Roberto Oliván is one of the most exciting names among the new generation of young producers in Rioja. He works just under 10 hectares of family vines and others he is gradually acquiring in the vicinity of Viñaspre, a hamlet in the district of Lanciego —a vineyard area on the foothills at the eastern end of the Sierra Cantabria mountains— where he lives and is deeply attached to. High altitude (around 620 metres) and replanos, a term used to describe tableland areas with distinctive calcareous marl and sandstone soils, are characteristic in this area and provide a unique character to his range of wines.
His most popular wine is Tentenublo, the name given to the ringing of bells aimed at fighting off hailstorms in some Rioja villages. Under this brand, he produces a fresh, lively and persistent red (around 10,000 bottles, €14-15 in Spain) as well as 1,300 bottles of a Viura and Malvasía barrel-fermented white (€14-15). White grapes are usually mixed-in or planted on the higher parts of his old vineyards.
Another village-style wine in his portfolio is a fruit-driven red called Xérico (6,300 bottles, €15). It pays homage to his grandfather whose photograph appears on the label. This wine comes from limestone soils and includes some Viura grapes in the blend.
The Escondite del Ardacho range, which retails above €30, is named after a native lizard species that appears dressed as a human on the label. He has launched four wines so far, all of them from identified old plots with tiny productions which sometimes do not exceed 1,000 bottles.
The range includes two Garnacha wines that do not undergo malolactic fermentation: the extremely juicy El Abundillano (a plot of less than one hectare which carries 9% Tempranillo and some Malvasía; 1,300 bottles) and the long and elegant Las Paredes (a 0.37 ha. parcel also with some Tempranillo). Las Guillermas comes from two adjacent plots, one of them planted with Tempranillo, the other with Viura (up to 40% of the final blend). The resulting red wine is extremely original with remarkable acidity and great cellaring potential.
The latest Ardacho to reach the shelves is Veriquete (1,967 bottles), which is sourced from a 0,41ha sandy plot in Viñaspre with vines aged between 50 and 110 years old. It is a blend of Tempranillo (80%), Garnacha (10%) and white varieties (10%) with destemmed grapes and aged in 500-litre barrels for nine months. The first vintage of this wine (2015) is fresh, subtle and with captivating minerality.
Roberto wants to focus on his Rioja project and that is the reason why he stopped making his zesty Údico Txakoli in Álava, which he fermented in chestnut barrels. Having some extra time has allowed him to spend more time in the small plots -he owns 26 in total- that he has been gradually purchasing in Viñaspre. He is using these grapes to make a new small production range called Los Corrillos, on a similar price range to the Ardachos.
For the time being it includes the white Los Corrillos (1,000 bottles, €35) with a blend of white varieties (Jaen Blanco, Malvasía and Viura) macerated with the skins and a Los Corrillos red (300 bottles, €35) sourced from Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano grapes grown on several plots fermented with their stems and aged in oak barrels for eight months. In the near future, a third wine -a blend of Viura and Tempranillo called Los Corrillos Rock Abo (less than 500 bottles)- is set to be released.