Wine of The Month: CVNE Monopole Rioja Blanco 2014

Viura is a synonym used in the Spanish DO of Rioja for Macabeo, which is the most popular grape of northen Spain. High in production, the Macabeo adapts well to hot and dry regions. It also buds late which makes it less likely to be harmed by frost. Together with the varietals Parellada and Xarel-lo it is used in the production of the sparkling Spanish wine Cava. Both still and sparkling wines from the Macabeo are dry, medium in acidity, and have notes of delicate wildflowers and bitter almonds. Macabeo is best consumed young.

Besides Cava the best examples of Macabeo come from Rioja, where it is known as Viura, and now makes up 90% of the still white wine production in that area. It can also be found in large quantities in southern France, particularly in the Languedoc area where it is usually blended with Grenache Blanc.

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Monopole Rioja 2014. SAQ Code:  12636760. Price: $16.35

Cune (the initials C.V.N.E. are short for Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, but in common practice everyone says “coo-nay”) is a well known winery in the Rioja region that works in a very traditional style.Cune Monopole is a dry, crisp white wine made from the local Viura grape. It is pale green/gold in color with aromas and flavors of grapefruit, wild herbs and hints of fennel and mandarin. This unoaked white Rioja is lean and lightly mineral in character. It is very refreshing and pairs well with marinated vegetables and fresh seafood. For the price that it commands at the SAQ, it is a real and obscene steal.

Wines of The Month: Torres Coronas Tempranillo and Rioja Ibericos

Torres, is one of the most admirable wine brands in Spain and worldwide. The Torres Family is  one Spain’s leading wine dynasty and the  number one world’s most recognizable Spanish brand. Torres is also the family winery with the most extensive vineyards in the Denomination of Origin (DO) of Penedès and the largest winery in Spain. They also run overseas wine proyects such as   the Miguel Torres Chile winery in the Chilean Central Valley, and in the United States (California) when in 1986 Marimar Torres founded Marimar Estate. In Spain outside of the Torres family’s native Penedès region, they own vineyards in the DO Conca de Barberà, DO Toro, DO Jumilla, DO Ribera del Duero, DOQ Priorat and most recently in DOC Rioja .Moreover, Torres is also Spain’s largest producer of DO wines under its own label, exporting to more than 140 countries. Torres made two significant contributions to the development of enology in Spain: First, the use of fermentation at controlled temperatures, and second wine maturation  in small oak barrels as  as has been a habitual practice in Bordeaux for many centuries.

Bodegas Torres was founded by Jaime Torres and his brother in 1870 in Vilafranca del Penedes. During the Spanish Civil War the winery was bombarded, leaving everything in ruins. Miguel Torres Carbó, a fourth generation member of the family, rebuilt the winery in 1940 and started business up again. He was a pioneer in state bottling. During World War II, Miguel Torres traveled to the United States to promote his wines.It was in this period that the brands Sangre de Toro, Viña Sol and Coronas first came into the market. In 1966 work started on the planting of  internationalgrape varieties: at first Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and later on Merlot, Pinot noir, Riesling and Gewürztraminer. This is a pretty impressive resume. Both wines tasted below, regularly available at the SAQ are some of the best values available in the province of Quebec and Ontario

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Torres Coronas 2011. SAQ Code:  00029728. Price: $14.40. LCBO Code: 29728

A blend of mostly tempranillo with some Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose, aromas of ripe red plums, black cherry with vinous nuances and green cofee. In the mouth, full body, fresh with generous fruit. Savoury nuances of oak, vanilla and leather. A bit tannic but showing nice lenght and a long finale. Excellent quality for the price paid. 88\100. Weekday wine for for a simple bbq of grilled meats. Also it makes a nice food match with roasted pork loin in a mustard and rosemary sauce.

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Torres Ibéricos 2011. SAQ Code: 11180342. Price: $18.25. LCBO Code: 381046

Ibéricos  name is inspired from Alto Otero, a pretty place where the winery is situated in the town of Labastida, north of the Iberian Peninsula. On the nose, aromas of cedar, tobacco pipe with lots of ripe red fruit character. On the mouth, full body. Rich and velevety on the palate with well endowed tannins. Flavors remind of spices and balsamic notes. Generous finale. A well made crianza. Long and classy finale. 92\100. It goes really well with a grilled Merguez sausage and Spanish saffron rice.

Torres is represented in Quebec by Amphora Vins Fins et Spiritueux and in Ontario by Family Wine Merchants.


Spanish presence at the Trialto Tasting


Trialto, one of the leading agencies in the Canadian wine importing business, hosted on June 9th, their second annual tasting. I was in the company of other members of the Quebec wine press. The wine tasting was an intimate gathering and was followed by a fine selection of cured meats and fine cheeses. The Spanish wine presence was quite high, about 30% of the wines tasted. From 17 wines presented, five were from Spain. Most of the wines are available all year round in the Quebec market, with two exceptions that I will mention below.

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Navarra-Garnacha, Bodega Artazu 2013. SAQ Code: 10902841. Price: $15.45

On the nose, aromas that bring to mind different layers of black fruit. In addition, black pepper with paprika nuances. In the mouth, full body, fruity in the mid palate. Dusty tannins with a medium lenght finish. 87\100

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Catalunya-Montsant Mas Collet, Celler de Capcanes. 2012. SAQ Code: 642538. Price: $17.55

On the nose, aromas of redcurrants with dark plums and roasted herbs. In the mouth, full body with confit red berries flavors . Great tannins expression. 90\100

Rioja-Izadi Reserva 2010. SAQ Code:  12604098 ( Lot Specialty to arrive in August )

On the nose, noble oak notes with distinctive nots of crayons. In addition, cofee with ripe dark fruits. In the mouth, full body with coconut and cocoa flavors. Brambly tannins. Difficult to approach nose because of its youth. 90\100

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Ribera del Duero-Pruno Finca Villacreces 2013. SAQ Code: 11881940. $22.45

On the nose, lots of red ripe red fruits with smoke and barnyards. Less oak than previous vintages. In the mouth, lovely flavors of leafy blackcurrants. Big but quite polished tannins. 92/100

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Castilla-leon. Rueda Basa. Telmo Rodriguez 2014. SAQ Code: 10264018. Price: $16.45

On the nose, lots of green and tropical fruit character. In the mouth, medium body. Fresh and a bit sparkling. Lovely citrusy fruit character. 89/100


The tasting was more special, because during lunch, we were lucky to have the presence of Juan Palomar from Grupo Artevino. Mr. Palomar is the export area manager for Artevino in the North Aamerican market. This is a group of wine companies led by the Anton family. They include Izadi ( Rioja), Finca Villacreces ( D.O Ribera del Duero), Vetus ( D.O Toro and Rueda) and Orben ( Rioja).

I had a nice dialogue with Juan regarding the style of Izadi in Rioja and Villacreces in Ribera del Duero. Regarding Izadi, it is a very special since it marries the traditional style of Rioja with the modern one. I also was pleased with the latest vintage of Pruno. There was more fruit character and less oak.

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Hasta Luego

Vina Real Gran Reserva Rioja 2008


Viña Real has been producing wine since the nineteenth century and over the years They have  consistently brought fresh ideas and techniques to the Rioja region.

Today they can be found in Rioja Alavesa, a sub-region that were pioneers in barrel-ageing, and indeed Viña Real themselves were one of the first to make crianza wines.

Their first wine was sold way back in 1920 from vines near the Camino Real (or ‘royal road’, an historic Spanish highway) which is where their name originated. They have retained this name, although they are now under the much larger umbrella of producers run by the famous CVNE organisation.

Despite their many years of experience, choosing when to harvest is still a tricky operation as they only want to pick grapes at their optimum potential. When harvesting does get underway, it is done by hand, and the grapes undergo a further selection on automatic ‘hoppers’ at the winery.


Vina Real Gran Reserva Rioja 2008. SAQ Code: 12497501. Price: $35.00.

Aromas of blackcurrant with hints of coffe and dark chocolate and spices such as cinnamon. On the mouth, fruity, reminding me of sour cherries and strawberries. Elegant and structured with additional Rioja flavors of cedar and pipe tobacco. Lovely finale bringing to mind mint and confit red and blackcurrant. Drink now or cellar for the next 7-10 years.

Viña Real is represented in Quebec by LBV International.

Wines of the Month: The Riojas of Bodegas Fernández de Piérola

Rioja is one of my all time favorite region of Spain. It is a classic that never ceases to bore me. There is always something new to discover or a glimpse of a detail that you did not see before. For me, it is like the films of acclaimed iconoclastic Luis Bunuel.  This is a region that it is always re-inventing itself but always true to its origin.

For my wine of the month feature, I choose the Riojas of Bodegas Fernández de Piérola. I had a chance to taste them in the Raspipav wine saloon last year. Their Crianza was in the top 10 of the Montreal Judgement 2014. The theme of last year was to select the wines with the best quality price ratio in the private importation segment of Quebec.

This is a relatively new Bodega for Rioja time standards. It was founded in 1996 and they are situated in Moreda which is part of Rioja Alavesa. They are blessed with an optimal microclimate: Clay, chalky and ravinous soils with considerable differences in day and night temperatures.

Their Pierola Crianza 2010 ( the one that i tasted) comes from vines over 30 years old. It displays wonderful notes of blond tobacco, black cherry with toasty oak and intriguing nuances of smoked black earth. It has an excellent structure with polished tannins and is quite elegant despite the fact that it spent 18 months aging in a mix of 70% american oak and 30% french oak.

Their Reserva 2005 come from tempranillo vineyards between 45 and 60 years old. It has more powerful nose than the crianza displaying notes of jammy cassis, leather and lead pencil. On the mouth, it is quite potent and concentrated with ripe but massive tannins. It is quite oaky, but give it some time in a carafe and it will drink beautifully in a few hours. Or you can cellar for 10 years.

Pierola is represented in Quebec by MonCaviste.  You can get their Crianza 2011 by the modest price of $21.70 per bottle in case of 12. Their 2005 retails for $33.60 and comes in cases of 6.  These are perfect for the BBQ season at its full swing in these part of the world.

While you are drinking their wines, please watch this little video of Autumn in the Rioja. It makes you dream that you are. In my case, it does that effect on me:

For a mini report in general of the region, I also found this video made by a Mexican news online channel. It resumes nicely the wonders of Rioja in 5 minutes:

Happy drinking and see you soon!!!

Alvaro Palacios, Spain Superwine hero (3/3)


This is my last instalment on the work of Alvaro Palacios in Spain. In my previous posts, I covered his work on the Priorat and Bierzo. On this final post, i will cover his recent work in the Rioja. By the way, the timing on this post is perfect. Alvaro Palacios was named man of the year 2015 by the wine magazine Decanter.

After the death of his father in 2000, Palacios took the reigns of his family’s property and winery in Rioja, Palacios Remondo. Like his previous work in Bierzo and Priorat, Alvaro wants to create wines that raise an aesthetic emotion. Here i am quoting the words on his interview by Decanter magazine. According to him, he wants to pioneer a new style of Rioja by grafting Garnacha buds into Tempranillo vines and trellised vines into bush vines.

The Palacios Remondo Estate and vineyards are situated at high altitudes in the eastern part of the region. Alvaro uses mostly Garnacha, which has found its perfect place in Rioja Baja, as the dominant grape in his cuvees. This makes Riojas of a more Mediterranean character.

La Vendimia is a joven style of Rioja. This is a wine that has been aged in a mix of used and new oak tanks, american and french in style for 4 months. This is a blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Tempranillo. The  grapes are sourced from high altitude vineyards  of 1800 feet. Grapes are organically grown for this and his other wines. Vendimia which means just vintage is the entry level of wine for the Remondo estate.

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Palacios La Vendimia 2013. SAQ Code: 10360317. Price: $17.95

Violet and ruby. On the nose aromas of dark plums, raspberry-strawberry jam with touches of eucalyptus, licorice, and
brown iron encrusted earth. On the mouth, full body. Dry with a refreshing acidity. Cool red and black berries flavors
with spices. A touch of garrique. Generous with a good tannic profile. Medium lenght finish. 92\100.

On the other hand, La Montesa is a field blend of 70% Garnacha, 25% Tempranillo and the rest comprising Mazuelo. It is a wine made with a long maceration of 23 days and the wine has been aged in new and used 90% French and 10% American oak barrels. Palacios describes the 2011 La Montesa as ‘a wine that flows velvety smooth.

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Palacios La Montesa 2011. SAQ Code: 10556993. Price: $19.95

Concentrated aromas of redcurrants, dry blood with minerals and aromatic herbs. Brings to mind a californian pinot noir In
the mouth, full body, with a crisp acidity and ripe tannins. Silky mouthfeel and very ample in the mouth. Long in the
mouth with an aftertaste that bring to vanilla bean and coffee. Drink now or keep for the 5-10 years. 92\100.

Palacios also makes in the Remondo estate, the wines Plácet Valtomelloso and Propiedad. The former is the only white wine that Alvaro makes in his property. It is made with Viura. Plácet meaning to please. Propriedad is a pure Garnacha made from vineyards ranging from 25 to 90 years of age.  The fruit sourced across five unique vineyards that are represented by five gold stars on the wine’s new label. The unique soil is composed of sediments that stem from the Quaternary Era, consisting of volcanic ophite and sandstone pebbles, quartz and white carbonates. According to Palacios, this is a very special soil that has been making legendary wines for hundred wines. I have not been able yet to taste these two wines, but plan to do so in the near future.

What lies ahead for Remondo in the future?. Palacios have been working for a decade now in a wine called Valmira. This  wine is made from 100% Garnacha grown in a three-hectare single vineyard that bears the same name at Palacios’ family estate in the village of Alfaro in Rioja Baja. Over the last 10 years, Palacios has been busy grafting low bush vines with Garnacha and uprooting the Tempranillo planted in the vineyard. According to him, it will be like a Gevrey-Chambertin in soul and character. It will be problably be like L’Ermita in Priorat or La Faraona in Bierzo. It will be problably carry too a hefty price tag since only 1300 bottles have been made for the 2013 vintage. In an interview for the Drink Business last year, Alvaro has stated that “Garnacha is the queen grape of Rioja Baja – it’s been there for centuries. Producers were wrong to uproot it for Tempranillo in order to make a quick buck,” Will this wine become a timeless classic in the Riojan wine tradition?. Only time will tell, but if it carries the Alvaro signature, more than half of the odyssey is done.

The humble Spanish Omelette. Bring a piece of Spain to your kitchen.


Italians have their pizza, Greeks have their Souvlakis and in the province of Quebec, we have the poutine. Perhaphs, the dish that represent the most the gastronomy of Spain is the humble tortilla de patatas or spanish omelette.

Walk into any Spanish bar or restaurant from a major city such as Madrid or Barcelona to a town like Burgos and you will find this food staple. It will presented as tapa mostly. It is very rare to see it as main dish in a restaurant.

It  is said that the tortilla is born from a story of a man named  General Zumalacarregui who was very hungry but and found himself at a farmhouse demanding food. The peasant who only had eggs and potatoes put  the two together and made an omelette, resulting in the birth of the tortilla.  However there are other theories about its origins. For example, across the Mediterranean and the Near-East, there are countless variations of what you cann call an omelette. Interesting this dish originated in Persia as the kookoo sabzi and then gradually moved west. In Turkey, it was  called the Kaygana. In Italy, it evolved into the frittata. In France, of course the omelette and in Spain, it is the Tortilla Española or at times, the Tortilla de Patatas.

A tortilla is best enjoyed with a young fruity wine. A Rioja crianza will do the job. If your tortilla has a a meat element such as chorizo or jamon, you can have a Rioja reserva or Ribera del Duero. If you are feeling in a very festive mood, why not a Cava. On a lazy weekday evening when you do not feel like cooking, you can make a delcious tortilla rather than take out. It will be cheaper and healthier too.

Back in October when i started this blog, i tasted the wines of Campo Viejo. They have been making wine since 1959 in the Rioja. Campo Viejo is the child of two Spanish wine lovers, Beristain and Ortigüela. They make that embodies the embodies Riojan wine traditions. For everyday weekday drinking their wines deliver amazing value.

Suggestions for the Tortilla:

campo viejo

Campo Viejo Rioja 2012. Price: $15.35. SAQ Code: 11462446.

Ruby Colour with aromas of ripe cherry and horsesaddle notes. Some seasoned oak as well. In the mouth, full body with chewy fruit and a nice acidity. Drink now. 88\100


Campo Viejo Reserva 2008 Price: 19.95$. SAQ Code: 12275360

Medium ruby colour with purple red nuances. Brooding dark fruit aromas with hints of toasty oak, cocoa. Cherry liqueur and vanilla. Nuances of ashes Full body, medium to high acidity. Chewy Tannins with a nice rustiness to it. Long in the mouth with retronasal flavors remind me of leather, barnyard and other animal nuances. 90\100

The Rivalry between Rioja and Ribera del Duero


In Spain, the two main classic wine regions are Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Over the years, a friendly rivalry has developed between these two years. Often, the two regions are compared against each other. In this post, i will try to shed some light between the differences between these two giants.

Rioja became the first Spanish wine region to get doc status in 1925. In 1991, they received the most prestigious Denominación de origen Calificada (DOCa) which is very similar to what the italians call DOCG. In contrast, Ribera del Duero 1982 (It was called then Ribera de Burgos). In legal terms, Rioja is older than Ribera del Duero. Ribera does not posses the DOCa but many experts suggest that they should grant them, since it exist an historical quality precedent.

The geographical area of the DOC Rioja comprises the municipalities of Rioja and the basque country, with some areas of production in Navarra. The principal production areas are Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Alavesa. Naturally, the terroir and climate is taken into consideration to define the boundaries of each area.

The  D.O. Ribera del Duero is located on the southeast part of Castilla and León, particularly in the provinces of Burgos, Segovia, Valladolid and Soria. The most important cities in this D.O are Aranda de Duero, Peñafiel, Roa and San Esteban de Gormaz.

It is important to mention soil and climate, since it will determine how the wine taste alike

Rioja Alta has clay and chalky soils with a moderate continental climate. Rioja Baja is drier with a semi mediterranean climate and the soils are again clay type but with a rich mineral character that recalls iron. Rioja Alavesa has moderate winter temperatures with low incidence of frosts  and a landscape consisting of an abrupt orography and chalky soils. To resume, the soft temperaturates of Rioja permit a slow ripening of the grapes.

On the other hand, Ribera del duero has a climate characterized by low rainfall and extreme temperatures that combine the cold winds of the winter with the dryness of the summer season. As a consequence, the ripening of the berries will be less, making highly aromatic and concentrated wines but at the expense of finesse.

The D.O. Ribera has very diverse soils. In the part with the highest altitude, there is a mixture of limestone and chalk. In the mid-slopes sand and clay. In the lowest part just limestone.

In Rioja with regards to the grapes authorized , there are four red authorized:(Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Mazuelo and Graciano) and three white varietied (Viura, Malvasía and Garnacha blanca). However Tempranillo is king on those parts.

On the other hand in Ribera del Duero,Tempranillo, Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec are authorized,Garnacha and Albillo as well but in small quantities. Like in Rioja, the most important variety is Tempranillo.

Rioja has white, red and rose wines while Ribera del Duero only make red and roses. Rueda does not count, although it is considered by some as a satelite of Ribera del Duero.

In both DOC’s, traditionally wines have been classified according to their aging requirements: jóvenes (no aging in wood), crianza (minimum 2 years aging, one of them in wood), reserva (minimum 3 years aging, 2 in wood and 1 in bottle).Gran reserva (minimum five years, 2 in wood and 3 in bottle).

My Rioja wine picks of the moment:

Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2009. Code SAQ:  00741330. $22.10

On the nose ripe aromas of plums, prunes and red and black fieldberries. In addition, lots of spice character remind me of middle eastern cuisine. Also, licorice and present notes of oak. However, not dominating the nose of the wine. In the mouth, full body with a very polished texture. Long and smooth in the palate with flavors reminding me of mocha, blackberries covered in chocolate. Lush but with a impressive acidity. Powerful and concentrated bringing to mind  high end bottling of Rioja such as El Bosque. Keep this crianza on the cellar for 5 years. It still needs a bit of time to come to perfection. 92\100

Vina Gravonia Rioja Crianza 2004 – white wine-Code SAQ: 11667927: $30.25

Golden colour with amber nuances, aromas of butterscotch pudding with coconut, bitter orange and dry fruit notes. In the mouth, medium to full body with a grea acidity despite 10 years and great retronasal flavors. Again that intrepid bitter orange with some minerality. Also very perfumed, reminding me of toast and the Boudoir of my grandmother. Very long with an intriguing finale reminding me of popcorn. 95/100

Glorioso Reserva 2008. Code SAQ:  00857599$25.40. ( The link is for the reserva especial 2007)

Light to medium ruby colour. Ripe concentrated red fruit nose with leathery nuances. Nice oak integration with raspberry dark chocolate. Sweaty with hints of nail polish. In the mouth, full body, fresh and nicely concentrated. Well balanced. Chewy in the mouth with more animal nuances and ripe raspberry and cherry candy notes. Long in the mouth with a rather long aftertaste. 92\100

My Ribera del Duero picks of the moment too:

Rolland Galarreta Ribera del Duero 2010. Price:$26.70. Saq Code: 12258391

Beautiful concentration of dark blackberries, damson plums with a flowery and spicy character. In the mouth, full body with a smooth-silky profile. Medium to high acidity. Concentrated with lots of dry fruit extract. Precise and well made wine. Massive and chewy tannins. 92\100

Tinto Pesquera Ribera del Duero. $43.50. Saq Code: 10273088.

Very aromatic nose displaying black fruit paste, moka and dark chocolate notes. In addition, notes of seasoned wood. In the mouth, full body. Highly structured with firm and austere tannins. Complex flavors come to mind ranging to ripe black fruits, graphite, tanned leather to indian spices. Very long finish. 94/100.

Bodegas Tobia-Modern Riojas with soul.

colourful vineyard view Rioja

Rioja Vineyards. Source:

At the late Raspipav, I saw little Spanish presence, but what i tasted was really interesting.  One of these producer is Bodegas Tobia is a newcomer in the Rioja.

The bodega was established  in 1994. Its  founder and hombre fuerte  is Oscar Tobía, This Spanish gentleman comes from a local family of wine growers situated  in San Asensio. His purpose is to make original and distinctive wines which embodies  the spirit of Rioja but with a  modern twist. Tobia is the pioneers of barrel fermented rose in Rioja. To this say, Oscar continues to produce innovative wines which are widely known around the world, and sometimes used as benchmark examples by the Rioja Institute.
 It is great to know that we can find Riojas of this caliber in the province of Quebec. Tobia is represented by  Benedictus agency. They have a small but very interesting  Spanish Portfolio.

I only had a chance to taste 3 of their wines at the latest Raspipav in Montreal, Quebec. Although their wines are modern, they are quite enjoyable. I love the fruit concentration profile and the oak is present  ( seleccion and daimon blanco). However, nothing is out of balance. It is very harmonious. However, the most interesting wine was the Daimon blanco, since it contains an unusual grape, Tempranillo Blanco that we seldom see in Rioja. Accordng to Dinastia Vivanco,”Tempranillo Blanco offer intense fruity aromas, with banana, green apple, citrus and floral characters”. You can read about this and the other grapes on Rioja on the Rioja DOCa site.

Tempranillo Blanco, or White Tempranillo, is a relatively ‘new’ grape. It is the result of a natural mutation of the more common ‘red’ Tempranillo, and was discovered on a vine in a vineyard in Murillo de Rio Leza in 1988 by the owner, Jesús Galilea Esteban. DNA analysis proved that this really was tempranillo, but it had a  natural ‘albinism’  that had affected the genes responsinble to the skin colour that resulted in a yellow/green skin pigmentation instead of the usual blue/purple.

daimon blanc

The yellow eyes represent the white daimon label and the purple eyes, the red wine label. Source:

Daimon White 2012. $22.95 A blend of 30% Viura, 25% Malvasia, 15% Tempranillo Blanco and 30% Sauvignon Blanc. Cold skin berry maceration. Fermentation and aging 3 months on American oak with occasional batonnage. On the nose, aromas that remind me of bitter orange and dry white fruits. In the mouth, medium body with a good acidity. Flavors bring to mind peach and apricot jam. Elegant and long. 90/100

Tobia 2013 Tinto $18.70. 100% Tempranillo destemmed, cold maceration in CO2. Stainless steel tank fermentation. No oak. Beautiful primal tempranillo fruit ( Panoply of red fruits ). In addition, spices and licorice. In the mouth, full body with an excellent structure.

tobia wines

Tobia Seleccion range. Source:

Tobia Seleccion 2010. $26.90. Mostly tempranillo with blend with Garnacha and Graciano. Aging in american and french oak barrels. The vintage 2008 was aged nineteeen months. On the nose, concentrated aromas of jammy black fruit. Spicy with well integrated wood notes. Structured and dense with vanilla and pepper layers. Very long but austere finale. 93/100.

Graciano, giving good grace to the wines of Rioja


In my mind, Rioja is to Spain as Chianti is to Italy. If you asked most people to quickly name one wine from Spain and one from Italy, I would bet that a large majority would instantly name those iconic regions, and for good reason. Both areas have a well established wine making history and are not very available in almost every worldwide shop that sells wine, but good bottles can be had for reasonable prices as well. They both also feature what might be considered each country’s “signature grape:” Tempranillo in Spain and Sangiovese in Italy.

Of course, the analogy isn’t perfect. Chianti has much stricter regulations regarding what grapes in what proportions can go into its wines and still be eligible for the Chianti classification (there is also no white Chianti while Rioja allows for white wine production). There are regulations in Rioja also, but only for the allowed grape varieties, not the proportions (and even then I believe that wineries can apply for special permission to include grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon). What this means is that it is possible to end up with a 100% varietal bottling from any of the approved red wine grapes within Rioja: Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache in France), Mazuelo and Graciano. Those first two grapes are familiar enough, and Mazeulo is the local term for Carignan, a grape grown in many regions all over the world, which brings us to Graciano.

Graciano is a late budding grape variety with natural low yields and ripens much later than Tempranillo. It is very rare to see it bottled as a 100% varietal. It is originary from Rioja and Navarra. In Rioja, there are 395 ha which constitutes 0.7% of the vineyard planted in Rioja.

Although a minor player in Rioja blends, Graciano is used to provide colour and aroma to blended Rioja red wines. Graciano was once very widely grown in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France, where it was known as Monastel ( which can lead to confusion since it is a spanish synonym for Mourvedre).

Perhaps why this grape is not planted more widely, it is because it is so so economically viable. Graciano is famous for low-yielding and susceptible to downy mildew, which means it needs more attention in the vineyards. It’s a very sound economic decision with on a large-scale. If two vines take up the same amount of space in the vineyard but one produces considerably more fruit and doesn’t require as much maintenance, then why would you bother with the one you have to spend more money maintaining and get fewer bottles of wine from?

Fortunately, the fine wine boom of the past twenty years has encouraged more producers to devote more time and resources to cultivating Graciano. Many producers are letting Graciano be the sole star of their wines, producing 100% varietal Graciano wines. Recently, I was able to review the  Graciano from Ijalba.

Ijalba is one of the most important producers in Rioja. They are one of the few producers that I know that specialize in the bottling of 100% Graciano varietal. They have also have been pioneers in  the standard for environmental awareness in and around Rioja, from its organic production to its extensive re-cycling and philosophy for the winery. Ijalba has also been actively engaged in the resurrection of minor grape varieties indigenous to Rioja in conjuction with other organisms such as the University of Rioja and  C.I.D.A. Rioja.

Ijalba’s entire vineyards are planted on abandoned opencast mines, which have been restored from an environmental point of view, having received several national and European prizes for the restoration undergone. As a consequence of the location of the vineyard, the soils are poor and limy, with little depth. The vineyards are planted on the sites of these former quarries, which have poor rocky soils. In consequence, the vine’s roots have to grow very deep to find water and nourishment.

Viña Ijalba owns around 70 Hectares (175 acres) of vineyards which are in a number of parcels surrounding Logroño, in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, and Valle del Najerilla. These vineyards supply 100 % of the production of the bodega. The grapes planted have been matched according to the soil type and micro-climate of each vineyard site.



Ijalba Graciano 2012. Code SAQ :  10360261. $21.55

Dark purple colour. Complex aromas of red currants with iron and earthy nuances such as tamari soya, wasabi, dry blood oranges and hummus. Full body, with a good acidity. Structured and long in the palate with retronasal flavors reminding me of black currants and violets. Chewy fruit profile with beefy but mouth-watering tannins. Long aftertaste that remind of leather and other barnyard nuances. Drinking beautifully know but can be aged for 10 years. 95\100

Ijalba is represented in Quebec by Charton Hobbs. The sample reviewed was given by Hobbs for review.