Rioja is one of two wine regions with Spain's highest qualification level, DOC or DoCa, the other region being Priorat. There is so much Rioja on the UK market and much of it over-priced, overly sweet and over-oaked because that became the trend from the turn of the century. But there is a danger of the DOC qualification being devalued.
There is now a new wave of winemakers fighting back against the commercial style of Rioja and Telmo Rodriguez is at the forefront; I had the good fortune to meet him in February 2016 and he told me that Rioja should not be a "recipe", that there is fortunately no longer one style of Rioja as modern winemakers like him focus on the fruit, the 'terroir' and more traditional methods. Telmo has been described by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate as "Rioja's number one Terroirist". In this Lanzaga wine Telmo chooses to blend the Tempranillo grape with some Graciano and Garnacha (Grenache); he grows the grapes bio-dynamically on traditional bush vines, hand picks the grapes, uses indigenous yeast and no chemicals.
The 2011 vintage was a hot one and yet Telmo Rodriguez has excelled himself again producing a complex Rioja that is an expression of the terroir and a very elegant wine.
It retains the fruit and a mineral freshness and does benefit from being decanted or at the very least swirled as vigourously as you dare in the glass to release the beautiful aromas. The flavours also evolve as the wine opens up in the glass and include blackberries, cranberries, cherries, dark chocolate and hints of fennel, spices and a slight wet stone minerality. There is a lovely lightness to the wine due to the acidity but the range of complex flavours make it seem medium-bodied. Large used oak barrels are used for a minimum time to avoid the wine seeming too oaky or tannic and it works as it is the fruits that dominate the wine and its long, velvety finish. Whilst drinking very nicely now, this elegant wine has the body, fruit and tannins to evolve further in the next few years. This is another high quality Rioja.
Recommended to drink with game, duck, goose, steak and other red meats, poultry, cheese, charcuterie and paella
"Lanzaga is identity, it is the purest expression of our work in Lanciego. It is the main wine of our project in Rioja. Made only with a selection of the best grapes from our 15 - 20 hectares of ecological vines in some of our 35 plots, located at an altitude of 500 - 700 metres. Lanzaga brings together all the elements that characterize our way of working: made with wine from bush vines from different plots, aged in foudres and in barrels of different sizes and origins, and with a very limited production.
The combination of all these elements gives rise to a serious, sophisticated wine with a great aging capacity. Lanzaga is a wine from Rioja that has a true sense of the place where it has been made, a rich and complex expression of the village."
95 points Tim Atkins MW in Decanter Oct 2017
"Combining Tempranillo grapes grown on both red and white soils in Lanciego, this sees no new oak. It's a taut, high-altitude style that's fresh, scented and very mineral, even in a hot vintage like 2011."
92 points Robert Parker Apr 2015
"The 2011 Lanzaga is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano from different zones of the village of Lanciego fermented in cement vats with indigenous yeasts and matured in a combination of 1,500- and 2,500-liter foudres and 225-liter barriques.
It is a pure and elegant wine which does not transmit any notes that would give a hint of the heat of the vintage, very elegant. The palate is silky and balanced, with very fine tannins and enough acidity. They used more grapes from the higher-altitude vineyards and produced a little less quantity to obtain this impressive wine. A very good showing, especially for the vintage."
“Spain is probably the most dynamic wine country in Europe right now, thanks to people like Rodriguez and Eguzkiza and a younger generation that is following their example. They want to prove that Spain is not just a source for value, but a land with incredible terroirs.”
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
“... The fact that quality ranges from excellent to outstanding is a tribute to his talent and attention to detail.”