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