The unique vineyards of Valdelacierva
Enrique Calduch, Madrid
In a few days, the wines from the Unique Vineyards of the Riojan winery Valdelacierva go on the market. They are the result of the zoning process launched by the Regulatory Council of DOCa Rioja a few years ago . This allowed that, in addition to the three historical areas of Rioja Alta, Alavesa and Oriental, wines from individual areas and villages with recognisable and definable characteristics might also be specifically highlighted. At the top of the quality pyramid, the highest level of recognition is enjoyed by the Viñedos Singulares, or Single Vineyard category, usually small plots that, due to their soil conditions, orientation, limited production, old vines, or manual harvesting… are in some way special.
Many Rioja producers set out to identify these vineyards so that they could certify them with the Regulatory Council and start bottling specific wines from them. In many cases, in a large vineyard it was possible to identify some smaller individual plots that met the required conditions.
This is the case of Valdelacierva. For many years the winery has been committed to producing premium wines with greater added value, and it was logical that it should figure in the Viñedos Singulares category at the top of the pyramid. In this case through its Viñedos Únicos wines, which include Valdelacierva Monte Pedriza 2019, 100% Garnacha, and Canto Gordo 2018, made with Tempranillo, both of which will reach the market in March. The winery also has two high-end vineyards, although they are not formally included in the Viñedos Singulares category, which produce the Valdelacierva Garnacha 2018, and the Special Edition 2017 which is an equal blend of Maturana, Garnacha and Tempranillo varieties. This wine will be released a little later in the year as the house winemaker, Emma Villajos, wants the wine to spend a couple more months in bottle for a more rounded finish.
This young woman, an experienced winemaker with a long pedigree, is one of the winery’s strongest assets. Normally the best Rioja vineyards are in the hands of lifelong winegrowers, who earn their living from their vines and are very reluctant to sell them, hence the only solution is to form partnerships. Long-term contracts and paying dearly for the best grapes. Villajos selects the vineyards and special plots she wants to work with, negotiates an agreement, and then makes the wines. A sound and effective approach that has led to her current role as winemaking supervisor for the entire Hispanobodegas group, of which Valdelacierva forms a part, and which includes two other wineries: one, Viñedos y Bodegas Gormaz, at the Sorian end of Ribera del Duero and another, Garcigrande, in Rueda.
But Valdelacierva is the group’s flagship project, and it is able to source fruit from several plots in Rioja Alavesa, specifically from San Vicente de la Sonsierra, and also from Tudelilla in Rioja Oriental, where the best Garnachas are to be found. A great example is Valdelacierva Garnacha 2018, a very expressive and intense wine, full of very rich, ripe fruit and accompanied by great minerality on the nose. In the mouth it is rounded and robust, smooth tannins (27 euros). And from a small plot within the estate comes Montepedriza 2019, from vineyards planted 103 years ago. The beautiful violet hues catch the eye when it’s poured, followed by an elegant and subtle nose, but with underlying nerve and punch. On the palate it is powerful, wide and long with an elegant force (65 euros). The Canto Gordo 2018 Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa impresses on the nose with its extraordinary complexity. Mature fruit, spices like cinnamon, and wonderful cigar box notes; superb in the mouth, balanced, centered and with a lingering long finish. An incredible wine (65 euros). Finally we have the Valdelacierva Limited Edition with the blend of the three varieties (tempranillo, garnacha y maturana). Heaps of ripe fruit, Mediterranean undergrowth peppered with rockrose and eucalyptus. The mouth is structured and strong, with a very long, chewy finish. (38 euros).