Alegre Valganon Rioja Tinto 2015
But, today, Traditional Rioja is making a strong comeback, as connoisseurs come to realize that the sumptuous CUNE Viña Reals and Lopez Tondonias and Bosconias from the 1940s to the 1970s are among the planet’s greatest wine treasures. And the recent rise to stardom of the relatively young, but staunchly traditional, Hermanos Peciña, offers compelling evidence of the world’s growing love affair with Rioja as it was once made.
Yet, it’s often forgotten that what we know as “Traditional Rioja” is less than 150 years old, having been created in the wake of Phylloxera in the late 1800s. Before that, an earlier tradition flourished that featured viticulture and winemaking on a far smaller scale, allowing vine-by-vine attention to fruit quality, and the inclusion of stems during fermentation and shorter time in larger barrels.
Since 2014, the husband-wife team of Oscar Alegre and Eva Valgañón have embraced this even more ancient tradition. By working strictly with tiny lots, they are turning out head-spinning reds and whites that capture the best of their beloved land’s 1,000+ year history. And, their wines informed by this ancestral wisdom, are offering something unique in today’s Rioja landscape.
Hailed as the star red variety in Spain’s most celebrated wine region, Tempranillo from Rioja, or simply labeled, “Rioja,” produces elegant wines with complex notes of red and black fruit, crushed rock, leather, toast and tobacco, whose best examples are fully capable of decades of improvement in the cellar.
Rioja wines are typically a blend of fruit from its three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental, although specific sub-region (zonas), village (municipios) and vineyard (viñedo singular) wines can now be labeled. Rioja Alta and Alavesa, at the highest elevations, are considered to be the source of the brightest, most elegant fruit, while grapes from the warmer and drier, Rioja Oriental, produce wines with deep color, great body and richness.