CONTINO Reserva 2015 Rioja Spain
During the weekend, I was making home-made Mac and Cheese for the kids, while drinking one of my favourite Rioja wines, "CONTINO", Reserva 2015, made by Jesús Madrazo, a great man and a very talented winemaker, whom I met a few times at the winery, at Contino, while I was working in NYC back in the mid-2000s.
Thank you for your wines, Jesus, this Contino Reserva 2015 is fantastic! Love it.
For those who might be interested, I wrote a post on my blog about CONTINO and Jesus Madrazo, back in 2009, after a visit to the winery with my little family, where, after doing a tour of the winery guided by the man himself, Jesus invited us to have lunch with him in the garden facing the vineyard with the old Olive tree (Viña del Olivo).
It will always remain as a great, sweet memory. It was a nice and hot day. We sat at a table dressed in the cool shade of the trees facing the winery. Walking barefoot on the grass. My son was about to be 3 years old. The atmosphere was serene and relaxed. We were all smiles. The wines were delicious and the local food we ate that day was simple, fresh and refreshing, and so tasty, consisting of some tapas made with the traditional Iberico Ham among other succulent ingredients, like dried tomatoes and eggs, and other meat and vegetables served with tender bread, local Aceite de Oliva (olive oil), Aceto Balsámico (balsamic vinegar) and natural coarse sea salt. It reflected the Spanish life as I had always pictured it. I could have settled there and lived the rest of my life there. Read it here.
For those who may not know CONTINO, here is a brief recap:
|Map Courtesy of https://www.origins.wine/rioja |
edited for and by ©LeDomduVin 2020
Viñedos del Contino
CONTINO is made at Viñedos del Contino, a small 16th-century boutique winery located in Laserna, south-east of Laguardia, a few kilometres north-west of Logroño, in the Rioja Alavesa sub-region, part of the Basque country (see map above, courtesy of https://www.origins.wine/rioja). (1)
Based on the concept of producing wine from a single vineyard (understand undivided, one plot surrounding the winery, only subdivided into small parcels), and thus, referred to (or considered) as the first Rioja "Château", Contino, was born in 1973, from the partnership of the Pérez Villota family, owners of Finca San Rafael (Rioja Alavesa) and a group of Cvne directors led by Jose A. Madrazo and Real de Asúa. Since the end of 2013, the CVNE group has owned 95% of the company. (2)
|Vinedos del Contino - Map Courtesy of www.google.com Map|
edited by and for ©LeDomduVin 2020
With a history dating back from the 16th century and a logo portraying Saint-Gregory, protector of the vineyards, Contino encompasses about 62 hectares of vineyards, all in one plot surrounding the winery, in Laserna, a small area niched in one of the curves of the Ebro river, in the southern district of Laguardia (see map above and below).
|Vinedos del Contino - Map Courtesy of Google Map - |
edited by and for ©LeDomduVin 2020
Planted mainly with Tempranillo and Graciano (as well as some Garnacha and Viura, and a tiny amount of Garnacha Blanc and Malvasia), on rich pebble soils along the northern bank of the Ebro river, the vineyards are protected by both the river's bend surrounding most of the vineyards (from north to south, and to the west) and a hill called "Cerro de la Mesa" (Table Hill) (to the east, northeast), which gives this land a very characteristic orientation and microclimate, benefitting of western and south-western sun exposure, ideal for the ripeness of the grapes, and gentle slopes facilitating the natural drainage (see map above).
At Viñedos del Contino, both the vineyard management and vinification combine both tradition and innovation. The grapes are hand-harvested, by parcels (or lots if you prefer), then transported in small crates along the short paths leading to the winery, to prevent from damaging the grapes, where they are then carefully sorted on a sorting table, prior to being placed into individual small fermentation tanks, in the rather modern vinification cellar.
The production of each of the estate´s lots is placed in individual limited capacity fermentation tanks, where fermentation is adapted depending on the characteristics of the grapes and the lots they come from. Understand that the grapes growing closer to the river and the ones growing on the top of slopes closer to the winery, are not necessarily the same varieties and do not grow on the same terroir (soil, subsoil, environment, micro-climate, external factors, etc...), and, thus, require specific needs and cannot be vinified the same way.
In turn, the wines from the various lots and from the various grape varieties are then aged separately, between 18 to 24 months, in both French and American oak barrels (old and new) from various coopers (of various toasting too), resting in the original 16th-century old cellar, which provides the most ideal and constant temperatures and humidity all year round.
The resulting wines produced at CONTINO, all combine traditional Rioja style with a modern twist, offering generous fruit and elegance, richness and complexity, as well as texture and structure, and are considered as some of the best Riojas.
The terroir and grape variety of the various parcels are carefully considered and play an important role in the vineyard management and winemaking process. The individualised grape variety and parcels harvesting system allows for perfect control of the evolution and maturity of the grape varieties in the vineyards, but also within the various resulting wines throughout the whole vinification and ageing process, facilitating the blending process at the end, when required for some of the wines.
The perfect combination of soils, Atlantic-Mediterranean climate combined with the refined and adapted vinification techniques have made Contino, more than 30 years after the first vintage, a staple of the Rioja Alavesa region, an essential classic amongst its peers and beyond, and a name widely recognized around the world.
|CONTINO Reserva 2015 Rioja Spain |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
CONTINO produces various wines including this "Reserva", which is considered as their flagship wine, as well as micro-cuvées, that are considered as "Garage wines", which are, thus, even better, yet only available in small quantities, making them even more valuable.
Understandably, note that some of these wines are not produced every vintage, depending on the quality of the vintage first, but also depending on the laws that govern the Rioja Appellation and overall wine region (e.g. in term of "Gran Reserva", for example, and the single grape variety wines too, like 100% Graciano and the 100% Garnacha).
Go to CVNE website to see more details about the wines produced by CONTINO, here, or click on the following wines to see their respective technical sheets of the last vintages I personally tasted (courtesy of CVNE) for more details:
CONTINO was the first winery in Rioja to produce a single varietal wine with Graciano, a grape variety typically used in blend due to its tendency of being rustic, austere and herbaceous, when not ripped enough, and therefore usually complicated on its own. Yet, tremendously lively, long-lasting and giving very satisfying result when fully matured and vinified the right way, allowing to bottle it as a single variety wine.
Since then, it inspired many other wineries in Rioja (and other Spanish wine Appellations and regions) to follow in the footsteps of CONTINO by also making 100% Graciano wines (i.e. Príncipe de Viana, Viña Pomal, Viña Zorzal, etc...)
As I said at the beginning of this post, I had the pleasure and the privilege to know and spend some times, at the winery, with Jesús Madrazo, the son of Jose A. Madrazo, one of the CONTINO project's founders, while visiting the winery a bunch of times, back in the mid-2000s. And I have heard that an Aragonese producer and consultant, named Jorge Navascués, took over in 2017.
So, once again, Jesús, wherever you are now, muchas gracias for this particular wine, CONTINO Reserva 2015, which was one of your latest vintages at the winery. It is a fantastic wine that has a lot of potential to become an even much better wine with time and care. A truly enjoyable wine for the taste buds.
Thank you Jesús for your wines and the memories they trigger every time I drink them. And good luck in your current endeavours. Hoping you're not too affected by the current situation in your native Spain.
¡Hasta la próxima! ¡Hasta luego!
Thank you for reading my post,
And until next time, be and stay safe, respect the social distancing, wear a mask and take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.
And, as it is the new year soon, I wish you All, all the best for the New Year to come (2021), hoping that it will be much better, happier, safer and healthier than this past year (2020), for all of you.
Personally, I cannot wait for 2020 to be over and for the new year to begin.
LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)
Sources and Links
(1) Map of the Riojas partly or entirely taken from and edited for this post courtesy of https://www.origins.wine/rioja
(2) Info partly or entirely taken from and edited for this post courtesy of https://www.spanishwinelover.com/16-winerie-vinedos-del-contino-
(3) Info partly or entirely taken from and edited for this post courtesy of https://www.cvne.com/en/tp-bodega/contino/
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