Rioja, day 3: at last, a vineyard, and a spectacular barrel hall

Sadly, it was the last day in Rioja. Just one visit: LAN.

I’d really enjoyed the previous two days, but up till now we hadn’t been shown a single vineyard. This is despite the fact that Rioja’s treasures are its wonderful vineyards, and the weather was perfect for photography. It’s probably because this is a very winery focused region, and most of the wineries, which tend to be large, are distant from the vineyards, which are tended by growers, who then sell their grapes to the big wineries. In Rioja, the stars are the enologists. They want to show us their wineries.

It’s quite a large region, but there’s very little impact here from organics or even sustainable wine growing. All the vineyards seem to be clean cultivated.

Anyway, today, we finally got to visit a vineyard, but it took quite a bit of asking and arranging. Fortunately, LAN have a lovely vineyard – Lanciano. It’s the second largest in the region, with 72 hectares, and its surrounded on three sides by the river Ebro.

They also have an enormous barrel hall, with a capacity of over 60 000 barrels, although there are only 30 000 in there at the moment. They were stacked 9 high (they can go as high as 14), and are moved around by a robotic crane on tracks. It was really quite impressive. Their barrels are a mix: American oak with French oak ends, French, and Russian. And although their winery looks like a factory, and they make 2 million bottles of Crianza, the wines are really good. The high end wines are really striking, made in relatively small quantities (10-20 000 bottles).

6 comments to Rioja, day 3: at last, a vineyard, and a spectacular barrel hall

  • Never accuse me of letting an under-statement slip by, but that’s a lot of barrels to rack and top up!

  • Yes – the remarkable thing is they just fill em up, whack the bung in, and then six months later rack. No inspection or topping up in between. Then they do the same six months later. There’s no topping up at all. At least not in the three larger, traditional wineries that I visited.

  • That’s how the Rioja gets its familiar oxidised character, one assumes.

  • Chris Williams

    Hi Jamie,

    I was in Rioja just a few days before you, and I asked quite a few of the producers I met if anyone bottled a 100% Graciona, to which the answer was always no. I wish I knew about that Valdemar Graciano before I moved on to Toro. Anyway, will try to track it down in Barcelona or London.

    Loved Muga, fabulous wines.

  • Mark T

    Viña Ijalba (who as another post on this blog states are organic) do a 100% Graciano (only one I’ve tried).

  • Joe Fisher

    Chris, Contino do a very good 100% Graciano. Part of the reason why Graciano isn’t produced much is that there’s a very small percentage of vines when compared to Tempranillo, and the grape is very difficult to ripen correctly. Only in good years is it produced. But when it’s good, it’s great. Seek out the Contino, not cheap at approx £40 but worth it.

    Jamie, thanks for the report – wish you’d spent a bit more time there and out in the vineyards too. Love your photos. Be interested to hear your thoughts more on the Remelluri 2005 as I’ve tried that a few times this year and last and thought it a bit one-d.


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