The Rioja region of northern Spain runs alongside the River Ebro, and stretches approximately 80 miles from west (near the town of Haro) to east (near Alfaro). The 65,000 ha are divided into 3 zones: Rioja Alta (to the west), Rioja Baja - now Rioja 'Oriental' (to the east), and Rioja Alavesa - a smaller region to the north of Alta.
Luis and Carmen chose Rioja Alta for their project. Their winery is situated in the town of Ollauri, with vineyards nearby in the town, as well as in Briones, Haro, Rodezno and Villalba. The furthest is just 7 miles from the winery.
100 km from the ocean, the combined Atlantic influence and altitudes of up to 600 m, gives a freshness that enhances acidity, finesse, and aromatic complexity. Soils in Alta are typically red, iron and clay-rich. There is more rainfall in Alta here than in the east, and slightly cooler average temperatures (by a couple of degrees C).
- they don't irrigate
- they employ sustainable viticulture, integrating organic and biodynamic processes in the vineyard
- they don't break the cap, or use délestage
- fermentation takes on average 24 days
- they use a good quality press - if the berry opens naturally it gives more aromas and complexity (takes longer, but provides great quality juice)
- they don't provoke malolactic fermentation, they just wait for it to happen...
- they let the wine take its time...
Just as they use minimal intervention in the vineyard, Luis and Carmen believe that using concrete allows a full and authentic expression of the Tempranillo grape.
Concrete is a very neutral and stable environment for wine, as no ionisation takes place. It is also a natural insulator, preventing sudden temperature changes. As such it is an ideal vessel for fermentation as well as storing and ageing, and it can impart great longevity on a wine.
American oak is favoured in the majority of Rioja wineries - around 80% of the barrels used are American, versus 20% French, oak.
Valenciso, however, use 100% French oak for their Reserva, as they believe it gives the wine more vibrancy, and complexity on the nose.
They only use medium toast barrels - giving spicy characters, rather than coffee / mocha notes. The wine may need a little longer to breathe, but it has greater complexity and ageing potential.
They use 4 different tonneliers (80% of their barrels are from Radoux) and replace a third of their barrels each year.
*from 2011 vintage it will be 90% French and 10% Russian - it gives a little more tannin but also preserves the fruit character.
2010 vintage: "Dried cherry, berry, tea, tobacco, vanilla and spice flavours mingle in this lean, gentle red. Modest tannins and light acidity keep this lively as the elements float across the palate and glide into a spicy finish. Graceful, in the traditional style. Drink now through 2022. 91 points." Thomas Matthews, Wine Spectator
Lamb is popular in the Rioja region, and Valenciso Reserva is a good match for this meat - and also with wholesome stews and casseroles. For vegetarians it pairs well with mushroom and lentil dishes.