Alegre & Valganon

Those who enter this offer, forget everything you think you know about Rioja!

There’s a war of going on in them there Rioja hills; a battle for the hearts and minds of Rioja drinkers but also a battle for the soul of a wine long ago lost in time…conveniently so, for the marketing cartels of the industrial Rioja producers that have so long dominated our perceptions of what Rioja is. Alta, Alavesa, Baja…Blah Blah. Forget all that and enter a  new and improved paradigm inhabited by a new group of producers embracing old vines, individual villages and individual vineyard identities. Like the Love Boat, it’s exciting and new! But not really because it’s the way Rioja was always made once upon a time.

There is a new generation pushing hard to reclaim their vinous heritage and return some authenticity to the wines that come off some of the most unique terroirs in the world. One of their number is Alegre Valganon or, to put faces to the name, Eva Valganon and Oscar Alegre. The couple (and others) are committed to bringing back a recoginition of place (villages and vineyard) to the Rioja firmament. They work mainly at the north-western extremity of the Rioja region, 100 k’s from the Atlantic and not far from Burgos. Here, they work across a handful of villages (including their own, Fonzaleche, where their main single plot La Calleja is based) in the foothills of Montes Obarenes and also further south into the area about 45 minutes from their home in Rioja’s southern range in the Najerillo valley and most notably  around the village of Cárdenas.

Importantly, the soils in both areas are distinctly different. In the higher altitude villages of the Montes Obarenas, the soils are cold and rocky, limestone into sandstone and chalk. As a generalisation the country here lends itself themselves to the Tempranillo, whereas the southern ferrous flecked soils give Garnacha better expression.

The Tinto in this offer is a blend of the Tempranillo from the Montes Obarenas (about 70%) and Garnacha from the foothill vineyards in the Najerillo valley – picking up on the strong suit from both soil expressions. It’s essentially a generic Rioja, albeit a high care one and one that transcends the moniker.

The second wine offered here is drop-dead-gorgeous single vineyard Garnacha from the southern foothills in the village of Cardenas. The parcel is called ‘Valdechuecas’ and is a .7 hectare, 100 year old, north-facing plot running down to the Rio Cardenas.

Both wines are exciting. Lets get that said. No old dank wood aromas and flavours of the industrial styling we’re so used to, rather there’s purity; electric in the transparency to site and variety/ies and bursting with energy. What’s more they’re refreshingly unencumbered by excessive winemaking. There’s some more words about each wine below – mine, for your sins and for the fact we have beaten the critics out.

Last word. Wines like these are a fist in the air for the battle against homogeneity. Strongly individual and a joy to drink.