This stunner of a Reserva is unlike most of the others you'll have ever tried. It's complex and concentrated, but fresh and juicy enough to make you want more and more. Creamy and smooth with flavours of bramble fruit, strawberries, vanilla and clove, it will live long in the memory.
Viñedos del Contino was founded in 1973, becoming the first "Chateau" concept in Rioja. The rural farmhouse and its buildings in Laserna, Laguardia, are surrounded by 62 hectares of Rioja Alavesa vineyards from which all its grapes are sourced, at a bend in the river Ebro. The soils are remarkably stony and are full of large, flat and round stones much like the soils in Chateauneuf du Pape, which is really interesting, because the wines bear a fascinating similarity to that same famed French appellation. It's this single site and the unique quality in which it is situated that made the owners think outside the box to form this single-site concept.
With cave-like cellars dating from the 16th century, these are some of the oldest wine-related buildings in Rioja. It's that romantic ideal of old-meets-new with modern approaches to ancient land.
The history of the house also dates back to the 16th century and is reflected in the name. The farm was home to an officer in charge of the one hundred soldiers who continuously guarded the royal family (‘de contino’ in Spanish).
The process here is, well, meticulous. Grapes are grown and managed in micro-vineyard plots within the one, greater vineyard area. Old Tempranillo is grown alongside Rioja's least-grown but increasingly admired red vairiety, Graciano. The winery even make a 100% Graciano, which is sensationally good. One of the vineyard plots is called Vina del Olivo, because it is a walled 'clos' in which is situated a vast olive tree that is estimated to be over a thousand years old, predating all of the winemaking history in one swoop!
This Reserva Rioja spends two years in barrel, followed by another two years in their underground cellars. It's much more than the minimum specifications that other competing wines might adhere to, but that's not Contino's interest - they want what is best for their expression of their soils and grapes.
This really is intense stuff. Lovely, deep red fruits, a little smoke, cloves, medium to full body, but with a wonderful freshness and balance. Very fine, very smooth, perfectly balanced and seriously juicy.
Wine Enthusiast scored it 93 points.
Grape(s): Tempranillo, Graciano
Style: Vibrant, Structured, Smooth, Intense, Fruity, Fresh, Elegant, Complex, Bright
Best food matches: Poultry, Mature Cheeses, Lamb, Grills, Fine Dining, Casseroles