Bodega Telmo Rodríguez winery | Spanish Wine Lover

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WINERIES

Co-owned by winemaker friends Pablo Eguzkiza and Telmo Rodríguez, the Cía. was founded in the mid-1990s. Their first releases offered good value for money and were made with local grapes in distinctive wine regions like Navarra (Garnacha), Rueda (Verdejo) or Alicante (Monastrell).

Their greatest achievement lies in recovering old, almost forgotten vineyards notably Moscatel from Malaga’s rugged Axarquía region, Garnacha from Cebreros, to the north of Madrid, a pioneer of today’s exciting Gredos wine movement, and lately Godello and Mencía from Valdeorras (Galicia) in the abrupt surroundings of Santa Cruz, a village bordering Ribera Sacra.

The company, which has made a living from good value labels like Rueda’s Basa, has always partnered with local vinegrowers in order to increase their knowledge of each area and their most traditional wines. The pair have worked hard to reflect distinctive vineyards planted in historical sites. Soil and landscape prevail over grape varieties –in an effort to blur the winemakers’ footprint, a mix of materials and vessels are used for fermentation and aging.

In Rioja fermentation is undertaken in concrete vats. Stainless steel tanks are mixed with oak barrels and concrete eggs in Rueda while clay vessels (tinajas) are used to ferment local Garnacha in Cebreros (Ávila).

Las Beatas vineyard in Labastida (Rioja) deserves particular attention. This small, less than 2Ha plot was recovered following the 19th century winegrowing tradition preceding the large wine estate model introduced in the late 1800s. Ancient wine growing technics have been used and grape varieties are intermixed just as they were in the old days. The wine is made in one of the oldest bodegas in the village of Ollauri which has remained virtually unchanged. Less than 1,500 bottles are produced and the wine costs around €130 in Spain.

“You have to be intellectually aware that some things are worth preserving”, says Pablo Eguzkiza, a maverick winemaker who is constantly questioning wine-related matters. He concludes, nonetheless, that the key issue in winemaking is timeliness —to pick grapes and to take the wine out of the barrel.

The company’s wine range is extremely vast. Entry-level wines are made in most areas. Alicante’s Al Muvedre Monastrell (around €5.5 in Spain, under 100,000 bottles) is the most affordable brand followed by Cigales’ Viña 105 (€7.5, around 25,000 bottles), a Tempranillo-Garnacha blend; Rueda’s Basa (€7, 600,000 bottles), a stainless-steel fermented Verdejo with some Viura in the blend; Ribera del Duero’s Gazur (€9, less than 20,000 bottles); Toro’s Dehesa Gago (€8, over 100,000 bottles) and the white and red versions of Valdeorras’ Gaba do Xil —Godello, (around €10, 80,000 bottles), and Mencía, (8 €, 40,000 bottles). In Rioja they produce the young red LZ (€7, over 80,000 bottles) and the 12 month barrel-aged Corriente (€9) which literally means “ordinary”.

The next step up tries to delve deeper into singular vineyards and soils from each region. Rueda’s El Transistor (€17 in Spain, around 8,000 bottles) comes from bush Verdejo vines. Toro’s Pago La Jara (€45, less than 4,000 bottles) reflects the character of Tinta de Toro grown in that vineyard on distinctive sandy soils. Ribera del Duero’s Matallana (€80, less than 5,000 bottles) focuses on soil diversity in the area with grapes sourced from vineyards planted in the villages of Sotillo, Roa, Fuentecen, Fuentemolinos, Pardilla and Fuentelisendo. Wines ferment in oak vats.

Cebreros (Gredos, Ávila) is Garnacha land. With most vineyards located in the Arrebatacapas hilltop, two red wines are made based on the nature of soils: Pegaso Pizarra (€28, slightly above 10,000 bottles) for slate and Pegaso Granito (€28, less than 5,000 bottles) for granite.

Their Valdeorras premium range is relatively new but really outstanding, particularly the red wines. Grapes are sourced from terraced vineyards in dizzy slopes where both the landscape and the traditional field blends have been painstakingly preserved. O Diviso (€50), sourced from a vineyard facing the spectacular As Ermitas shrine, and As Caborcas (€45) come from north-facing slopes and have a fresh profile, whereas Falcoeira A Capella (€50) shows amazing depth. Regarded as the area’s grand cru, this south-facing slope with a 150m drop was totally neglected. It took over a decade to pull out the wild vegetation, rebuild the terraces and plant from scratch. Branco de Santa Cruz (€20), a blend of Godello with some Treixadura, Doña Blanca and Palomino, also comes from white vines intermixed in these vineyards.

In Rioja, where the Cía.’s headquarters are located, all grapes are sourced from the Lanciego area except from Las Beatas. Lanciego’s top reds come from plateau areas locally called “replanos”. Lanzaga (€20, 45,000 bottles) is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha bush vines from a 12-hectare biodynamic vineyard owned by the Cía,. plus an extra 8Ha from local winegrowers. Altos de Lanzaga (€68, around 5,000 bottles) is a similar blend but grapes are sourced from their own biodynamic vineyard with 7Ha. Both wines ferment in concrete vats and age in oak barrels and foudres.

Málaga is the sole region where sweet wines are produced. The idea behind this project was to recover the naturally sweet Muscat wines (with sugar content and alcohol coming strictly from the grapes) made from sun-dried grapes in the rugged, mountainous Axarquía region. MR (€15, 20,000 bottles) is the entry-level sweet wine while Molino Real (€40, less than 10,000 bottles) is sourced from own vineyards grown in the Cómpeta area. There’s also a rare Old Mountain (around €130) aged for almost 8 months in barrel but only a few hundred bottles are made. A recent addition to the range is the dry Muscat Mountain (€13).

TASTING NOTES

Las Beatas 2012 Tinto
As Caborcas 2012 Tinto
Branco Santa Cruz 2012 Blanco
See all the wines

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