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Valenciso

The French Connection: Organic, Terroir-Driven Rioja
Valenciso

“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.

The Wines

Valenciso Rioja Reserva 2018 (1500ml)

Valenciso Rioja Reserva 2018 (1500ml)

Valenciso’s flagship Reserva is a selection of handpicked Tempranillo from the clay/limestone soils around Haro. The grapes are drawn from 29 plots spread across the villages of Villalba, Rodezno, Briones, Haro and Ollauri. They all lie within a five-kilometre radius of the winery.

Part of what has been proposed as the Western Sonsierra zone (by Alberto Gil and Antonio Remesal Villar in Rioja: Vinos Silenciosos), Ollauri’s vineyards are noted for their excellent calcáreo soils, altitudes of up to 600 meters and Atlantic-influenced climate. All the vines are managed organically and cropped well below the regional limits. The youngest vines that make the grade here are 60 years old.

The Reserva fermented naturally in cement vats, and the wine then aged for 19 months in (mostly) low-toast Radoux French oak barriques. In recent vintages, 10% of the wine has also been raised in low-toast Caucasus oak, further lessening the wine’s already minimal wood influence. Following ageing in barrel, the wine was transferred back to concrete vats to settle for a further 24 months before release. Luis and Carmen find the wine clarifies so well in concrete that there is no need to fine or filter it before bottling.

The 2018 from magnum is one of the most exciting young Reservas we have tasted from Valenciso. At this stage, Luís Valentín prefers the more concentrated wine from the low yielding 2017 vintage, but we loved this year’s blend of seamless red fruit, elegant, noble tannin and a spotlessly fresh finish. It drinks well right now, with appropriate food, but Valentín believes greatness will come with ten years in the cellar. 

"The last cold vintage we had" is how Luis Valentin describes 2018, a vintage that saw 600mm of rain. This Rioja Alta Tempranillo from the area around Haro is suitably fresh, refined and focused, showing graceful tannins, chalky minerality and flavours of bramble and clementine.”
95 points, Tim Atkin, Rioja Report 2023
Valenciso Rioja Reserva 2018 (1500ml)
Valenciso Rioja Reserva 10 Años Después 2012

Valenciso Rioja Reserva 10 Años Después 2012

The 2012 is just the sixth release of this wonderful and unconventional Rioja. As before, the Tempranillo here is sourced from Valenciso’s highest parcel of vines, a 75-year-old vineyard in Villalba. This parcel produces exceptional, ripe fruit with high acidity that is perfectly bred for long aging. Fermented wild, the wine initially ages in a 50-hectolitre concrete tank for five years, then rests for 40 months in low-toast Caucasian oak (the same barrels Valenciso uses for the Rioja Blanco). It was released in 2022, 10 years after the harvest, hence the name 10 Años Después (‘10 Years After’).

Interestingly, the extended aging in concrete results in no loss of colour and has only seemed to intensify the wine’s fruit purity and aromatic expression. Again, tasted in Spain this year, it looks so fresh and vibrant with radiant raspberry sweetness, pine-scented fruit, and a deep core of iodine-like complexity underpinned by silk-spun tannins and a classy, gliding finish. Sheer brilliance that—like all the wines from this exemplary estate—should not be missed.



Interestingly, the extended aging in concrete results in no loss of colour and has only seemed to intensify the wine’s fruit purity and aromatic expression. Meanwhile the striking palate is both silky and savoury—a wonderful harmony of all components. It remains incredibly fresh and youthful with blackcurrant and pine scented fruit and a deep core of iodine-like complexity. It is sheer brilliance that, like all the wines from this exemplary estate, should not be missed. A unique and very special wine.

“The subtle, elegant and complex 2012 10 Años Después (10 years after!) matured for four years in concrete followed by four more years in Caucasian oak barrels that polished it. It has an incredible 15% alcohol, which doesn't show at all, and the wine comes through as balanced and elegant, powerful too but with no excess. It finished very tasty.”
94 points, Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate
“Ten Years After, as a British rock band was called, is a good name for a wine too. This pure Tempranillo from the hot 2012 vintage was fermented in concrete before ageing in Caucasian oak. Spicy and well-structured, with leather, tobacco and dark berry fruit flavours and a sweet, balsamic finish. Appealingly mature. 2024-35”
95 points, Tim Atkin, 2023 Rioja Report
Valenciso Rioja Reserva 10 Años Después 2012

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