Presenting Ramon Bilbao Rosado 2019 Edition and SAL - Ramon Bilbao Rosé Liquid Salt

Followers of the Ramón Bilbao journey in Rioja and Rueda will know how much this producer likes to push viticultural and vinification boundaries.  From lees-aged Verdejo in Rueda, and a Garnacha-Tempranillo blend made from high altitude grapes in Rioja, to its annual Rosado Release, there is nothing that Chief Winemaker Rodolfo Bastida and his team likes more than embarking on new projects with an innate spirit of adventure and exploration.

The next step in this tale is one that may surprise you though…  We would like to present to you Ramón Bilbao SAL: a liquid salt with the aromas and colours of Ramón Bilbao Rosado.

First, the wine…

Ramón Bilbao Rosado 2019                      RRP £8.85, Great Western Wine

Eight years ago, Rodolfo was inspired to create this wine by the pale pink Rioja rosados which had been a staple of the restaurants around his hometown of Haro for decades.  Rodolfo, who took the winemaking helm 21 years ago, definitely believes he’s learned some winemaking lessons along the way, too.

“Rosés should speak about where they come from just as much as reds and whites, and this means you must take viticulture, vinification, variety and vintage variation just as seriously,” he explains. “Plot-by-plot picking, careful oxygen and temperature control during fermentation and just the right amount of pressing will give us a wine with the freshness, purity, aromatics and complexity that we look for in all our wines.”

2019 was a hot, dry vintage.  Average rainfall was low, and the year began with a ‘veroño’ (Indian Summer).  The first night frosts started in January and lasted through to April in the Alto Najerilla where the vines had already begun to shoot.  This reduced the yield.  Rain was scarce and spread throughout the year, with heavy downfalls in spring that affected flowering.  The stand-out of the year, though, was the continental character during ripening and harvesting giving aromatic complexity, thickening the skins and perfecting the phenolic maturation of the grapes.

The 85% Garnacha and 15% Viura grapes for this wine were picked plot-by-plot according to ripeness levels in September and October.  After harvesting, the fruit was vinified using the saignée method and underwent four to six hours’ maceration to give colour and intensity to the final wine.  Only the first-run juice - around 40% of the yield - was used and contact times were shorter because the small size of the berries meant colour extraction was faster.  Fermentation was in stainless steel tanks at 14oC.

Next… the liquid salt…


Ramón Bilbao SAL                           will be available from ramonbilbao.com soon…

Rosana Lisa Oliva has worked with Rodolfo for the last nine years and heads up the team’s innovation department.  For the last few years, she has been playing with applying the aroma produced during fermentation to different products, and last year started working with salt.  And not just any salt, but liquid salt.

SAL is a product with powerful rosé wine aromas - flowers, citrus, sweet notes - on the nose, combined with the natural salinity of the salt itself.  The aromas for this release came from the 2019 vintage, and Rosana worked with a food technology research centre in Spain to produce it.

“Innovation isn’t just restricted to wine, and Rodolfo has given me free reign to see just how far we can push what we do in the winery,” comments Rosana.  “A few years ago we ‘trapped’ our rosé aromas in some candies, but I always had salt in the back of my head and wanted to see how the floral, sweet notes from the wine would match the salt’s salinity.”

During the fermentation process, when the sugars are turned into alcohol, CO2 is released and this carries with it echoes of the aromas that are found in the final wine.  “We collected these volatile compounds and then turned them back into liquid without losing any,” explains Rosana.  “Our Rosado winemaking has a lift and lightness of touch that gives us the light pink aromas we find match perfectly with the hand-dug salt we sourced for the final liquid salt itself.  It also has the peach-pink colour of our Rosado wine from the anthocyanins present in the skins of the black grapes, and the aromas are totally faithful to our wine’s profile, reappearing on the palate with even more floral nuances.”

Ramón Bilbao worked with a salt mine at 700 metres altitude in the Urbasa foothills of the Andia mountains in Navarra where the crystals are from sea fossilized over 220 million years ago.  The water added at the final stage comes from a natural spring with a high saline concentration of over 240g/l.

How To Use Your Liquid Salt…

Ramón Bilbao worked with www.salancestral.com for the liquid salt, and they say:

“It’s perfect for salads or whenever you need a touch of salt that is uniformly and evenly distributed. What’s more, it’s highly recommended for a salty note in dressings and vinaigrettes due to its liquid state, making it easy to blend together with other ingredients.”


Editor’s Note

Established in Haro in the heart of Rioja Alta in 1924, Ramón Bilbao today sources grapes from 180-hectares of owned vineyards, with access to a further 900-hectares via long-term grower contracts.  The appointment of Rodolfo Bastida as Head Winemaker in 1999 marked a new era in the company’s history: Rioja born-and-bred, Bastida believes that the grapes he selects should be allowed to speak for themselves in his wines, and not be hidden by over-ageing and over-oaking.  The purchase of a ‘dream parcel’ of vines high in the Yerga mountains gave Bastida and Ramón Bilbao its first vineyard in Rioja Baja, and the first release in 2016 was the Lalomba Rosado.

Ramón Bilbao is currently the best-selling brand (with appellation) in the Spanish On-Trade, and is one of the fastest growing Rioja brands in the Off-Trade (+29%) in its competitive set [Nielsen data].  The producer has been owned by Zamora Company, one of the largest family beverage companies in Spain, since 1999 and is distributed by Enotria&Coe in the UK.

Ramon Bilbao was just been announced as the fastest climber in Drinks International’s Most Admired Wine Brands 2020 - now at 17th place.