WINE LOVERS byJON WILLIAM

Prodenero “Single Vineyard”

Single Vineyard

Weeks after recording this commentary, Luís Cañas passed away at the age of 91.

Therefore, today we want this article to serve as a tribute to one of the great “gentlemen of wine”; a simple man, a hard worker and a fine person, as many would describe him.

Born in 1928, he established one of the most recognised wineries in the area: Luis Cañas. He was a perfectionist, exceptionally hardworking and whose motivation was always the pride of achieving the best quality in his vineyards.

Consequently, his bulk wines conquered the palates of the great wine merchants who at that time were based in the Bilbao Alhóndiga market.

In 1970 he founded the Luís Cañas Winery in Rioja, a benchmark in quality and good practice.

To learn more about his winery and vineyards, we have two exceptional hosts: Mariannick Garel, Director of Communication, PR and Wine Tourism, and Pedro Pablo Amurrio, one of the winemakers of the winery.

They infected us with their enthusiasm and passion for this world and helped us to better understand the importance of the vineyard in the final result.

The importance of the vineyard

At the Luís Cañas Winery they base their work on the conviction that “only with the best grapes can you make the best wines”; hence their obsession with the vineyard.

In the heart of Rioja Alavesa are the vineyards of Luís Cañas, sheltered by the Cantabrian Mountains. This is undoubtedly one of the finest wine-growing areas in the world. The vineyards, most of them small and old, are characterised by being situated on land with calcareous clay soil of low fertility, and are located mainly on slopes and terraces, with an ideal microclimate and orientation that makes them unique.

As a result of these conditions, yields are low and the clusters and berries are small, but the wine is of excellent quality. Almost 1000 plots are needed to complete the approximately 450 hectares of state-owned and winery-controlled vineyards.

Respect for the environment and the efforts of everyone involved in the process is key to transforming the benefits of rational viticulture into success. Rational viticulture is an agricultural system that optimises natural resources and mechanisms to the maximum, thus ensuring the future of viable agriculture. The biological, chemical and technical methods and techniques are carefully selected and balanced, taking environmental protection into account. The use of herbicides, synthetic fertilisers and aggressive products or practices is strictly prohibited in order to preserve the surrounding area and for the vines to have a strong immune system so that they can defend themselves naturally.

To carry out all this work, the Luís Cañas Winery has a dedicated field department formed of three agricultural technical engineers and winemakers and eight workers who are true artisans of the vineyard.

The aim is to have a healthy soil that results in healthier fruit and excellent wines.

single vineyard

Prodenero “single vineyard” and the new D.O.C. Rioja classification

Pedro Pablo Amurrio, winemaker at the Luís Cañas Winery, accompanies us on our visit to the most impressive vineyards I’ve ever seen: the Prodenero single vineyard.

We recommend taking a look at the video accompanying this article so that you can really appreciate all the nuances of this vineyard. The video also explains the new wine classification brought in by the Regulatory Board of D.O.Ca.Rioja.

But before we talk about the new classification I’d like to give you a brief summary of what we learned in this unique vineyard.

The vineyard is made up of small plots distributed over a very irregular terrain: slopes, plains, rocky areas and different orientations.

The producer planted different grape varieties according to the characteristics of each area, which is why we can see Viura in the more shaded areas and Tempranillo in the sunnier spots. We can even see Garnacha and Mazuelo alongside each other in rocky areas.

Thus, the first producers obtained a wine that inherited the character of the vineyard. They mixed grape varieties and used the white grape to lighten the stronger and more tannic wines.

Many of the vines here are up to 80 years old, which means a loweryield but a superior quality wine. To give you an idea, only 600 litres of wine are obtained from this vineyard… but just imagine the quality!

Next year, the first special wine harvested from this land will be released and will be able to carry the words ‘Single Vineyard’ on its label.

Right, let’s talk now about this new Rioja wine classification.

Remember we spoke about generic wines, crianza, reserva and gran reserva in the previous article? Well, now we have three new divisions: single vineyard, municipality wines and zone wines.

vineyards

Single Vineyard

This is the highest-quality category of Rioja, with vineyards of at least 35 years old and a maximum yield of 5,000 kg per hectare for red grapes and 6,922 for white (77% of the normal 100% yield) and 65% grape-to-wine yield (normally 70%). Ownership of the vineyard or a stable lease contract for at least 10 years, hand-harvesting and separate vinification and ageing processes are required.

The bottles will have specific numbering and sealing and the wines will be subject to a double qualification, initial and before entering the market, with an 'excellent' rating in tastings.

At least three years’ traceability is required, which means that the first wines will not be available until the 2019 harvest at the earliest.

Municipality/Village wine

The 142 municipalities in Rioja are likely to bear the indication as it has been operational since the 2017 harvest.

At least 85% of the grapes must come from the village referred to or from neighbouring municipalities. There is no limitation on yield (the same as for the DOCa as a whole). The winery must be located in the village.

Zone wine

The sub-zones are now referred to as zones. These are the well-known Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja) and Rioja Alavesa areas. At least 85% of the grapes must come from the region referred to and the rest from neighbouring municipalities. There is no limitation on yield and the winery must be located in the area.

What requirements does a single vineyard have to meet?

Singlevineyards are made up of various cadastral plots with their own uniform agro-geological and climatic characteristics that set them apart from other plots in the surrounding area, resulting inwines with unique features and qualities.

The vineyard must be at least 35 years old.

The maximum permitted yield per hectare is 5,000 kg/ha for red grapes and 6,922 kg/ha for white varieties, while the grape-to-wine yield must not exceed 65%.

Cultivation practices must be oriented towards sustainability and respect for the environment. It must be a well-balanced vineyard with limited vigour, with only one pruning, unless expressly authorised by the Regulatory Board. During the grape ripening period, canopy growth should cease completely.

Harvesting, the start of which must be communicated to the Board, must be done by hand. The techniques used in the transportation and handling of the grapes, the pressing, the control of fermentation, the winemaking practices during the vinification and ageing processes, if applicable, should result in wines of the highest quality.

The wine will be made exclusively with grapes from the plot/s that make up the “Single Vineyard”.

The wine must be made and bottled by individuals or legal entities with winemaking and bottling facilities registered under their name in the Rioja' Qualified Designation of Origin, who can prove, by means of a valid legal title, that they have exclusive rights to the production from the “Single Vineyard” for a minimum period of 10 consecutive years.

Vinification, ageing, bottling and storage within the same winery

They must fulfil the different requirements established by both documentary control and physical control (prior communication by the winery to the Regulatory Board, separate qualification and subsequent verification, traceability, specific capacity, control of all wine movements, etc.).

The wines produced will be subject to a double qualitative assessment, the initial qualification and another evaluation before sale, which, in the latter case, must be rated ‘excellent’ in the organoleptic analysis carried out according to the Instructions for Technical Verification of a ‘Single Winery’.

As regards labelling, the words “Single Winery” will appear below the name registered as a trademark. The text can be the same size (but no larger) with the same thickness and colour as the text used for the name of the Rioja Designation.

The term “Single Winery” is mandatory on all labels carried by the bottle, or in all visual fields if it is a continuous label. It will appear directly underneath the name of the “Single Winery” registered as a trademark, with text that can be the same size (but no larger), with the same thickness and colour as the text used for the name of the Rioja Designation.

The owner of the trademark must submit a statement of intention regarding the exclusive use of the trademark for wines with Qualified Designation of Origin.

Custom bottling will not be permitted in the case of wines from single vineyards.

The bottles will carry specific back labels or seals that will include the words “Single Winery”.

types of grapes

The colour and types of vineyards

In the previous article, we spoke about the different grape varieties in Rioja.

What I’d like to point out now is that in a single vineyard we can find a mix of these varieties and that this gives the wine a very special character.

There are two types of vineyard plantation: goblet and trellised.

Single vineyards are always goblet-style, since the vines are much older and the grapes need to be harvested by hand. The trellising technique is more recent and is used mainly to increase production and mechanise the harvesting process.

Call me a romantic, but I have a particular weakness for goblet vines.

And speaking of romantic, have you ever seen anything as spectacular as a vineyard landscape in autumn?

Take a look at the videos to discover the secret as to why we can see green, yellow, orange and red tones in the same landscape. And in a single vineyard, all mixed together.

Before the onset of autumn, chlorophyll production starts to decrease. This makes the green of the leaves begin to fade, to give way to other colours hidden in the leaf. This is why the orange and yellow hues start to emerge.

The arrangement of these tones depends, to a large extent, on the type of vine; i.e. the colour of the leaves may vary depending on the grape variety.

Do you know that the leaves of the red grape vines will change from green tones to a range of reds and garnets, while the leaves of white grape varieties will become yellow or pale orange?

Now it will be easier for you to identify the different grape varieties.

Another reason for these orange and red tones is the sugar trapped in the leaves. As the plant detects the drop in sunlight and temperature, the veins in the leaves begin to contract. Thus, thanks to the heat of the day and the cold of the night, the sugars in the leaves start to react, resulting in those colours so typical of the leaves of the vine in autumn.

So visit Rioja, or any other wine-growing region, in autumn and admire the fabulous range of colours… and, of course, the wines.

And now, enjoy the art of Good living!!!

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