“They say I spend too much time with the French,” Luis Valentín says of his neighbours in Ollauri. From its garage origins, Valenciso has risen to become a leading light among Rioja’s small yet growing band of terroir-focused producers. And Valentin puts much of this success down to the French connection. At the very beginning of the Valenciso story, Valentín travelled to Bordeaux to study under Jean-Claude Berrouet at Château Pétrus. There he learned about the benefits of working the soil and organic viticulture—the latter almost unheard of in Rioja in 1998. He also saw how Pétrus and others were working with concrete vessels for fermentation, resulting in gentler extraction of fruit and colour. These teachings would play a significant role in the quality and style of Valenciso’s wines. Another legend of French oenology, Denis Dubourdieu—nicknamed the ‘Pope of Wine’ in Bordeaux— played a key role in redefining Valenciso’s white wine. Today Valenciso’s white stands out as one of the purest, most vineyard-driven whites on the market. Our visit this year coincided with Valenciso’s 25th anniversary. A five-year bracket of the Rioja Reserva focused the mind and palate on just how consistent and classy Valenciso’s flagship is, not to mention the great value it offers. Valentín harvests his old-vine Tempranillo considerably earlier than his peers in Ollauri. Add in measured, natural-yeast winemaking, and you have a vibrant, articulate Rioja that is more about aromatic volume than physical weight. If the Reserva is Valentín’s most ‘traditional’ wine (notwithstanding the fact it is hardly traditional!), wine lovers can find a counterpoint in any one of Valencisio’s more avant-garde bottlings. Look out for the wild, rare white made from Tempranillo Blanco, and there’s a delicious, juicy and crunchy red crafted entirely in concrete vessels. Finally, we present the remarkable 10 Años Después: an 11-year-old single-vineyard Rioja of raspberry succulence, grace, and disorienting length.