Our tasting impressions
Standing in the vineyard of Barranco del Prado was like being on holy ground. My feet could sense how good the wine produced from this vineyard would be, hours before I had the pleasure of tasting it.
BdP has a sophistication and elegance - uncommon for Garnacha - that can only result from very old vines with original roots, exemplary farming and gifted winemaking. This is an elegant young wine with a seriously provocative nose. The purity of the fruit is astounding. Tasted from barrel alongside one of the last remaining bottles of 2015 helped provide a glimpse into the glorious future for this wine. A VDLT exclusive and very special.
About this wine
Only the second vintage of the single vineyard Barranco del Prado following the inaugural and wonderful 2015. The .32ha vineyard was planted in the 1890's to mostly Garnacha with small traces of two other varieties. Eighty-five percent of the vines have their original, un-grafted rootstock. It is at the top of the slope and at 800 meters - the highest elevation allowed in the region. Javier doesn't own it (yet) but he closely consults with Julian, the octogenarian owner we met in the vineyard. They farm these precious crops with tender loving care.
The wine is comprised of 97% Garnacha, 2% Tinta Velasco and 1% Calagraño. The latter two varieties have all but disappeared. In such small quantities, the only thing they contribute to the blend is a precise representation of the historical and remarkable Barranco del Prado vineyard.
The grapes are manually harvested in late October, early in the morning to extremely low yields of 19.5 hl/ha. They are partially de-stemmed - some whole clusters are introduced at the top of the tank. A cold soak maceration takes 2-4 days. Wild yeast fermentation is at a controlled temperature around 25ºC. During fermentation, he sinks the skins at least twice a day to ensure that they are in permanent contact with the must. In this way, a smooth maceration is achieved that enhances the aromas and color and promotes elegant and soft tannins. A brief post-fermentation maceration (2-3 days) precedes malolactic fermentation (which this wine will never complete) and subsequent maturation in old French oak barrels one 400-liter and one 225-liter for around 12 months. Garnacha does not like wood, so never new oak. Only 700 regular bottles were produced.
About the grape
Garnacha (Spanish for Grenache) is one of the most planted grapes in the world. The grapes are thin-skinned and late-ripening, allowing them to thrive in a variety of environments. Up until 30 years ago, it was the dominant grape in Rioja Baja - before so much was pulled up in favor of Tempranillo. It can be a workman grape but when planted in well-pedigreed, sandy soil in the proper climate and yields are kept low, it is capable of world class wine production (think Rayas).
About the vintage
2018 was a year of erratic weather conditions. In general, alcohol levels are lower than in recent vintages and the quality was good. Careful vineyard management was key to success.
On your table
Keep it simple and let the wine be the star. In its youth, I think beef stew to combat the tannins and mellow its structure. As it matures, this will cry out for full-flavored wild game - hoofed or winged.
Suggested Glassware: Grassl Cru
Javier Arizcuren is a talented architect who designs wineries. His family has a long history of growing grapes in Rioja Baja (Javier prefers this traditional reference rather than Rioja Oriental) from a village called Quel in Sierra de Yerga.
He had a vision of producing traditional Rioja varietal wines using modern day knowledge to improve old school practices with minimal intervention. He studied viticulture and oenology at the University of La Rioja and assumed responsibility for his family business in 2011, after deciding he wanted to produce his own wine, something no one in his family had done before. 2013 was his inaugural vintage.
His is the first urban cellar in Logroño, 50km from his 19ha of vineyards. He emphasizes the original Rioja grapes, which he believes are best suited to the terroir and capable of greatness in this area. His vineyards (and those he purchases from) are mostly very old and planted to Mazuelo and Garnacha. He also has some Tempranillo, Viura and Malvasía de Rioja. Production is about 12,000 bottles per year though he expects that will double in five years.
It should be apparent that Javier is a man on a mission, combining entrepreneurship with a deep commitment to preservation of traditions. He is a warm, gracious man who cares deeply about family. VDLT is pleased to support and join Javier at this seminal time in his journey and to be the first and only source for his wines in the US.