What's New in November
Developing a cru system in Rioja
Rioja is situated along the Ebro River Valley, at the intersection of two mountain ranges, and is home to the noble Tempranillo grape variety. To the south, on the Ebro's right bank, we find rolling hillside vineyards of the Sierra de la Demanda range. The continental climate, ferrous clay soils, and mostly northern exposure make for high acid, high-toned wines. Along the northern left bank, the Sierra de Cantabria range provides a necessary barrier to the harsh winds that blow through the north of Spain. Hillside and mountainside vineyards of clay calcareous soils are planted at the edge of the steep mountain range and make for Tempranillo of structure, intensity, and aging potential. The varied elevation and exposure of each outcropping make these left bank vineyards the most coveted and distinct vineyard sites in all of Rioja. As the Ebro flows southeast the land flattens, the climate turns Mediterranean, and alluvial deposits increase the fertility of vineyard sites in the Rioja Baja. The sandy soils favor Garnacha as plantings of Tempranillo decrease.
For much of Rioja's history, large houses have used Tempranillo from the north to add nuance and complexity to the highly alcoholic and deeply colored wines from the south. The goal is to make large volumes of wine in a consistent house style. In our portfolio, we work with small producers and growers who emphasize the site specific qualities of their holdings at the village and vineyard level. This idea is gaining attention and stirring up controversy in the Consejo Regulador. Decanter Magazine has published a series of articles on the topic of creating a cru system in Rioja, similar to those of Bordeaux or Burgundy, that is recommended reading. Our friends at Toro, NYC are lending their support by redesigning their wine list around the villages of Rioja.
Check out the latest cocktail submitted for our Vermouth Cocktail Contest. December 1 marks the end of submissions so send in those recipes before it's too late. Details for the contest can be found here.
By S. Sasso
1 oz Acha Vino Vermouth Blanco
2 oz Mahon gin
½ oz saffron infused El Maestro Sierra Amontillado
(1 standard grocery store size spice container of Spanish saffron infused into 2 375ml bottles of Sherry)
¼ oz castelvetrano olive juice
Stir in mixing glass with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with 2 castelvetrano olives on a pick.
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