For the fourth year, and following a rigorous tasting by expert panel of judges in the UK, Aldonia 100 has been selected as a winning entry as one of the 10 best Premium wines in the 10×10 contest.The event will be held on Tuesday 17th October 2019 in central London.
The winning selection will also be published in a supplement with Harpers Wine & Spirit, reaching 6,000 targeted members of the UK trade.
Some of the 14 tasting experts have been the prestigious ones:
o Tim Atkin MW – Chair Judge
o Sarah Jane Evans MW – Chair Judge
o Jamie Avenell – Wine Buyer, Matthew Clark Bibendum
o Richard Bigg, Owner, Camino
o Beth Willard, Wine Buyer, Direct Wines
After spending a few months in the barrel, it’s already possible to enjoy Aldonia Vendimia 2018. A fruity wine, the result of a very fresh and rainy year.
Jancis Robinson, recommends Aldonia again in the Financial Times for this Christmas, and for us it will be an honor to be present at the meetings of these special dates. Cheers!
Financial Times: Jancis Robinson on Rioja, a wine region refreshed
Rioja is on a roll: rolling out all sorts of new features while savouring continued sales growth in a country where the wine industry has been somewhat in the doldrums. The big complaint from most Spanish wine producers recently has been that average prices have been so low but Rioja, Spain’s leading fine wine region, which accounts for more than 30 per cent by volume of exports of Spanish wines with a geographical appellation, accounts for 40 per cent of their value.
This northern wine region had a bit of a reputational wobble a couple of years ago when Artadi, one of the most admired producers, said it no longer wished to be associated with Rioja because the name — applied to cheap supermarket blends as freely as to Artadi’s finest — had no value.
But I take my hat off to the Consejo Regulador, the governing body, for responding to this relatively rapidly. From the 2017 vintage, three new, much more geographically precise categories of Rioja have been introduced. Producers who wish to, and whose wines obey the sensibly strict rules, may produce fashionable single-vineyard wines, marked on the label as a Viñedo Singular. The hand-picked vines have to be at least 35 years old (bravo for setting the bar this high), yields must be relatively low, and the wines so labelled must pass a tasting test.
There are also some special conditions for the many who buy rather than grow grapes. The wine producer must have been buying grapes from the grower in question for at least 10 years.
wo more new geographical categories have been introduced. Rioja may now be labelled with the name of a village, though the winery has to be located in that village for a wine to qualify as a Vino de Municipio. Less specific are Vinos de Zona, which may be labelled with the name of one of the three zones that make up the Rioja region: Rioja Alta in the west, Rioja Alavesa in the northern Alava province, and what is now to be known as Rioja Oriental (eastern), considered a less freighted term than the former Rioja Baja (low Rioja).
This new concentration on a precise location plays into the hands of the new wave of Rioja producers, many of whom have recently switched from growing and selling their grapes and are typically based in a fairly small area. As Ricardo Aguiriano, the Consejo’s marketing director, explained to me recently in London: “Every one of these people has a story, and consumers like stories.”
Jose Maria Lacuesta, the Consejo’s export director, was also in London, capital of Rioja’s biggest market after Spain, to explain these new categories. He was frank about the need to polish Rioja’s image and add interest to this extremely well-established wine. I remember when I first wrote about Rioja in the late 1970s, it seemed daringly exotic in the UK, but today Rioja is apparently the most frequently searched term on the website of Britain’s leading online wine retailer Laithwaite’s, which sells more of it than Bordeaux.
Official efforts to add interest to Rioja include increased attention on white Rioja, which has gone from representing five to eight per cent of total production in the past five years. I have fond memories of the deep-golden, waxy, somehow molten white Riojas that were available in the 1970s. Since then, such wines have become difficult to find, although Finca Allende, founded only in 1986, specialises in them; a 2000 based on the local Viura grape enjoyed last month was still in great shape. As were Viña Tondonia Reserva 1999 and 1991, whites from arch-traditionalist López de Heredia even more recently. Marqués de Murrieta, another of Rioja’s historic producers, has been trying to recreate the white wine marvels it used to produce. Its Capellania is a lavishly oaked wine from old vines that begins to prove itself only after several years in bottle.
But apart from these exceptions, the current focus seems to be on much fresher, less distinctive white Riojas — as witness the Consejo’s decision in 2007 to allow grape varieties from outside the region. Last year’s welter of new regulations also included the possibility of white Riojas based on just one of the wide array of permitted grape varieties: the traditional Viura and Malvasia; the Spanish Garnacha Blanca (Grenache Blanc), Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Turruntés and Verdejo; and the decidedly foreign Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Something similar has been happening to pink Rioja. It used to be rather distinctively full — bodied, fairly deep-coloured, like the Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva 2000 tasted at the same time as its white stablemates cited above. But, seeing the success of Provençal rosé, the authorities have deliberately been encouraging a paler, lighter and ultimately less distinctive style.
As part of this revitalisation of Rioja’s image, there is even serious talk of making traditional-method sparkling wine, espumosos de calidad, to be released from 2019, after ageing for at least 15 months. I will spare you the 14 criteria that have to be met but I can assure you these sparkling wines will be a world away from the oaky reds that built Rioja’s reputation.
It’s exciting that the region is feeling so confident, and that it seems to have at least partly addressed some of the criticisms recently levelled at it. I just hope the best traditional houses — generally much bigger and older than the new-wave, geographically specific producers — will continue to provide us with fastidiously long oak-aged blends that are some of the longest-living wines in the world.
Apparently there is a certain amount of resistance to the new categories from the old guard, especially those whose philosophy is built not on geography (they have been buying in grapes for decades) but on a hierarchy of time in bottle. Their Reservas are at least three years old (which must now include at least six months in bottle) and Gran Reservas at least five but, in practice, often much longer.
Bravo to Rioja wine producers who, in contrast to their counterparts over the Pyrenees in Bordeaux, release their wines only when they are ready to drink. And welcome to the new generation set to teach us about the intricacies of Rioja’s geography.
Notable Rioja producers
• Bodegas Bilbaínas
• Bodegas Riojanas
• López de Heredia
• Marqués de Murrieta
• Marqués de Riscal
• La Rioja Alta
The (relative) newcomers
• Abel Mendoza
• Finca Allende
• Palacios Remondo
• Remirez de Ganuza
• Telmo Rodriguez
• Benjamin Romeo
• Señorio de San Vicente
• Sierra Cantabria
The new wave
• Olivier Rivière
• Basilio Izquierdo
• Paco Garcia
• Juan Carlos Sancha
Source: Financial Times.
This terrific list of wines represents the very best red and white wines that can be bought for less than £10 today. There are some real crackers, from a tingly and refreshing £6 white from Gascony to the new 2016 vintage of a seriously good syrah that is being shipped as I write.
I put the selection together by going through my notes for the thousands of wines I taste each year, choosing the very best, and trying them again in a huge taste-off. I also invited retailers and importers to send in bottles that I might have missed or overlooked. In all, I ended up with more than 300 bottles of wine in my flat from which to make the final choice.
This list represents the best wines available right now. Spring is a time when vintages of cheaper European whites tend to change over; some stores such as Aldi were unable to show me the fresh bottles that they will have later in the season, so look out for any goodies in my Summer Wines List, coming in June.
A quick word on price. I thought hard about whether to include bottles that only come in under the £10 mark if you are buying by the case or half case (in some instances this can be mixed, so you are spreading risk). I decided to put them in because I felt you would want to know how and where you could get the very best wine value for your £10.
Fruits of Spain, on-trend Australian and a serious syrah
1. 3C Cariñena 2016, Spain
A juicy red made from cariñena (carignan), in the village of Cariñena in the appellation of Cariñena in north-eastern Spain – hence the 3C name. Sumptuous as thick crimson velvet, yet also fresh. Think red cherries and fresh figs with cool stone.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £5.75)
2. Exquisite Malbec 2017, Uco Valley, Argentina
This is just so drinkable: a fresher incarnation of malbec than many (there’s no oak here), it tastes of stewed damsons and roasted plums and has a lovely, fragrant violetty lift. Made for Aldi by Bodegas Salentein.
(13%, Aldi, £5.99)
3. Domaine Gayda Syrah 2016, France
A serious syrah for the price, but it needs time to open up so please decant it to enjoy the scent of gunflint, violets, black pepper and black cherries.
(13.5%, Cambridge Wine Merchants, £9.99/£8.40 by the case, arriving March; or call and ask for bottles with a different label; Haynes, Hanson & Clark from April)
4. Clos Montalbanie 2014 Pécharmant, France
Pécharmant is a relatively unknown wine region in the Dordogne making red wines that taste like rustic claret (Bordeaux is 60 miles to the west). This one is light, fresh and satisfying – made from cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec.
(13%, Co-op, £7.99)
5. Aldonia Vendimia 2015 Rioja, Spain
Bodegas Aldonia is unusual in Rioja in that its focus is not tempranillo but garnacha. Here, a 60-40 garnacha-tempranillo blend makes for a very fresh and sleek wine, scented like crimson berries, with gentle oak. Recogniszably from Rioja, but in a light contemporary style.
(14.5%, Tanners, £8.95)
6. Viña Eguía Rioja Crianza 2015
Spain Twelve months in American oak barrels has imbued this rioja with some warm vanilla and spice notes, but it’s still remarkably fresh and crisp, redolent of red cherries and cooked strawberries.
(13.5%, Majestic; £6.99 in a mixed six; £8.99 single bottle)
7. Palladino Biferno Rosso Riserva 2012 Italy
A smooth, richly fruity, oak-aged red from the region of Molise, between Abruzzo and Puglia. The main grapes are montepulciano and aglianico. Think amarena cherries, baked blueberries and brambles, and a touch of balsamic.
(13%, Great Western Wine, £8.50; Booths, £8; The Wine Society, £7.95)
8. Pas des Roches Côtes du Rhône 2016 France
A very evocative wine from a superlative vintage that takes you straight to the south of France with its whiff of dried lavender, pumice and dried thyme. Grenache with syrah, carignan, mourvèdre and cinsault. Just lovely.
9. Château de Caraguilhes Organic 2014 Corbières, France
You catch a whiff of wild boar salami, dried herbs, dried figs and white pepper on this southern French blend of syrah (60 per cent), carignan and grenache noir. Great food wine, and fresher/lighter than you might expect (a portion undergoes carbonic maceration, like beaujolais).
(13%, Waitrose, £9.99)
10. finest* GSM 2015 McLaren Vale, Australia
A cosy cuddle of a red made by d’Arenberg among the gum trees and dry heat of Australia’s McLaren Vale. GSM stands for grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, and here the Rhône grapes have an inky, saturating depth of flavour you don’t find in France
(14.5%, Tesco, £8)
11. Taste the Difference Douro 2015, Portugal
From Quinta do Crasto, deep in port territory, and made using port varieties. Dark, intense and redolent of the hard rock in which the vines struggle. Has thump as well as structure. Sometimes on offer with £1 off, but it wins a place here even at full price.
(14%, Sainsbury’s, £9)
12. Ego Bodegas Talento 2015/16 Jumilla, Spain
The grape is monastrell, the region is Jumilla in south-eastern Spain, and the wine is immense: intense but classically structured, with a fragrant blueberry scent, lots of inky black fruit, and wood spice. The 2016 is preferred.
(14%, Lea & Sandeman, £9.50 in a mixed case/£10.50 single bottle)
13. Gumboot Fruit Shiraz 2016 Heathcote, Australia
Heathcote, Victoria, is currently one of Australia’s most talked-about wine regions. Shiraz grown in its ancient soils and cooler climate is less prizefighter punch; more generous, with earthy notes. This one also smells of petrichor and mulberries.
(14.5%, Morrisons, £6.75)
14. Corney & Barrow Rouge Vin de France 2016, France
This would be the perfect bistro house red: your nose starts twitching for bavette-frites at the first juicy, upbeat sip. Cabernet sauvignon brings gentle oomph and structure, while grenache and carignan carry a scent of the garrigue. Lovely.
(12.5%, C&B, £7.75)
15. Château de Lacarelle Beaujolais Villages 2016, France
Lacarelle has been in the hands of the same family since 1750 and is one of the oldest wine estates in Beaujolais. Cracking wine, too – light-bodied but sappy, vivid and energetic, reminiscent of the first signs of spring on a freezing day.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £7.75)
16. Château Tour des Gendres 2016 Bergerac Rouge, France
Geographically, Bergerac lies between Bordeaux and Cahors, and taste-wise you could say this wine from a family-run château does the same. Half merlot, half malbec, it has structure, but also inkiness and grunt. Brilliant stuff.
(13.5%, The Wine Society, £8.75)
17. Château de Pitray 2012 Côtes de Bordeaux–Castillon, France
Think of this blend of merlot with cabernet franc as a mini-Pomerol. Beautifully fragranced, and showing some development. A great buy.
(13%, The Wine Society, £8.95; Majestic has the also-good 2014 but it’s over a tenner)
18. Taste the Difference Languedoc Red 2016 France
A well-judged blend of grenache, syrah and carignan. Love the generosity and gentle scent of dried herbs. Think of it as a cut price Rhône. A particularly good vintage of an always-good value wine from the Paul Mas stable.
(13.5%, Sainsbury’s, £7)
19. Domaine la Condamine L’Eveque 2016 Côtes de Thongue, France
From the Côtes de Thongue, an IGP in the Languedoc around Faugères, Pézenas and Béziers, a bouncy, joyful, brambly and oak-free blend of mostly syrah, with some deep, dark mourvèdre.
(12.5%, The Wine Society, £6.75)
20. Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenère 2016, Chile
Ripe mulberries and raspberry jelly, ruffled up with the astringency of cranberries and black tea, with hints of coffee and oak spice for depth.
(13,5%, Co-op, £6.49 down from £8.49 until March 6; Ocado £6.79 down from £8.49 until March 20; Tesco Wine by the Case only $48/6 equivalent to £8 a bottle)
On this occasion recommends our wines Aldonia in her blog https://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/aldonia-2015-riojas
Deeply grateful for it. Enjoy them!
Aldonia 2015 riojas
From €5.86, $8.98, £8.95, 1,274 yen, 2,098 Icelandic krona, 94 Brazilian reals
Today, Friday the thirteenth, we offer yet another lucky, and extremely well-priced, Spanish recommendation. I see from my records that Spain is the country that has supplied more wines of the week than any other in recent months. This doubtless reflects how keenly priced so many Spanish wines are currently.
I’m particularly recommending three 2015 red riojas on offer from Aldonia, a bodega in Rioja Baja, the eastern, most Mediterranean sector of the Rioja region where more Garnacha than Tempranillo is grown.
Fourth generation wine grower brothers Mario and Iván Santos built a new bodega in Navarette to make wine for themselves rather than selling all their juicy grapes to other producers. Like Maquina y Tabla, producers of these recent wines of the week, they aim to make Vinos de Pueblo, thoroughly local expressions. Like so many rioja producers today, they don’t use the old terms Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva so as to leave themselves complete flexibility over how and how long each wine is aged. (With our Spanish specialist Ferran Centelles, Nick and I shared a bottle of La Rioja Alta’s 908 Gran Reserva 2005 last weekend and it seemed aggressively oaky – and that from a house as irreproachable as La Rioja Alta.)
I seem to have been banging on forever about the deliciousness of much Spanish Garnacha and querying Spaniards’ determination to regard it as almost a dirty little secret as opposed to the noble Tempranillo. See, for example, my introduction to this 2001 wine of the week. I’m thrilled therefore to see a re-evaluation of the (originally Spanish) southern Rhône grape all over the world, including Spain. See innumerable more recent articles such as Garnacha – now the height of fashion and G-Day and the Grenache Symposium for evidence of the groundswell of support for this accessible, super-fruity grape variety.
Aldonia’s three wines are all made from Grenache predominantly, their top wine from nothing but. Their 16 hectares of vineyards are high elevation, over 800 m (2,625 ft) in some cases and some are over 100 years old. Viticulture is organic.
This is a rather charming extract from their website: ‘Our grandfather was a wise man, taught us the elaborate “second bottle wine”, which means that after finishing a bottle, the wine is at a level of quality as well, to invite start another bottle.’ The English may not be perfect but the sentiment is clear, and well merited. And the ripeness of the early 2015 vintage in Rioja seems to have suited the Aldonia range particularly well.
Aldonia Vendimia 2015 Rioja is the least expensive of the three wines (£8.95 Tanners in the UK) and is absolutely delicious already. My tasting note:
‘60% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo. Transparent crimson. Fruit not oak soars out of the glass. Very juicy, sweet fruit that would not look out of place behind a relatively smart label in the southern Rhône. Firm tannic framework. This is a wine that is bursting with life. So non industrial. Bravo! VGV 16.5/20 Drink 2017–2020’
At 14.5%, this is not a wine for casual sipping, however many bottles you may be tempted to open. It would be such a superior house wine though for accompanying a wide range of emphatically flavoured and textured foods.
Aldonia 2015 Rioja (their nomenclature is a tad confusing) is the mid-range wine (£12.80 Tanners) and for drinking now I would definitely recommend the cheaper Vendimia as the best value. My tasting note:
‘82% Garnacha, 15% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano matured for 12 months in oak barrels. Paler than the Vendimia 2015 and the nose is subtler. Less bumptious and a bit more reticent at this stage but with an attractive stoniness on the finish. Good balance and a real future. 16.5/20 Drink 2018–2023’
This is all of 15% alcohol, doesn’t taste it but I would be pretty wary of any second bottle.
Aldonia 100 2015 Rioja (£16.50 Tanners) is the jewel in the crown. My tasting note:
‘100% 100-year-old Garnacha grown at 850 m in Rioja Baja, aged for 14 months in oak barrels. Light and sophisticated. Really lovely texture and lift. Soars off the palate with fine acidity but masses of fruit. A very gentle hand on the tiller in the winery. This should have a real future but is already a delight. GV 17/20 Drink 2017–2025’
This 15% wine is dangerously appetising and drinkable. Really lovely stuff.
The wines are available in Spain, of course, where they are virtually given away, as well as in the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil and – Iceland, where their inherent warmth should be particularly welcome, I would have thought.
While we do the Harvest, we continue to receive recognition. On this occasion, we have been awarded 91 Peñín Points in two of our wines, which makes us be chosen to be part of the Hall of the Best Wines of Spain.
Definitely one more reason to enjoy these wines.