A con­tem­po­rary and top-drawer Span­ish house, which draws on the coun­try’s rich artis­tic legacy as in­spi­ra­tion to drive it on­wards and up­wards


When Bode­gas Al­tanza first started out in 1998 (the first of its wines hit­ting the market four years later), it’s an al­most nailed-on cer­tainty that at the top of its list of du­ties was to make high-end Rioja Reser­vas.

That box has most def­i­nitely been ticked. There are now five lines of Reser­vas on its books - this high num­ber be­ing some­thing of a rar­ity in Rioja – with the apex be­ing the Col­lec­tion of Span­ish Artists range. Only the most elite of vin­tages make the cut, with each be­ing ded­i­cated to one of Spain’s most gifted artis­tic fig­ures: Sorolla (2010); Goya (2008); Gaudí (2005); Dalí (2004) and Miró (2001), with im­ages of their works adorn­ing this un­sur­pris­ingly strik­ingly-liv­er­ied col­lec­tion of wines. ‘From the be­gin­ning we be­lieved there should be an affin­ity be­tween wine and art. We didn’t want to be like any other win­ery of­fer­ing beau­ti­ful la­bels. We wanted more than that, al­though it took a great deal of ef­fort and time to get per­mis­sion,’ re­calls Al­tanza. They are ten­derly crafted, us­ing only pure, thor­ough­bred Tem­pranillo stock and all be­tray Al­tanza’s af­fec­tion for French wood (close to 90% of its 7,500 ves­sels come from the coun­try), with each be­ing ma­tured for 18 months in new French bar­rels be­fore be­ing passed on to 22,000 litre French oak vats giv­ing the wines the round­ness and el­e­gance char­ac­terised in all of Al­tanza’s wines.

Over the fol­low­ing years Al­tanza – which stretches over 160ha of vine­yards and 60ha of olive groves - ex­panded its port­fo­lio, seek­ing dif­fer­ent av­enues and launch­ing other wines with which to com­ple­ment these iconic Reser­vas, such as other Rio­jas from Cri­anza level up to Gran Reserva, as well as a clutch of whites and rosés.

Al­tanza now ex­ports 60% of its wines

to over 50 coun­tries around the world and in the process has it­self also ex­plored be­yond the bound­aries of Rioja, as ex­em­pli­fied by its ven­ture in Jerez which has re­sulted in a col­lec­tion of crit­i­cally ac­claimed sher­ries made in con­junc­tion with Roberto Amillo.

‘Roberto Amillo has been pas­sion­ate about sherry and wine in gen­eral for many years,’ says Al­tanza. ‘He is one of the best-known col­lec­tors, own­ing more than 17,000 pieces, and this project was built on a shared pur­pose: to join to­gether Spain’s two old­est de­nom­i­na­tions and to give us the op­por­tu­nity to share with our cus­tomers around the world the very best Span­ish wines. So, Roberto de­cided to make his own se­lec­tion from old, ex­cep­tional sol­eras and bot­tle them un­der the “Colec­ción Robert Amillo” la­bel; al­ways fo­cus­ing on pro­vid­ing authen­tic­ity and high qual­ity from sin­gu­lar sherry casks.’

How­ever, ar­guably most sig­nif­i­cant in Al­tanza’s list of ac­com­plish­ments and vi­tal in its growth is its ded­i­ca­tion to a whole raft of re­search and de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives which arch over the en­tire wine­mak­ing process.

These in­clude the evo­lu­tion of its own bank of lac­tic bac­te­ria used in its wine­mak­ing. Here, spe­cific bac­te­ria from each of the vine­yards are iso­lated and if they hold the pre­req­ui­site qual­i­ties needed, are then cho­sen for use in or­der to show­case an idio­syn­cratic, unique qual­ity in the fin­ished wine (Al­tanza also hand­picks and stock­piles se­lec­tions of yeasts used in fer­men­ta­tion with the same goal in mind).

Away from the lab and in the vine­yard, an army of cut­ting-edge weather sta­tions has re­cently been un­leashed. Cov­er­ing the en­tirety of Al­tanza’s land un­der vine, these units mea­sure and mon­i­tor a plethora of cli­matic and agri­cul­tural in­flu­ences such as veg­e­ta­tive ac­tiv­ity, so­lar ra­di­a­tion and at­mo­spheric pres­sure to name just three. In­deed, ev­ery­thing that af­fects the mi­cro­cli­mate of a vine­yard is within its reach, with the data be­ing site-spe­cific and, cru­cially, de­liv­ered in real time to the vine­yard man­age­ment team. Fur­ther­more, sig­nif­i­cant time and funds have been ploughed into ir­ri­ga­tion man­age­ment; look­ing in-depth at vine stress as well as the big­ger pic­ture of ir­ri­ga­tion strate­gies over­all, but all still tai­lored specif­i­cally for the Rioja re­gion.

Yet, de­spite this mi­cro­man­age­ment of ev­ery facet of pro­duc­tion, the soul of wine still re­mains Al­tanza’s heart­beat: ‘We like to think we are in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple into the mag­i­cal world of wine, trans­mit­ting to them our pas­sion for wine­mak­ing, the Tem­pranillo grape, our land, our vi­sion, our cul­ture, and for our fi­esta’ states Al­tanza.

Bode­gas Atanza, Leal­tanza, Sorolla

Bode­gas Atanza, Leal­tanza, Reserva - 97 Points, De­can­ter Asia Wine Awards 2018

Bode­gas Al­tanza, Colec­ción Amillo Amon­til­lado

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