Located in Oyón (Álava), Valdemar boasts a very long winemaking tradition —they celebrated their 125 anniversary in 2014. The company revamped its portfolio in the 1980s with the brand Conde Valdemar and a value-oriented philosophy that has been maintained ever since.
Valdemar produced Rioja’s first barrel-fermented white in the 1988 vintage, as well as the first Garnacha Reserva. The family also pioneered the work with lesser known grape varieties in the appellation. They started planting Graciano in the early 1990s and were among the first producers in Rioja to grow white Tempranillo and red Maturana.
The fifth generation, led by Ana and Jesús Martínez Bujanda, has led a small revolution in recent times establishing a new winery in Walla Walla, one of the most dynamic regions in Washington state in the US.
Back in Rioja, there was also a generational change in the winemaking team with the arrival of María José Aparicio now in charge of the viticulture team and Antonio Orte as new technical director.
It’s striking that a winery producing 180,000 cases per year sources all of its grapes from their own vineyards. Most of the vines are located in Rioja Alavesa, but the family own a 100-hectare property in the Ocón valley (Rioja Baja) where 77Ha are under vine. With its stony soils, Finca El Marquesado lies at an altitude between 528m and 641m. White grapes are sourced from the Alto Cantabria vineyard.
Valdemar carried out a detailed study of its 275Ha of vineyards which allowed them to identify their top plots and helped them to launch new wines and revamp their portfolio. As a result, Valdemar is now the flagship brand for all the wines made by the Martínez-Bujanda family. Inspiración, a single-vineyard range launched in 200, is no longer a separate brand.
Las Seis Alhajas Graciano and Balcón de Pilatos Maturana Tinta (both at around €19), the two single-vineyard reds formerly in the Inspiración range, are now part of the "Valdemar Selections" range. And Inspiración Edición Limitada (around €33), a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Maturana Tinta intended for cellaring, is now called Conde de Valdemar Edición Limitada.
All classical wines are under the Conde Valdemar brand. The range starts with three entry-level, young wines retailing around €5.5 in Spain: a blend of 70% Verdejo with Sauvignon Blanc, a red Tempranillo and two rosés —a pale-coloured blend of Garnacha and 30% Viura and a classic style 100% Garnacha. The Crianza (€9), Reserva (€13) and Gran Reserva (€20) are all Tempranillo-based wines blended with various quantities of Graciano, Mazuelo and occasionally Maturana depending on vintage variations. Of particular note is Finca Alto Cantabria (€9), the first barrel-fermented white wine in Rioja. A real bargain with a proven ability to develop beautifully with time, it is expected to be part of the new “viñedo singular” single-vineyard category.
The third range of wines comes from Finca El Marquesado, the family property in Rioja Baja. It includes an entry-level Crianza with the vineyard’s name (around €7) and made with 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha and 5% Graciano, and the outstanding Garnacha La Gargantilla (€35, 4,000 bottles). Grapes for the latter are sourced from the eponymous plot and the wine shows the variety’s distinctive expression when grown at a high elevation.
Valdemar also own Fincas Valdemacuco in Ribera del Duero where they make two Tempranillos — Roble (€11) and Crianza (€19).
The firm currently exports to over 55 different countries. All the wines can be bought at the winery’s online store. Winery tours and tastings are regularly held and can also be booked at their website.