Savignon Frères e Cíe, set up by French négociants in 1859 in the Cantarranas site, was the seed of Bodegas Bilbaínas. In 1901 a group of businessmen from Bilbao took over the firm and began a new life within the select group of traditional wineries in Barrio de la Estación in Haro. Original for being one of the first cava producers in Rioja, the wines were loyal to its classical roots up to the end of the 20th century, with leading brands such as Viña Pomal and Viña Zaco.
Bilbaínas was one of the last producers to adapt to modern times. Listed in the stock exchange, its neighbour Cvne failed in its takeover attempt in the early 1990s; a few years later, in 1997, it was purchased by Codorníu. Modernisation had started a little earlier with the launch of La Vicalanda, but renewal was still in its early stages. The Catalan giant renewed facades and historical buildings, built new production and aging facilities and maintained the traditional feel of the old cellars, which attract a large number of visitors.
In recent years, Bodegas Bilbaínas has sought to renovate their classic image by associating it to a hipster concept —a move that has set a whole new trend in motion in Rioja. Their latest release associated to his new approach is Compromiso, a wine that is aged in barrels designed by tattoo artists. There is also a stronger focus on their 250Ha of vines (Bilbaínas is Haro’s leading vineyard owner) with many premium wines now being sourced from specific plots.
Viña Zaco is now their modern brand. A single-varietal Tempranillo with no indicative of age, it delivers a fresh, fruit-driven, powerful style that is accompanied by a marketing campaign aimed at a young audience. The latest addition to their portfolio is Viña Zaco Albariño from Rías Baixas.
Viña Pomal is the winery's flagship brand. It is now closely linked to the vineyard and aims to embody 21st century classicism. The range includes the standard Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva and the commemorative Viña Pomal Centenario, with two Crianza and Reserva bottlings. Prices in Spain range from €7 for the two Crianza to around €13 the Reserva Centenario and €26 the Gran Reserva. A white blend of Viura and Malvasía (around €7) with a short elevage in barrel is also produced under the Viña Pomal brand together with a similarly priced rosé made from Garnacha and Viura and an original blanc de noirs cava (around €17) with 100% Garnacha which is expected to join the new sparkling wine category recently approved in Rioja.
Bilbainas’ best Tempranillo vineyards are reserved for La Vicalanda, its premium range. Initially designed to become a “high expression” Rioja, both the Reserva (€20) and Gran Reserva (€45) settled comfortably as a traditional Rioja despite being aged in French oak.
The house’s top red wine is a 100% Tempranillo which was first released with the 2007 vintage. Grapes for Viña Pomal Alto de la Caseta (€65, just over 2,000 bottles) come from a high elevation plot in Viña Pomal crowned by a hut (caseta, in Spanish) where farm tools used to be stored in the old days.
The Vinos Singulares (singular wines) collection deserves special attention as it features some of Rioja’s lesser known varieties like Maturana Blanca and Tempranillo Blanco. Two interesting single-varietal reds are also produced with Graciano and Garnacha. Vinos Singulares are produced in limited amounts and their prices in Spain range from €30 to €50.
The wines can be bought at the group's online store.