2017 Señorío de San Vicente “San Vicente” Rioja, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Spain.
The San Vicente Rioja, one of the original rebels, is a single cru wine coming from La Canoca in the San Vicente de la Sonsierra of La Rioja with a special Tempranillo clonal selection (100% Tempranillo Peludo) that is extremely low yielding and terroir expressive. The palate is instantly recognizable as Rioja with pure Tempranillo character and lush mouthfeel showing off layers of blackberry, dark currant, plum and cherry fruits, sweet toasty cedary/vanilla scented oak, anise, tobacco leaf, dried flowers and earthy loam notes. The grapes, grown all practicing organic, sustainable and dry farmed with some certain selective biodynamic practices, and from spur-pruned goblet (trained) vines as well as high density trellises, for natural intensity. Calcareous clay soils are typical to the Sonsierra Riojana, these limestone rich clay soils are sandwiched between large slabs of lime-sandstone mother rock are great for the distinct terroir influence and flavors and the deep roots keep good acidity and balance in the wine. This higher elevation site sees a Continental climate with some heavy Atlantic influences that are moderated by the Sierra Cantabria range, making for ripe fruit concentration, but with exceptional balance and natural acidity, perfect for making serious age worthy wines. Lots of hand tending work goes on in the vineyard and care sorting for harvest, with no machines whatsoever. In the cellar, another rigorous sorting happens and 100% of the clusters are de-stemmed, but not crushed before going into the vats. The fermentation and cool maceration is carried out in 20,000L French oak vats (neutral) and is inoculated with a selected culture, that was isolated and captured from the family’s vineyards and cellars over the years. The powerful and concentrated San Vicente, that is best served with hearty food, is matured for close to 20 months in new barriques, which are a combination of 90% French and 10% American, with the wine, uniquely, being racked every four months, of which showcases the depth and luxurious richness in the wine.
The creation of the San Vicente Rioja, as the story goes, began In the early 1980’s, when Marcos and Miguel Angel Eguren, of Sierra Cantabria Rioja, requested that their father scour the family’s holdings of vineyards in San Vicente de la Sonsierra for the lowest yielding individual vines of Tempranillo. In 1985, the family planted the La Canoca single vineyard (Cru) in San Vicente to a massale (clonal) selection of these low yielding vines, which would be exclusively used for this Señorío de San Vicente label and this San Vicente bottling, as found here in this wine today. As the vineyard took shape, the vines all shared very similar ampelographic characteristics, including smaller berries, looser clusters, and a velvety bloom on the subsurface of the leaves, leading to its special identity as Tempranillo Peludo. The family was originally mocked for planting, what other farmers thought was a selection of their “worst vines.” But, when the first vintage of San Vicente was released to the public almost 10 years later they knew they had something really good. The family, which laughs now on reflection, endured more derision when the wine was priced above any Reserva(s) in the appellation, though many others have joined the party now. The wine was released without aging classification, thus becoming Rioja’s first single cru declassified wine. For lovers of the Eguren family’s wines, the San Vicente, they add, tends to elicit a special emotion, as it is one of Rioja’s first a premium cuvée that expresses a specific vineyard profile. Today, San Vicente is still an important modern classic, along with all (others) that it inspired within Rioja. This dark garnet 2017, which is current release in the States, very much expresses everything that is mentioned above and has loads of density, refined tannin and hints of Asian spices, making for stylish and age worthy Tempranillo. I had this one at a tasting of many fine Rioja efforts and it stood out, but as mentioned, it is much better with a full meal, especially lamb dishes. The San Vicente, along with Telmo Rodriguez’s Remelluri (Estate) Granja Nuestra and Muga’s Torre Muga are three Rioja’s I find impossible not to crave and I highly recommend them, all of them.
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive