Alegre Valgañón Rioja Tinto 2019
75% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha. it’s often forgotten that what we know as “Traditional Rioja” is less than 150 years old, having been created in the wake of Phylloxera in the late 1800s. Before that, an earlier tradition flourished that featured viticulture and winemaking on a far smaller scale, allowing vine-by-vine attention to fruit quality, and the inclusion of stems during fermentation and shorter time in larger barrels. 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 wines 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. The basis of any great wine estate is, of course, its vineyards. And 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 and to get the most of their families’ vineyards, they worked to institute better farming, and by 2013 they were committed to sustainable agriculture. They also minimize wood but foregoing American oak and putting their wines in used French barriques and demi-muids. All of this creates a Rioja unlike any other. Their Rioja Tinto is one of only two wines they make (the other being a Blanco), is a crunchy and fruit-driven wine that seriously over-delivers for its price. Cinnamon, nutmeg, orange rind, and ripe berries all play on your tongue from start to finish. In our view, Alegre Valgañón is one of the most exciting projects in Spain today.