Alegre Valgañón is one of the newer wineries to emerge out of Rioja, established around 2010 by the husband-wife team of Oscar Alegre and Eval Valgañón. The estate is located in the far western reaches of Rioja, at the base of the Obarenes Mountains. Soils found here are similar to those throughout Rioja Alavesa and Alta, with limestone-rich clay and sand. Traditional, sustainable viticulture is employed, with only organic fertilizers and without herbicides. Although what we now consider to be the traditional style of Rioja emerged less than 150 years ago, Rioja had a long winemaking history prior to the arrival of phylloxera. Grape cultivation arrived during Roman times, and—just as in France—monasteries were instrumental in codifying the best vineyards and varieties. The local Riojas were often fermented with their stems, and the quality of one’s grapes was a point of pride. Alegre Valgañón channels this earlier traditional style. This style focused on viticulture and winemaking on a far smaller scale, allowing vine-by-vine attention to fruit quality, the inclusion of stems during fermentation, and shorter time in larger barrels, specifically French oak as it loses its flavor impact more quickly than American oak. These wines are a pure reflection of the land.
The 2019 Rioja tinto is a blend of roughly 75% Tempranillo from Obarenes and 25% Garnacha from Cárdenas. The grapes are fermented whole cluster, primarily in wooden vats, using indigenous yeast. The wine is made from at least 25% whole bunches and is given a 30-plus day maceration. It is then aged in a mix of used French barriques and demi-muid for 18 months. The result is a blend of vivid fruit and intense mouthfeel uncommon in Rioja today, and it’s a wine that absolutely overdelivers.
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