Thanks to so much advise from the collective here I have returned for a week in Rioja and SAN Sebastian. There been a small delay in posting and I’ve started with the Bodegas visits. , but I’ll try to follow on with direct impressions of wines.
We stayed 4 nights and it was mainly a holiday.
The first day we walked to Haro a good 35 minutes trek along the river from our hotel in Brinas. It was beautiful, but rainy on this day. Luckily, we enter the town directly in the Station area were most of the Bodegas are situated.
The English tour started at 10am, we visited the whole winery, it’s a large operation. The barrel rooms and cellars are immense. You get to visit their cooper , although they were not actually toasting any barrels at that moment. It was good to see the scale of the operation, a constant hub of activity, despite the wines basically just aging. We had a limited tasting of the white and crianza as saving ourselves for Roda
The white is ok everyday stuff and the crianza 2015 still way too young, but it is the same wine as the reserva we get in the UK but this has more bottle age, thus qualifying for reserva
We went for the lunch on river terrace option, which was great. They were harvesting so we saw the grapes coming in, being sorted and put into the fermentation tanks. The lunch was massive and the whole range of wines was tasted. We were then left to enjoy the lunch with a bottle of each the Sela, Roda, Roda I but a half of the Cirsion. It was more than the two of us could manage, but a tasting to remember. It’s a shame the weather was so poor, we were freezing.
The bodega is impressive, a modern building on an old site. There’s concrete and glass then you turn a corner in the cellar and there’s old limestone tunnels, which lead to the river terrace from which they loaded boats in years gone by.
Their wines are made in a modern style using French oak entirely. They source from vineyards throughout Rioja, looking for old vines in prime locations, some owned, some not. They then blend the different parcels to create the cuvees, Sela- is a young, strong wine, RODA Reserva – red fruited with an Atlantic influence, RODA 1 – black fruited with a Mediterranean influence, Cirsion – the top wines from specially selected grapes.
I didn’t think it would be possible to get a tour of this prime winery, but a simple email was enough.
We toured the bodegas, then El Pison vineyard and finished with a tasting.
To get to the vineyard is a short trip, but on this day their white London cab wouldn’t open and so we drove ourselves, then had to hop over the stone wall as the key was in the cab, which made it all feel a bit James Bond. Still a lovely vineyard with a stone building at its centre, the El Pison. It demonstrated this winery’s philosophy. Individual plots bottled separately, and produced outside of the Rioja regulations, so no reserva or Rioja etc on the labels. The “terrior” is meant to speak more loudly than the region. Wonderful tasting of a lot of the range, these are great wines and worth your attention. One can debate the high prices
Bodegas Hermanos Peciña
Looking through various books and this website, this stuck me as a traditional producer with good reviews, small production and slightly off piste as I’d not heard of them.
We organised a late afternoon visit and were well treated to a winery tour, with grapes for the white being sorted and tanks being filled. A large barrel cellar is full of American oak barrels, mostly old. No new oak is used for the main range.
The wines shown were good, well made, solidity Rioja, but still with good fruit and vineyard expression. Their vineyards all being within the area of the winery, dotted around St Vincent and Labastida, high up towards the edge of the vineyard range.
My take away from the 4 visits is the difference in approach, which is largely why I chose these places to visit. RODA a modern expression of the Rioja area, this blending of grape across the piece is a traditional take, with modern methods and old vines. Artadi, completely different take on the modern theme, with individual vineyards and a rejection of traditional aging categories. Pecina, traditional, but small with its own vineyards. Muga, sort of in the middle, large area selection, traditional aging but in French oak.
This is a big area so I only scratched the surface, but there a lot of very good wine and it’s a beautiful wine touring area.