2019 Villota, Rioja Tinto, Rioja Alavesa, Spain.
The Villota wines, which I have tried for the first time recently, are beautifully balanced and shine with an elegant and slightly rustic charm, as this dark ruby/garnet 2019 Rioja Tinto shows in the glass with brambly dark berry, dusty plum and bright cherry fruits, that are backed up nicely with hints of spice, tobacco, anise, cedar and sultry earthy elements. This wine, mostly all pure Tempranillo, shows off the Rioja Alavesa, higher elevation cool climate character and energy, making for a wine of terroir personality and great with simple and hearty country cuisine, especially meaty dishes and or sheep hard cheeses. There is a fine sense of structure here in this 2019, but it is graceful and easy to love at this stage and it should continue to provide rewarding companionship and pleasure for many years to come, this is impressive stuff and a new label to explore. The Rioja Tinto, coming from, what the winery calls, traditional dry-farmed hand tended grapes, and old school bush vines (head trained), set on rocky limestone and clay soils, holistically grown without the use of systemic herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. This vintage of Villota has attracted a lot of attention and it might not be easy to find, but it is well worth taking time to look for, but I also tried their single vineyard Viña Gene 2018, which is also exceptional and a little more luxurious, though a bit pricier.

The Familia Peréz Villota Viticultores makes a 100% estate grown, Rioja Alavesa Tinto, with a wealth of history in the region. Villota was, as the winery notes, established four generations ago on their San Rafael Estate, near the famous Ebro River where it flows through the village of Laserna in Rioja Alavesa, mostly known as suppliers of grapes to Contino, which they co-founded decades ago. The current bodega was founded not long ago in 2013, and they have set about making small production wines that are more distinctly terroir driven and modernly transparent and less oak driven than the traditional Rioja of the big bodegas. Villota now has some of Rioja’s most historic, interesting and important vineyard sites to express in their unique collection of wines, which are mostly all old vine Tempranillo, but with a small percentage of Graciano and Garnacha, usually picked separately and fermented separately and blended in after primary fermentation, to add subtle complexity to these lovely authentic and elegant wines. The Rioja Tinto saw a cool maceration and native yeast fermentation in stainless steel with all the grapes being 100% de-stemmed, after which it was raised in small French barriques, with mainly neutral barrels, for 18 months and then aged a further 6 months in concrete vat before bottling, all of which gives this wine its nice vinous texture and clarity. I will look forward to following Villota as they continue to expand their lineup and I recommend this bottling as a great way to start getting to know this winery.
($37 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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