Rioja Castillo Viento
Region: Rioja, Spain
Rioja is known primarily for its reds although it also makes white wines from the Viura and Malvasia grapes and rosés mainly from Garnacha. Most wineries (bodegas) have their own distinct red wine formula, but are normally a combination of Tempranillo, Garnacha and sometimes Graciano. Other red varieties recently approved into the DOC regulations are the little known Maturana Tinta, Maturana Parda, and Monastel. The most important of these by far is the king of native Spanish varieties, Tempranillo, which imbues the wines with complex and concentrated fruit flavours.
The Garnacha, meanwhile, bestows the wines with warm, ripe fruit and adds an alcohol punch. Graciano is an ameliorateur grape (one that is added, often in small proportions, to add a little something to the final blend) and is found mainly in Reserva and Gran Reserva wines, albeit in small quantities (2%-5%), adding freshness, aroma and enhancing the wines’ ageing potential.
Crianza wines are aged for 1 year in oak followed by maturation for 1 year in bottle before being released for sale. Reservas must spend a minimum of 3 years ageing before release, at least one of which should be in oak casks. Finally, Gran Reservas, which are only produced in the finest vintages, must spend at least 5 years maturing, of which at least two must be in oak.
Geographically, Rioja is divided in to three districts: Alavesa, Alta and Baja. Rioja Alavesa lies in the northwest of the La Rioja region in the Basque province of Alava. Along with Rioja Alta, it is the heartland of the Tempranillo grape. Rioja Alta, to the north-west and south of the Ebro River in the province of La Rioja, stretches as far as the city of Logroño. Elegance and poise is the hallmark of wines made here with Rioja Alta Tempranillo. Mazuelo (Carignan) is occasionally added to wines from this area to add tannins and colour. Rioja Baja is located to the south-east, is the hottest of the three districts and specialises in Garnacha.
Rioja has witnessed a broad stylistic evolution over the years. The classic Riojas pioneered by Murrieta and Riscal in the 19th century were distinguished by long oak barrel ageing whereas the modern style, represented by Marques de Caceres since 1970, showcases the fruit and freshness of Tempranillo, keeping oak ageing to the legal minimum. The post-modern school that emerged in the late 1990s from producers like Palacios Remondo and Finca Allende concentrate on making wines from old vines or specific vineyard plots to accentuate the terroir, and using larger proportions of minority varietals such as Graciano.
Tradition and innovation
The Castillo Viento range is produced by Bodegas Criadores de Rioja, a Bodegas which typifies twenty-first century Rioja in its careful balancing of tradition and innovation. The winery was established in 2000 with a view to modernise the production of Rioja wines whilst working with the scores of small, local growers to make wines that reflect the quality and history of Rioja.
Under the careful eye of young winemaker Paloma Redondo, the all-singing, all-dancing winery is a palace of stainless steel – with oak barrels being used sparingly – but the wines themselves are true to the region, and eschew the vogue for an ‘international style’.