioja (Spain).

Telmo, a self-professed ‘driving winemaker‘ arrived in Rioja searching for the soul of the region, as he put it, and returning to the villages where a few special plots expressed themselves. Lanciego is a village in the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountains, reflecting the contrasting contributions of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic influences. Native grape varieties, grown on the best soils and subject to the best viticulture are the philosophical tenets here, allowing the wines to express their innate qualities thanks to simple, but scientifically-grounded winemaking.

Las Beatas (the Blessed Ones) is a field blend of eight and sometimes nine local grape varieties. The terraced land is in northern most area of Rioja Alavesa, and rises up to 600m.a.s.l facing east and south. The grapes are hand picked at each harvest, and then primary fermented in open casks to allow the wild yeast to join in the party. Telmo then pours the whole lot into this one huge barrel and leaves it there for a year and 2 months.

“I was really anxious to taste the 2016 Las Beatas after the other-worldly 2015, where the field blend produced 1,532 bottles from the 1.9 hectares under vine. The wine is matured in a 1,200-liter oak foudre in a very cold cellar that provides a very slow evolution of the wine. It’s elegant, subtle and delicate, shy and slow to open up in the glass. The palate reveals great balance and very fine chalky tannins, with great purity and depth, and it’s more insinuating than in-your-face, with energy and length. I kept the bottle and retasted it a few hours later, because I like to see how a wine like this evolves. It developed further nuance, it is a world class wine.” – Luis Gutierrez (100/100pts)

I have been following Señor Rodriguez’s wines now for a bit now. Strangely enough the first time was in 2011 when I visited Lima, Peru, and ate lunch at the once famous ‘Central‘. They listed his wine, thank goodness, along with his totally delicious pudding wine ‘M’ (Mountain wine). I was, like most, totally bowled over by the depth and exquisite complexity of these wines.

I believe we still have odd bottles in stock of 2012, 2013 thru to 2016 & 2017 Las Beatas, but also we stock, and please not to be overshadowed by the big stuff, we have his terrific Tabuerniga 2017, his La Estrada 2017 and small quantities of El Velado 2017, all coming direct from his Bodega Lanzaga.

2017 Las Beatas (the blessed ones)
We feel fortunate that in the 2017 vintage, which will be remembered as the one of the great frosts on April 27 and 28 (-5 degrees), Las Beatas was able to overcome the adversity and offer us a great wine again. A fairly warm and dry year, especially after the frost, which made us harvest this vineyard earlier than ever. And this vintage again, it has surprised us with its delicate and floral expression and the same magic and charm as usual. Only 1,501 bottles produced @ £195bt/ib

2017 Tabuerniga
Tabuérniga is another extraordinary place in the historical village of Labastida, where viticulture has been maintained for more than 1,300 years. A place where medieval wine presses carved in rocks amongst the vineyards watch over the heritage of former times.

The scenery is stunning: a closed valley crossed by treads of vineyards, some of them abandoned, others cultivated, and many others recovered by us.

Tabuérniga is a small, vertical and isolated valley, where shorter vegetative cycle varieties offer a different expression and give rise
to a sober and austere wine, but full of depth and elegance.
At an altitude of between 540 and 630 meters, these narrow and historic terraces, cultivated organically and respecting the tradition, offer a magnificent wine.

The 2017 vintage will be remembered for the intense spring frosts at the end of April, but Tabuérniga was able to deliver a wonderful wine. Maybe this small and hidden valley protected the vineyard from the coolest winds of the north. Even if 2017 was extremely warm and dry, with the earliest harvest ever, this fresh and cool place has offered a fantastic wine, ripe but full of vibrancy and balance. 2,004 bottles produced @ £95bt/ib

2017 La Estrada (the road)
La Estrada Alta is a tiny, tiny vineyard of only 0.64 ha, at 610m.a.s.l. It’s located in the higher and most western part of the village of Lanciego, on very poor soil. Planted in the 1940’s and managed with traditional bush pruning, it was mostly field blended with Tempranillo and a little Graciano.
Facing northeast, the vineyard is situated on top of a slope of pure chalk clay. This special vineyard with its small production has always fascinated us for its depth and balance.

The 2017 vintage will be remembered for the intense spring frosts on April 27 and 28 which caused severe damage to the vines. Most of the village Lanciego’s high elevation vineyards were less affected though, which is also the case for La Estrada. Apart from that it was a fairly warm and dry year, especially after the frost. Rainfalls at the end of the cycle and an early harvest have favoured expressive and intense, but also well-balanced wines. 1,932 bottles produced @ £85bt/ib

2017 El Velado (the veiled)
El Velado is a beautiful and very old vineyard situated at an altitude of 600m.a.s.l. It is the first vineyard Telmo fell in love with in Lanciego and the one that is probably best expressing the influence of the light in Lanciego.
The vineyard was planted in the eastern most part of the village, facing mainly west and south, and enjoying a warmer light. Because of this exposure, its field blend was made with a majority of Garnacha and Tempranillo plus some other old varieties, including white. Its old age of over 80 years, its size, and the sculptural shape of the bush pruned vines, make this vineyard very special, full of light, which we wished to capture and bottle separately.

The 2017 vintage will be remembered for the intense spring frosts on April 27 and 28 which caused severe damage to the vines. Most of the village Lanciego’s high elevation vineyards were less affected though, which is also the case for El Velado. Apart from that it was a fairly warm and dry year, conditions in which El Velado and its Garnacha vines ripen very well, offering a fantastic wine, mature and accomplished but at the same time nervy and of great balance. 1,524 bottles produced @ £80bt/ib

NB:  bt = bottle, ib = in bond

Before closing off this month, I would, firstly like to wish you the reader and client, all the very best, and also I would like to share with you the news of Albert Roux (chef) passing over the threshold, in January, RIP.  I was lucky enough to enjoy a Christmas lunch back in 1998 at Le Gavroche in Brook Street, and will remember all those sumptuous flavors coming out from his kitchen, and the attention to table service that all went towards and way beyond most gastronomic happenings that today, i fear the ‘gastro-scene’ seems to take, rather, for granted.

Pan seared (fried) Foie gras, freshly marinated Scallops in a Sauternes sauce (not d’Yquem) and a little Carrot puree was not only the most memorable plate I ever had the privilege to nibble on, but have repeated in my own kitchen, over the years, and will intend to do so for the rest of my life, until I can get it right that is. If there is no Foie G. available I use Mollejas (sweetbreads).

All wine enquiries and wine orders please to: william@worldwineconsultants. com