Ostatu Rioja Blanco 2016
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Bodegas Ostatu is a family winery located in the heart of the Basque Rioja Alavesa region in the village of Samaniego. The Sáenz de Samaniego family has been farming in the area since the 16th century – for so many generations, in fact, that their family name and the village’s name are the same. The winery has been growing grapes for over two hundred and fifty years. The current caretakers are siblings Mariasun, Gonzalo, Iñigo, and Ernesto. The philosophy at Ostatu has been one of constant self-improvement through blending tradition, a forward-thinking approach, and perseverance.
We fight to defend a model of wine-craftsmen, linked to the vineyard and to life in the Basque villages and rural areas. Hospitality is our culture. – Mariasun Sáenz de Samaniego
First and foremost, Ostatu is known throughout the area for its exceptional old vineyards. They own 36 hectares of vineyards, divided into 50 micro plots, spread across several Rioja Alavesa villages, including Samaniego, Leza, and Laguardia. Tempranillo dominates the blend, but they also grow Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Viura, and Malvasia. Ostatu is "Rioja mountain wine," meaning their vineyards are located between 450-650m in the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, where they are protected from the cold northern wind.
Ostatu is part of a winegrowing tradition that has always been very environmentally friendly, a commitment that has only strengthened over time. This began with their commitment as a carbon-neutral winery through their use of green energy sources and participation in reforestation initiatives One of their great works in the last decade has been converting all 36ha of their vineyards to organic farming. Having been certified as an ecological vineyard for some years, in 2021 the entirety of Ostatu’s harvest will be certified organic. This is a monumental achievement for Ostatu, who is leading the Rioja discussion to one of vineyards and farming. Theirs is a comprehensive vision that involves caring for the earth, the environment, their heritage, and vineyards with the utmost respect.
Highly regarded for distinctive and age-worthy red wines, Rioja is Spain’s most celebrated wine region. Made up of three different sub-regions of varying elevation: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental. Wines are typically a blend of fruit from all three, although specific sub-region (zonas), village (municipios) and vineyard (viñedo singular) wines can now be labeled. Rioja Alta, at the highest elevation, is 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 and higher alcohol, which can add great body and richness to a blend.
Fresh and fruity Rioja wines labeled, Joven, (meaning young) see minimal aging before release, but more serious Rioja wines undergo multiple years in oak. Crianza and Reserva styles are aged for one year in oak, and Gran Reserva at least two, but in practice this maturation period is often quite a bit longer—up to about fifteen years.
Tempranillo provides the backbone of Rioja red wines, adding complex notes of red and black fruit, leather, toast and tobacco, while Garnacha supplies body. In smaller percentages, Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) often serve as “seasoning” with additional flavors and aromas. These same varieties are responsible for flavorful dry rosés.
White wines, typically balancing freshness with complexity, are made mostly from crisp, fresh Viura. Some whites are blends of Viura with aromatic Malvasia, and then barrel fermented and aged to make a more ample, richer style of white.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.