Wine Producer Spotlight - La Rioja Alta
La Rioja Alta, based in Haro, the heart of Rioja, was founded in 1890 and has grown to become one of the key wineries in the Rioja region. The winery was founded by five families from the Basque and Rioja region, under the name Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta.
In 1904, Don Alfredo Ardanza, one of the founders, proposed to merge his Ardanza winery with La Rioja Alta. They created the Gran Reserva 904 to mark this event, with the name being selected to mark this important moment, and thus, they changed their name to La Rioja Alta and filed the trademark for the house famous: Viña Ardanza.
Today, La Rioja Alta owns over 360 hectares of vines. It is almost self-sufficient with the grapes they use, which is unusual for the area. It also re-opened its own cooperage in 2002 where they make their barrels from dried American oak and hold over 43,000 maturing casks.
Their wines have gone on to win numerous awards such as their Finca El Otero from Bodegas Aster receiving recognition as best wine in the world from Top Merchant and in 2019, Gran Reserva 890 secured fourth place among the best wines in the world according to Wine Spectator magazine.
We were lucky enough to have a quick chat with Francisco Corpas, Export Manager of La Rioja Alta, and discuss all things wine, some delicious food pairing suggestions for their wines, and how COVID has affected their winery. Enjoy!
1. What makes your wine unique coming from Rioja Alta?
The wines of La Rioja Alta, come from unique vineyards, located in areas of long traditional viticulture, which together with exceptional climatic conditions offer us wines of great elegance and complexity. These wines meet all the necessary characteristics to be aged for a long time, favouring these long aging process. To this, we have to add the winery experience of more than 131 years, which forces us to respect the style of our wines. We are a classic winery, but we also have to adapt to the new times, improving the quality of our wines. For this, we have relied on technological advances that have contributed to adapt and improved our wines that represent our brands today.
2. Could you give us your favourite food pairings with your core range?
They are very versatile wines, they combine perfectly with all kinds of food, but if we had to highlight something, the potatoes with chorizo (typical Riojan style stewed), the Riojan Vegetable Stew called Maestra, with season vegetables, the grilled meats, the game, the roast suckling pig, duck, the lamb chops, desserts, semi-cured cheeses, and desserts with chocolate.
3. What is your favourite food and wine pairing?
Viña Ardanza with lamb chops on the grill.
4. How are you adapting to the winemaking challenges of climate change and Covid 19?
Climate change is a situation that is beginning to occur in our vineyards. The most important effects are the increase in the alcoholic degree which is linked to a loss of natural acidity. To fight it, we are adapting our vineyards to these new situations, favouring the grape bunches to be more protected (less intense and later defoliation, pruning management, early harvest date, etc.)
As for COVID, our concern with these harvests have been to protect the health of workers, both in the vineyard and in the winery. We have carried out antigen and antibody tests to control possible cases. We have established some protection protocols in work areas (protective equipment, the distance between people, etc.) to avoid contacts, use of hydro alcoholic gel, etc.
5. Finally, have you any fun facts about La Rioja Alta that you would like our customers to know?
Our first President (in 1890) was a woman, Ms. Saturnina García Cid y Gárate. A step which was very rare at the time–and still is!
In 1890, electric lighting was installed in Haro and Jerez (first cities in Spain), causing (along, with less decorous reasons) locals to coin the phrase “Haro, Paris, and London” to describe the wonders of the world. This period also gave rise to an expression which we all use when nearing our hometown: “Look at Haro, just look at the lights”.
One of the most iconic wines in their range, named in commemoration of 1904, when Don Alfredo Ardanza merged his Ardanza winery with La Rioja Alta. The 2011 was the last of the vintages to be classified as ‘Excellent’, with just 14 other vintages coming before it. Magnificent colour component, significant polyphenol load, and an outstanding condition resulted in wines that were particularly suitable for long aging. Full, fleshy, and generous with a pronounced oak flavour from the ageing.
One of the most popular Spanish wines on Michelin star restaurant wine lists across Europe. 100% Tempranillo and aged for 2 years in American oak casks. Expect rich black fruit flavours with gentle vanilla and caramel notes and a long, smooth, elegant finish. Pairs beautifully with red meats, strong cheese, and chocolate.
Another of the trio of gran reservas made by La Rioja Alta which have gained critical acclaim around the world. This Alta Vina Arana Gran Reserva features a combination of Tempranillo and Graciano, vinified and aged separately for three years. Fresh and bold with a long, smooth finish. Pairs beautifully with tender lamb. The perfect after-dinner drink.
You can find their full range of La Rioja Alta on Irish Drink Shop along with our full range of wines from Rioja. And if you still can’t find that perfect wine, then be sure to contact us and we’ll be delighted to assist!
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