lunes, 21 de enero de 2013

Bodega Abel Mendoza Monge


Located in Rioja Alta, Bodega Abel Mendoza Monge is a relatively small bodega situated in the town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Abel is an experienced vine grower who has also become, through practice, a capable winemaker and his wife Maite is an oenologist with academic training. The couple do most of the work on their estate on their own.

Despite of being a small winery, this bodega is widely regarded as one of the single finest producers in Rioja. Abel is an artisan producer who handcrafts his own wines according to his own rules, a viticulture perfectionist that grows grapes of high quality, and enjoys a large reputation of the high quality of the wine he produces, including, rather unusually, white Riojas and making varietal wines, where many in the region would tend to blend. But this is not because they are against blends, far from it. But they want to observe and taste the varieties individually first. Producing varietal wines is also intended to prove the quality and potential of varieties that are traditional to the region but now little grown in the area, especially Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca and Graciano.

The Mendozas have been growers in the Sonsierra for generations, but it was Abel who first took the initiative of taking over the family business and building a small winery, in 1988. and started making his own wine instead of selling the grapes. Since then, the bodega has grown from 16 to 18 hectares that are divided into 37 parcels, located either along the River Ebro or villages surrounding San Vincente de la Sonsierra. These parcels are somewhat tricky to reach, and the work has to be done manually. Abel is very passionate about his vineyards, and spends much of his time working on them. They also do all their own grafting to make sure they have total control over every plant that goes into the ground.

A glance at their vineyard holdings only confirms this impression: thirty seven plots in the villages of Sanvicente, Labastida, and Abalos, a spread of 17km (10 miles), totalling under 16ha (40 acres), on myriad soil types, the great majority of vines head-pruned, with an average age of 40 years. an average yield of 30-35 hl/ha, and an average altitude of 530m (1.750ft).

For a full decade, nothing else was produced by the Mendozas while they improved the vineyards (90 per cent Tempranillo), and Abel began recovering a small panoply of white varieties with massal selections from a few vines planted by his grandfather four Garnacha Blanca vines, eight Malvasia Riojana, and seven Turrantes.

Torrontés is pretty unusual in Spain, let alone Rioja, though it was apparently grown here at the end of the 18th century, and was officially approved for use in Rioja in 2007, and officially admitted in 2010 for Rioja DOC wines.

There is also a 0,3ha (0.75-acre). 35-year-old patch of Viura. Whites remain Abel’s hobby and a subject of endless research for him.

The winery itself is compact and simple, high-ceilinged, very tidy and well maintained. However, because the stainless-steel fermenting tanks and wooden barriques are all in the same space, it does not qualify as a crianza (literally ‘rearing’) cellar and so they cannot, according to the Rioja wine regulations, use this term on their wines, even for those that have been barrel aged. For this you have to have a completely separate barrel cellar.

The reds are fermented in small vats; some of them are used for Grano a Grano, containing little more than a ton of grapes. Abel likes to mix some white grapes with the red ones, a practice that has been shown to make colour and aromas more stable.

They have some older cement tanks which they use for semi carbonic maceration for the youngest and fruitiest style of red call Jarrarte. The grapes (tempranillo and malvasia) are entirely handpicked and then deposited into the tanks. Their slightly variation on carbonic maceration technique, involves removing some juice after about 10 days and then the grapes are eventually crushed underfoot at the open-topped cement tanks, this is just for the joven (young, unoaked) wine. Total capacity is about 70,000 bottles.

The age of the wines takes place in new French oak barrels and not American, coming from a bevy of different coopers, all part of a blending alchemy, including different soils at different altitudes, that’s why we find a lot of freshness, complexity and personality in his wines.

They market their wines under 2 different brands: Jarrate and Abel Mendoza. Jarrarte is a young wine subject to carbonic maceration, whilst the Abel Mendoza label is kept in oak barrels for eleven months. The yield of the Abel Mendoza brand is quite low which makes these wines more concentrated and complex with intense black fruit aromas and flavours.

Abel's passion is wine, not the marketing of wine. Few if any of his wines are ever presented to journalists so reviews are few. Besides only a hand full of wine cases are made each year.


- Abel Mendoza Selección Personal: This Tempranillo is from the 2ha (5-acre) El Sacramento vineyard, more than 40 years old. Fermented in concrete tanks and aged a year in French oak, about a third of it new, it is lively, personal, and terroir-infused, the opposite of a fruit bomb, and has always shown fine aging potential.

- Abel Mendoza Tempranillo Grano a Grano: A deep, powerful Tempranillo from two tiny plots in San Vicente, Gallocanta, and La Nava, yielding some 8,000 bottles annually. With malolactic in barrel and a year and a half in oak, this wine from grapes that are manually destemmed is made and aged ambitiously, aiming at a very long development in bottle, in the manner of the great Rioja classics.

- Abel Mendoza Malvasia Fermentado en Barrica: The misleadingly named Malvasia Riojana (actually the same variety as the modest Alarije from western Spain’s Extremadura) has found a convincing champion in Abel, who coaxes an unexpected delicacy from it, with aromas of pears, wild flowers, and honey in a light, not especially powerful, but elegant wine.

- Jarrarte: these wines shows a freshness and finesh uncommon among their competitors, and they still represent about half the total production of the bodega, with local demand particularly strong.


- Tempranillo Grano a Grano. 43,50 € / £34.83
- Seleccion Personal. 33 € / £26.50
- Jarrarte Crianza.  15,60 € / £12.51

- Malvasia. 15,60 € / £12.51
- Viura. 15,60 € / £12.51
- Garnacha Blanca. 15,60 € / £12.51
- Torrontes. 15,60 € / £12.51


Any self-respecting wine writer should have their senses open 24/7. A great wine or great producer can appear at any moment. It was on my first night in Rioja that I randomly selected a bottle of “5V” from a restaurant list in Logrono and found it utterly delicious. Upon realizing that Abel Mendoza’s wines had not been included in my tastings, I asked if his wines could be winged over. It was a few days before I got round to it, and in the meantime, “Abel Mendoza” seemed to be the winemaker on everyone’s lips when I posed the question: “Who is pushing the Riojan envelope?” This husband and wife team, Maite the oenologist and Abel the vine grower, create white wines that set the pulse racing. They are individualistic wines that pay scant regard to the Reserva system, showcasing classic white varieties such as Malvasia, Viura and Garnacha Blanca, plus those on the cusp of extinction such as Tempranillo Blanco and Turruntes that all undergo virtually identical vinification that employs a prudent five months of new oak. These are dazzling expressions of grape variety and terroir, profound wines that seem a million miles away from the anodyne Viuras that flourish. For me, their whites are so good that they unfairly over-shadowed their reds, which are still well-crafted but not quite as riveting. Maite and Abel’s wines are very special, suffused with personality and intellect, and were some of the most exciting that I met in Rioja.

- 2011 Garnacha Blanca. (95/100): The 2011 Garnacha Blanca is sourced from clay and calcareous parcels of 18-year-old vine around San Vicente, fermented in new French oak, where it is raised for five months. It has a captivating bouquet of fresh lemon, pineapple, star fruit and mango that is extremely fresh, the oak barely noticeable. The palate is very well-balanced with a hint of ginger on the entry, which recedes to allow the pure tropical fruit, orange zest and apricot notes to flourish on the finish. Utterly delicious! Drink now-2016+

- 2011 Malvasia. (93+/100): The 2011 Malvasia is sourced from 50-year-old vines on clay/calcareous soils and is raised identically to the other single white varietals. It has the most taciturn nose of Mendoza’s whites and so leaving the glass to one side over 10-15 minutes it unfurls to reveal dried grapefruit, praline, guava and lychee. The palate is very well-balanced with a lemongrass-tinged entry, vibrant acidity, with understated white peach and apricot notes decorating the finish. This is the one white varietal that would benefit from a year in bottle since it is not as forthcoming as its siblings. Drink 2013-2020.

- 2011 Tempranillo Blanco. (94/100): The inaugural 2011 Tempranillo Blanco was actually trialed last year, but was too small in quantity to commercialize. Fermented in new French oak, where it is raised for five months, it has a complex bouquet of white peach, freshly sliced pineapple, praline and apricot. The palate is beautifully balanced with the weight of a red Tempranillo, offering vanilla pod, almond, coconut and orange zest with impressive definition and arching length. This is a wonderful, individual white Rioja. Drink now-2016+.

- 2011 Viura. (92/100): The 2011 Viura has a seductive, enticing bouquet that quite honestly is in a different league to 99.9% of others that I encountered. It is beautifully defined with vanilla and patisserie scents emanating from the oak, while the palate is harmonious, fresh and vibrant. It fans out beautifully with gorgeous almond, honeycomb and citrus notes that are supremely well-defined. If only all Viuras could be as compelling! Drink now-2016+

- 2011 Turruntes. (92/100): The 2011 Turruntes is a rescued grape variety that prospered during the 19th century around Labastida, Abalos and San Vicente. Abel took some cuttings from the last few remaining vines to prevent it from extinction, and the wine is raised in new French oak over five months. It has a very fine bouquet of pineapple, banana skin, fresh lime and Japanese yuzu that displays immense clarity. The palate is medium-bodied with exquisite balance, although it does not quite have the generosity of the Tempranillo Blanco. The acidity is finely tuned and it builds gently to a crisp white peach, dried apricot and spice-tinged finish. This is very fine and unique. Drink now-2016+

- 2010 5V. (95/100): The 2010 “5V” is, as its name suggests, a blend of the five classic varietals: Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Viura, Malvasia and Turruntes, aged once more in new French oak for five months. It has a wonderful, complex bouquet of grapefruit, dried pineapple, honeysuckle, melted candle wax and Turkish delight that is utterly seductive. The palate is supremely well-balanced with deftly integrated oak. There are hints of fresh apricot, tangerine, coconut, lychee and passion fruit, but none of those flavors are dominant, and they are crystalline on the finish. This is a compelling white Rioja. Drink now-2017+

- 2009 Tempranillo Grano a Grano (91/100): The 2009 Tempranillo Grano a Grano has an introverted bouquet of dark cherry, blackberry, tobacco and a touch of brine. The palate is medium-bodied with supple, ripe tannins. This has commendable structure and appears more “masculine” than other Tempranillos. It leads to a very intense, broody finish of blackberry, tobacco and sea salt. Certainly a more intellectual take on Tempranillo, it deserves another 12 months in bottle. Drink 2013-2018.

- 2009 Seleccion Personal (90/100): The 2009 Seleccion Personal has a very pure, elegant bouquet of dark cherries, blueberry, briary and just a touch of licorice. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannins, fine acidity and a very pure, caressing finish of black cherry, dried herbs and a touch of sea salt. This is very well-made and should age well over three to four years. Drink now-2016.

- 2008 Jarrarte Crianza (89/100): The 2008 Jarrate Crianza has an intriguing tertiary bouquet with blackberry, raspberry leaf and licorice. The palate is soft and generous on the entry, with licorice-tinged black fruits, powdery tannins and a supple finish of blackberry, tar and mulberry fruit. Fine. Drink now-2014.

Abel Mendoza Monge
Area under vine: 18ha (44,5 acres)
Average production: 80,000 bottles
Adress: Carretera Peñacerrada 7; 26338 San Vicente de la Sonsierra; La Rioia
Tel: +34 941 308 010 Fax: +34 941308 010

1 comentario:

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