La Rioja Alta Winery Guide
There probably isn’t a Rioja lover alive today who hasn’t heard of La Rioja Alta, the region’s most “fiercely traditional and proud of it” winery in Haro’s historic Barrio de la Estacion (station quarter). Among other things, it is responsible for the universally recognized and much-loved Viña Ardanza brand, a wine that remains astonishingly good value and remarkably consistent, despite the vintage variations.
La Rioja Alta has been in the business for over 125 years, founded in 1890 by five canny investors who agreed to pool resources and provide vineyards, land, and capital for the fledgling project; in the wake of the phylloxera epidemic that had devastated French vineyards, these pioneers saw a lucrative opportunity to supply wine to the eager palates of Paris and beyond. Hiring French oenologist Albert Vigier was their first good move, and they purchased oak barrels from Bordeaux.
After just a decade, the estate earned a formidable reputation for the quality of its wines. It was boosted when one of the founding fathers, Daniel Alfredo Ardanza y Sánchez, merged his own Ardanza winery with La Rioja Alta in 1904. Today, this pioneering and brave move is commemorated with the flagship Gran Reserva 904 brand, a wine not released until some ten years after the harvest. However, its twin, Gran Reserva 890, is undoubtedly one of the region’s most outstanding wines – complex, velvety, rich, and long-lived.
Indeed, this practice of releasing wines when they are ready to drink, incorporating long aging regimes in barrels and the bottle, is a rarity today, earning La Rioja Alta the perhaps deserved title of “staunch traditionalist.” Yet this iconic winery is no stick-in-the-mud either. On the contrary, since the 1970s, they have refined and modernized their approach without sacrificing the founding members’ original vision.
For a start, La Rioja Alta switched its reliance from bought-in grapes to estate vineyards, expanded its presence to other regions, and moved to new premises in Labastida in 1996. Moreover, the current range of wines varies enormously; some are decidedly modern in style. The fruit-driven, concentrated, and deeply colored Viña Alberdi is a testament to that.
But despite these concessions to modernity, La Rioja Alta remains a family-run enterprise, still run by the descendants of the founding families. The current chairman, Guillermo de Aranzabal, is the fifth generation of his family to work in the business, and his children will undoubtedly take their place in the future. This family spirit and devotion to excellence ensure that La Rioja Alta has no equal. Even today, the family welcomes visitors to this historic bodega.
Gran Reserva 90490% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 4 years in three-year-old American oak casks. It is then subject to a further 4 years bottle age before release. One of the region's greatest wines, 904 is approachable on release but will benefit from cellaring.
Gran Reserva 89095% Tempranillo, the remaining 5% Graciano and Mazuelo. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 6 years in four-year-old American oak casks. It is then subject to a further 6 years bottle age before release. The prestige wine of the property.
Viña Ardanza80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha. After fermentation, the Tempranillo is aged for 3 years in American oak casks, the Garnacha for 30 months. It is then subject to a further 2 years in bottle before release. The flagship wine of La Rioja Alta and one of Rioja's most popular and renowned wines.
Viña Arana95% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo. After fermentation, the wine is aged in three-year-old American oak casks for 3 years. It is then subject to a further 2 more years in bottle before release.
Viña Alberdi100% Tempranillo. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 2 years in American oak casks – the first year in new oak – and aged in bottle for a further year before release. A concentrated, modern style Rioja perfect for red meats and BBQs.
Facts & Figures
Area under Vine
450 Hectares (owned)
Age of vines
30 years+ Low yields
Oak barrel origin
La Rioja Alta SA
1.400.000 bottles per annum, depending on the vintage
Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo
Grape Varieties Used by the Winery
Garnacha: Spain's Red Gem. Akin to Pinot Noir, it bridges terroir and winemaking, crafting captivating expressions.Find out more
Is a red grape variety that is primarily grown in Spain's Rioja region. Known for its thick skins, small berries, and low yields, this grape produces wines that are deeply colored, highly tannic, and full-bodied, with a range of aromas from dark fruit to spices and leather
Carignan is a red grape variety that grows mostly in Southern France, and is often used as a blending grapeFind out more
Discover Tempranillo: Spain's iconic red grape. From Ribera del Duero to Toro, it yields concentrated wines. Explore its synonyms and unleash its prowess.Find out more
Explore the beautiful Rioja Alta wine region in northern Spain. Discover the best wineries, restaurants, and attractions in our comprehensive guide. Plan your trip today! Read more
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