Rioja Blanco Blend, Bodega Alegre Valganon
90% Viura/10% Garnacha Blanca
The 2019 Blanco is a blend of Viura and Garnacha Blanca that wants to be fresh but complex, elegant but structured. It's a blend of different vinifications, some with skin contact, some with malolactic, etc. in search of achieving more complexity and showing the limestone soils from a cool place even, in warmer vintages like this 2019. The bottled wine is 13.05% alcohol and has freshness with a pH of 3.3 and close to six grams of tartaric. It's very medicinal, textured and with some tannin, from early-picked grapes to keep the acidity. It's also balsamic, with notes of cloves, dry flowers, chamomile, quince and citrus, so it's certainly not your average young white from Rioja. It aged in oak for 11 months (500-liter barrels and 1,000-liter foudres). The palate has a lovely texture, round and lush with great freshness, and it's structured and long.
This wine is from from the town of Galbarruri, just at the base of the Obarenes mountains. All work is done by hand without herbacides or fertilizers. The intact bunches are pressed slowly, and the wines are aged in used French demi-muid for over a year. The debut release already shows a heady mix of precocious fruit coupled with a muscular mouthfeel and terrific length. Fennel and licorice aromas, some waxy apples and a white pepper twist. The palate is serious and austere, very tasty, polished and velvety.
Since 2014, the husband-wife team of Oscar Alegre and Eva Valgañón have embraced this even more ancient tradition. By working strictly with tiny lots, they are turning out head-spinning reds and whites that capture the best of their beloved land’s 1,000+ year history. And, their wines informed by this ancestral wisdom, are offering something unique in today’s Rioja landscape.
Many of Oscar and Eva’s family vineyards lie just to the west of Haro, in the shadow of the Obarenes Mountains. This area has long been revered by producers for the freshness and persistence they provided in blends. In fact, one old-timer claimed that the esteemed early Viña Reals were usually a blend of 75% Obarenes Tempranillo, with up to 25% Garnacha from Cárdenas. Having vineyards in both villages, Oscar and Eva’s are able to work with similar proportions for their signature tinto.
To get the most of their families’ vineyards, they worked to institute better farming, and by 2013 they were committed to sustainable agriculture. Oscar had seen how the inclusion of ripe stems during fermentation gave Rhône Valley wines greater purity and expressiveness. His research showed that earlier generations in Rioja had also used stems in their musts, and this too became part of their concept.
Because Oscar and Eva’s quest was to develop a wine that’s a product of their land, they chose to minimize the effect of wood. To this end, they started their project with a mix of used French barriques and demi-muids. Because French wood loses its flavoring ability much faster than does American oak, they’ve been able to minimize the flavor impact of the wood. And as the project develops, they hope to adopt longer aging and even bigger neutral barrels.