2016 Alberto Orte, Rioja Blanco “La Antigua Clásico” Rioja Alta, Spain.
The unique, golden hued and slightly oxidaive Alberto Orte Rioja Blanco is made mainly from heirloom clones of old-vine Viura, along with Garnacha Blanca and Tempranillo Blanco that was partially aged under flor, a protective yeast, commonly found in Sherry, making for a dry style of white wines geared for food with lemony citrus, apple, wild peach and fig fruits, along with a savory, saline and umami character. There’s hints of baked pear, nutty almond paste, dried herbs and yeasty notes in the background here and the medium bodied palate of this Rioja Blanco La Antigua Clásico that opens up easily in the glass adding a nice textural mouth feel, not unlike Lopez de Heredia, showing a mature personality, but with a good zippy burst of natural acidity. Alberto Orte, who makes wines under his on label and who now lives in El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz) in southern Spain, uses a parcel of vines in Sierra de la Demanda with north facing exposure located in Rioja Alta, which sees cooler growing conditions, it’s a vineyard that can only be tended by hand and is 100% organic, getting small yields and balanced ripeness. This Rioja white, a category that is vastly underrated on the world wine stage, is best enjoyed with a meal and pairs well with grilled fish, especially Sardines, soft cheeses and or cured ham.

Winemaker Alberto Orte Espejo, who was born in Madrid, along with his partner Patrick Mata, created Vinos Atlántico, with a mission to find great vineyards planted to historic indigenous varietals from old vines in high elevation sites, to create distinctive terroir driven wines. The Alberto Orte Vinos is a small lot label, within the Vinos Atlántico portfolio that highlights wines farmed and hand crafted by Alberto himself from vine to bottle, that showcases his talent and passion, making him one of most interesting vintners in Spain. Exploring the riches of Spain and finding little known areas that have unique qualities, seems to be a thing with modern young winemakers in the country, with a nod towards traditional and natural winemaking methods, as Alberto shows here in his set of Rioja offerings. The subtle aromatic Rioja Blanco “La Antigua Clásico” with faint floral, earthy muskmelon and pecan elements was naturally fermented and aged in a combination of mostly used oak barrels with about 80% French and 20% American wood used here, aged for 14 months, which makes it quite distinctive and well rounded. It is definitely a white wine that goes its own way, and is a fun alternative choice that I recommend for those that are adventurous. The high elevation vines, at almost 2,500 feet above sea level, with Viura, Grenache Blanc and Tempranillo Blanco grapes, were planted back in 1965 and set on red silica soils, see warm dry days and chilly nights that gives this wine its soulful charm and age worthy concentration.
($35 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

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