Rioja 'n' Roll
Young, enthusiastic, forging their own path, dedicated to their craft and expressing a distinct voice... If they were musicians, this group of renegades would most certainly play rock-'n'-roll. But as viticulturists and wine makers in one of the world's most prestigious wine regions, going by the name Rioja 'n' Roll seems about right
Add this to the fact that this loose organization of friends has no rules or regulations that bind them together, and that their meetings, in the words of "member" Arturo de Miguel of Bodegas Artuke, consist of "getting drunk tasting wines at least once a month". Rioja 'n' Roll's growing characterization as the "indie" wine makers of Spain's most acclaimed wine making region, Quality Denomination of Origin Rioja, is right on point.
Of course there is more to it than that. The nine viticulturists/wine makers (representing seven wineries) that founded Rioja 'n' Roll in 2016, are united not only by prior friendships and plenty of shared bottles, but also – as de Miguel puts it – by "the same philosophy that wines with soul can come only from vineyards with soul. We are all in Rioja and we work using similar methods with regard to viticulture and enology."
When pressed to elaborate, de Miguel goes on to say that, "We don't all work with the same methods, but we do all share a respect for history and traditional craftsmanship. We practice minimally invasive viticulture and do what we want in terms of enology (wine making). We think more about the vineyard than the winery".
The group consists of the following members: Arturo and Kike de Miguel of Bodegas Artuke, Bárbara Palacios of Barbarot Wines, Olivier Riviere of Olivier Riviere Vinos, Sandra Bravo of Sierra de Toloño, Oscar Alegre and Eva Valgañón of Alegre Valgañón, Tom Puyaubert of Bodegas Exopto and Bryan Mac Robert of Laventura Wines.
The wineries are small-scale – all less than 200,000 bottles a year – which in itself makes them stand out in this region known for its massive production, consumption and export. Old vines, atypical Rioja blends and winemaking that begins in the vineyard by respecting nature’s cycles, are just some of the things nurtured by these viticulturists. All of it attests to the fact that their highly-personal wines represent labors of love, the embodiment of respect for this region and its terroir and, more often than not, the reflection of the authors' conscious choice to settle here in La Rioja.
To wit, Bárbara Palacios, of the famed Rioja wine making family, worked in wineries in France, Italy, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and Chile before taking over a small vineyard planted by her father in Riscos de Bilibio, Haro (La Rioja), where she cultivates the grapes used in her Tempranillo-Merlot blend Barbarot. Sandra Bravo similarly worked in France, Italy and New Zealand before 'setting up shop' in the Rioja Alavesa. Agricultural engineers Eva Valgañón and Oscar Alegre met and fell in love while studying enology in Italy over a decade ago. Olivier Riviere and Tom Puyaubert are both Frenchmen who have fallen in love with this Spanish region, while Bryan MacRobert is originally from far-away South Africa. Of course, there are also those who have their roots here, such as brothers Arturo and Kike de Miguel, who come from a family of local vine growers – people who have worked this land for more than a century.
So, why Rioja 'n' Roll? In Arturo de Miguel's words, "We are a group of friends, seven small-scale viticulturists, who share the same philosophy, respect for the land, and who get together once a month to taste wines and share our experiences." In the view of outsiders, the group is conveying a message of quality over volume, or even a revitalization of the image of Rioja. Whatever it is, it is an image that is finding success beyond Spanish borders, with all of the wine makers exporting part of their already relatively small production volume.
Although Rioja 'n' Roll has so far limited itself to organizing just one event a year for the outside world (last year it was a presentation of the group's vintages at Alimentaria trade fair in Barcelona), finding their wines (if all else fails then by contacting the winery directly) is well worth the effort on every level.
Images: ®James Sturck
Add this to the fact that this loose organization of friends has no rules or regulations that bind them together, and that their meetings, in the words of "member" Arturo de Miguel of Bodegas Artuke, consist of "getting drunk tasting wines at least once a month"