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.