17.10.19

A Vinous Adventure in Three Rs: Rioja, Rueda and Ramón Bilbao

“Whether we make our wines in Rioja or Rueda, we will always look to push boundaries and go beyond the ‘accepted’ way of doing things.”

Rodolfo Bastida, Ramón Bilbao Head Winemaker

 

Since joining Ramón Bilbao in 1999, Rioja born-and-bred Rodolfo Bastida has made it his mission to dig deep into the diversity of terroir, altitude and grapes his homeland offers.  Recently, this spirit of exploration has travelled to Rueda for the Ramón Bilbao white wines…

Here are two wines - a Rueda white and a Rioja red - which perfectly exemplify the adventurous attitude that Bodegas Ramón Bilbao has to winemaking.

Ramón Bilbao Edición Limitada Lías Verdejo 2017
RRP £15.00, Great Western Wine; £15.95, Noel Young Wines; £17.00, The Wine Store (Cornwall); £13.55, Exel Wines

Ramón Bilbao took its viticultural explorations to Rueda just over a decade ago in search of white wines with all the elegance and freshness that has become the hallmark of its reds.  Since then, they have made it their priority to investigate everything that Rueda can offer, culminating in the purchase of 60-hectares of vineyards at La Finca Las Amedias and the building of a new winery there.

Sara Bañuelos heads up the winemaking team and the Ramón Bilbao Edición Limitada Lías Verdejo 2017 is the result of her experiments with different vinification methods - from lees-stirring to cold fermentation and ageing in every size from 225-litre barriques to 4,100-litre concrete tanks. 

This wine is produced from 19-year-old vines, the oldest on Finca las Amedias estate.  After hand-picking and selecting clusters at the winery sorting table, pre-fermentation maceration of the fruit took place at 6oC for eight to 10 hours in an inert atmosphere.  Alcoholic fermentation was at 16oC in concrete, tulip-shaped vats and the wine was racked off into French and Hungarian oak casks with its own lees which are stirred by bâtonage once a week over eight months. 

 

Ramón Bilbao Viñedos de Altura 2016
RRP £15.50, Great Western Wine; £14.75, Harrisons Fine Wines; £16.50, The Bottle List; £14.10, Exel Wines

Rodolfo’s amor for altitude for grapes with freshness and elegance is central to this red, but with a Ramón Bilbao twist…  It is a wine which blends Rioja’s main red grape varieties - 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha - from vineyards at a mutual 700m above sea level, but at opposite ends of the region.

“For the Tempranillo, I turn to Ábalos on the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria in Rioja Alta, while the Garnacha is grown in Tudelilla in Rioja Oriental where you can find some of the oldest vines in the region,” explains Rodolfo.  “On paper, two very different landscapes in very different lands but with a shared altitude - meaning harvesting is often at the same time and, most importantly, that the grapes have the red fruit, elegance and freshness that I’m looking for.”

Planted in 1930, the Ábalos vineyard in Rioja Alta is planted on sandy, decomposed sandstone soils on the south side of the Sierra Cantabria where the mild Atlantic climate limits areas suitable for vine growing.  Tudelilla was planted in 1969, and the vines have taken root in typical Mediterranean mountain clearings where the north-facing aspect brings dry winters and spring rains, tempered by the stony soil soaking up the heat of the day.

Despite the distance between the two vineyards, their similar altitude means that harvest times coincide.  After picking, the two grape varieties are vinified separately - the Tempranillo at 28oC and the Garnacha at a slightly cooler 26oC to keep the fruit’s floral character - for 10 days.  This is followed by 7 to 10 days maceration after fermentation, and then spontaneous malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels.  The wines continue to age in barrel - the Tempranillo in 225l Bordeaux barriques and the Garnacha in 500l barrels - for 15 months with the continuous lees contact.

 

further information - alison@ew-pr.co.uk