Bodegas LAN, D-12, Crianza Rioja 2017


This is such a cool wine!

Made as a tongue-in-cheek poke to the traditional Rioja producers who (allegedly) used to hold back the best barrels for themselves each vintage! LAN actively source this wine each year (the first year they did so, they found that the best was in barrel number D-12) and now the name has stuck!

It means that they celebrate their successes and are happy to share it with us, which we think is pretty wonderful! It is now made by selecting the best Tempranillo in the vineyards, so that the production is not in competition with regular Crianza and Reserva lines. 

Bright red fruits with hints of cocoa, smoke and Danish pastries. The palate is wonderfully smooth, broad and full of flavour on its silky long finish. Big, yes; classy, even more so.

It still comes from Alavesa and Alta vineyards, but these days it comes from specific sites: for the 2017 vintage they used El Cementerio, in Viñaspre; Los Valles in El Cortijo; and La Fonsagrada in San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The vines here are aged between 30 and 45 years.

In the winery, the wine gets treated a bit differently to the Crianza and Reservas in that it undergoes micro-oxygenation before malo-lactic fermentation which really softens and smooths out the tannins. These are naturally higher than the other wines as the grapes for D-12 are that bit more concentrated, so the result is this lush, silky mouthfeel. Wonderful!

It's then aged, not in hybrid barrels, but at this level they are all new barrels made from specific forests in France and America. In keeping with their barrel obsession, different plots go into specific barrels according to the promise that each plot of grapes shows and the particular set of qualities that the barrels possess. It's the fanaticism of María the winemaker who is, clearly, oak-obsessed. Not in a "gimme-gimme-gimme" sort of a way, no; it's that she cares that it should be a beautifying support-act and never outplay the fruit. Genius.

The aging is for one year in barrels and one year in bottle. It's technically a Crianza, but really it could be released as a Reserva - that's not the point - the point is that this is Rioja that is about the skill of the winemaker and the ability she has in identifying the very best plots for this wonderful bottling each year.

The winery is a young one - established in 1972, they have not quite rewritten the rules, but they have certainly done things in their own way. The biggest thing for assuring their quality being the purchase of the single vineyard Lanciano. This pocket of the Ebro river is the same calibre (indeed the same typography) as Contino, just up the river, with its history dating back a thousand years.

They're just outside the town of Fuenmayor, in wine terms right on the border with Rioja Alavesa; in political terms right on the border with the Basque country. It means that they are very close to their monumentally important single vineyard of Viña Lanciano.

They use a vast array of different oak barrels, used according to the grape variety and style of wine that they are seeking to achieve - the hybrid being a lovely example of initiative.

The wines have been made by María Barúa since 2002 and her specific expertise in oak use has led to these developments that allow for myriad flavours of the grapes themselves to be experienced, rather than just the flavour of oak. Funny in this day of oak use being abandoned across the board, her argument is that there is no need to reduce or do away with barriques at all, because there will always be  a place for them, so long as the right barrels are used with the right wines.

Last thing - this wine in no way has anything to do with Crumlin, Bluebell or Drimnagh. However, the first person to show it to me was my dear chum who lives in Walkinstown, so it'll forever be D12 to me.

Region: Rioja

Country: Spain

Grape(s): Tempranillo

Style: Structured, Smooth, Pure, Perfumed, Medium Bodied, Juicy, Fruity, Elegant, Creamy, Complex, Bright

Best food matches: Wild Boar, Veal, Tapas, Steak, St Stephen's Day, Soft Cheeses, Roasts, Ribs, Red Meats, Poultry, Mature Cheeses, Lamb, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Game, Fine Dining, Duck, Cheeses, Charcuterie, Beef, Barbecue

Alcohol: 13.5%

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When you buy wine from The Allotment Wine Co. you're helping a small Irish company that in turn supports small, sustainable wine producers who grow the grapes and make amazing wines. We only work with partners who share a deep respect and connection with the land and its traditions, witnessed in a firm commitment to quality and sustainability. All of which makes for better wines.

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Hi, I'm Chris Gifford.

And you're very welcome to The Allotment Wine Co.

When you wine from me, you're supporting a small Irish business which in turn supports small, sustainable wine producers, as well as other small, dedicated Irish wine importers.

When selecting wines, I look for partners who share a deep respect and connection with the land and its traditions, witnessed in a firm commitment to quality and sustainability. All of which makes for better wines.