In a nutshell: A superb, intense and fresh Rioja from one of the living legends of Rioja, Abel Mendoza.
The lowdown: Abel Mendoza is one of the legendary vignerons of Rioja who is a fundamental believer in the uniqueness of each plot of land and vintage; that the magic happens in the vineyard, not necessarily the winery. His multiple, small, vineyards are in the finest parts of Rioja Alvesa and this wine, his top Tempranillo Rioja, is made from grapes coming from his oldest vines. It's all about the expression of the fruit, the soil and the vintage. Intense black fruit and perfumed aromas that follow through to the rounded palate with toasty notes. Really well balanced with excellent freshness, refined tannins and a long finish.
When to drink: A real standout wine made by the vigeron's vigneron. Works well with beef and lamb dishes, and stewed meats.
Abel Mendoza founded his bodega in the town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra in the heart of Rioja with his enologist wife Maite in 1988.
They farm 18 hectares of vineyard and 37 different parcels themselves around San Vicente, in the shadow of the Sierra Cantabria, an area well-known for having some of the best vineyards in the area. His knowledge and understanding of the soils is enthralling and to taste in his cellar can be an education on the effects different soils have in different years. He wants only to express the fruit and the soil and unlike many Riojans, he leaves it more or less at that. He does not want to stamp the wines with any particular style or mark of his own other than his respect for the very natural quality of the grapes and the magical places that they were grown. And to emphasise this he doesn't bother with conforming to the usual age statements (like reserva etc).
Preferring to let his wines do the talking he spends virtually no effort marketing the business and as a result goes somewhat under the radar especially in foreign markets. In Spain however he has developed something of a legendary status to those in the know.