At first glance this rather modern producer might seem to have little in common with its illustrious Rioja companion, R. Lopez de Heredia, but in fact Maria José was pleased to hear we would be representing this property. Ijalba has set the standard for environmental awareness in the region, from its organic production to its extensive re-cycling and environmental certification for the winery. The vineyards were all planted in disused quarries, which perhaps explains the remarkable minerality they are endowed with, especially the bigger reds and, in particular, after some bottle age. The estate’s other distinction is the championing of the less-known varieties of Rioja such as the two Maturanas (look for the “Tinta” soon!) and Graciano.
(100% Graciano) Ijalba’s mission statement is to resurrect the traditional grapes of Rioja, and this wine from their 20 hectare Graciano vineyard (the largest in the world) has been the flagship since they premiered the varietal bottling in 1995. Growers moved away from Graciano because of its inconveniently low yields, but the high acidity and intoxicating perfume of the grape are a huge part of what makes Rioja blends distinctive. By itself it’s a fascinating wine, earthy, spicy and floral – wine by the glass for Rioja fans of all persuasions, which expands magically once open.
Ijalba’s mission statement is to resurrect the traditional grapes of Rioja, and this wine from their 20 hectare Graciano vineyard (the largest in the world) has been the flagship since they premiered the varietal bottling in 1995. Growers moved away from Graciano because of its inconveniently low yields, but the high acidity and intoxicating perfume of the grape are a huge part of what makes Rioja blends distinctive. 2011 brought to this wine an unexpectedly lush texture and seductive blackberry flavour. The 2012 is lighter in weight but utterly pure and seductive on the palate.
It is safe to say, despite some seemingly authoritative claims to the contrary, that this rare autochthonous Rioja variety is NOT the same grape as the Trousseau of the Jura or the Bastardo of the Douro, with which pale, some would say effete, varieties this strapping, brooding beast of a wine has nothing in common. To the best of our knowledge, this is the only mono-varietal version of this grape on the market. It miraculously combines improbably dark colour and biting peppery nose with a fruit expression that is unmistakably Riojan, suggesting that the terroir of this fabled land really does in the end conquer all. This is as singular and compelling a wine as Spain offers in its vein.
(100% Tempranillo) It is hard to imagine a wine more perfectly capturing Tempranillo’s potential for cherry fruitiness and old-fashioned Rioja crispness. A silly quotient of character and quality for the price.
(100% Tempranillo) Packing a little more heft and structure than the easy-going Livor, Solferino represents a selection of superior grapes that are well suited to an understated élevage in four- and five-year barriques. A subtly rendered Rioja that slyly bridges the divide between traditional and modern.
(100% Maturana Blanca) This is quite literally the only Maturana Blanca in the world, grown on two hectares owned by Ijalba. And yet it is the variety with the oldest known written citation in Rioja, dating from 1622. Faintly golden, opulently peachy on the nose, and then surprisingly stony and long on the palate, this is quite a character, that effortlessly withstands its classic burgundian treatment. As singular and obscure a wine as can be imagined!