Thursday, December 26, 2019

Spanish "Wines on the Cutting Edge": Conde de los Andes Rioja Blanco 2016

Modernity in Spanish winemaking arose in response to consumer tastes shifting in the 1980s to more powerful, fruity wines and the desire of some producers to play in that market space. This headlong rush to modernity has been supplanted, though, by a number of trends identified in a Decanter article written by Pedro Ballesteros Torres. I have summarized the key findings of the article below.

Wines from Spain brought together a panel at its Spain's Great Match event in Miami to discuss eight wines which they see as being at the cutting edge of Spanish wine trends. I have covered the Tajinaste Blanco, Muradella Blanco, and Edetària Selecció Blanc Vinyes Velles in prior posts; I cover Conde de los Andes Rioja Blanco in this one.

The Paternina winery was founded in the village of Ollauri (Rioja Alta) in 1896 and the brand Costa de los Andes was carved out in the 1960s to provide wines made exclusively with fruit from superior estate vineyards. Over time the estate fell into disrepair and was eventually bought by the Murua family in 2014.

The Murua family sources grapes from a shortlist of neighboring growers under long-term contracts and is using that fruit to produce a single red and a single white wine. The grapes are sourced from the Rioja Alta villages of Ollauri, Haro, and Briñas. The climate here is Continental Mediterranean, with a distinct Atlantic influence, and the soils clay and limestone.

The Conde de los Andes Rioja Blanco 2016 is made from 100% Viura, one of the most widely planted white grapes in Rioja. This is a generously yielding cultivar which produces mildly acidic and mildly alcoholic wines. It is blended with Malvasia for white wine production and, in Rioja Alavesa, with Tempranillo for production of high-quality red Riojas. The fruit is susceptible to downy mildew and grey rot. Grapes for this wine are grown on vines that average 30 years of age.

The grapes are fermented in new French oak barrels for 3 months with batonnage. The wine is aged for an additional 7 months in the same barrels.

Waxy, honeyed white fruit, and spiciness on the nose. Bracing acidity and leaner on the palate than suggested by the nose. Citrus, citrus skin, and a coating minerality. One of the panelists saw this as a clean and classy Viura which marries richness and freshness and will age well.

Ballestores Torres identified the range and quality of whites as one of the key trends in Spanish wines and identified Viura as one of those whites of note. This particular white wine falls squarely into that camp.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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