Since 2014, the husband-wife team of Oscar Alegre and Eva Valgañón have embraced this even more ancient tradition. By working strictly with tiny lots, they are turning out head-spinning reds and whites that capture the best of their beloved land’s 1,000+ year history. Their wines, informed by this ancestral wisdom, offer something unique in today’s Rioja landscape.
The Valgañón family's farm lies just to the west of Haro, in the shadow of the Obarenes Mountains, in the little village of Fonzaleche, a pueblo of 80 people in the very limit of la Rioja, and also one of the highest and coldest villages in Rioja. This is where you'll find their flagship single vineyard; 'La Calleja'.
Their other wines blend specific attributes of neighbouring cool hilly villages, Sajazarra and Cihuri, as well as the alluvial-soiled village Cardenas, south of the Ebro, where they source very special old vine Garnacha. This area has long been revered by producers for the freshness and persistence they provided in blends. In fact, one old-timer claimed that the esteemed early Viña Reals were usually a blend of 75% Obarenes Tempranillo, with up to 25% Garnacha from Cárdenas.
To get the most of their families’ vineyards, they work using organic and regenerative farming techniques. Oscar had seen how the inclusion of ripe stems during fermentation gave Rhône Valley wines greater purity and expressiveness. His research showed that earlier generations in Rioja had also used stems in their musts, and this too became part of their concept.
They also considered the question of barrel aging. Traditional Rioja wineries have of course relied on American oak for aging, while more modern peers shifted to French oak, often with a portion new. Because Oscar and Eva wanted to make wines that reflect their land, they wanted to minimize the effect of wood. To this end, they started with a mix of used French barriques, demi-muids and foudre, and as the project develops, they hope to adopt longer aging and even bigger neutral barrels. Interestingly, because of this, these wines do not qualify for the Crianza/Reserva/Gran Reserva designations which require aging in small barrels.
“We are not trying to make the greatest wine in Rioja. We only want to make a true wine—a wine that shows off our land, and all the knowledge that we’ve inherited from earlier generations.” - Oscar Alegre