Let me tell you about the Rioja that I've just found...
In wine, there’s nothing like the thrill of discovering something new, from someone who absolutely deserves success.
And Berta Valgañón is exactly that person.
When I was at the big Barcelona wine fair in April, Berta’s wines stopped me in my tracks.
My friend Ferran Centelles, writing on JancisRobinson.com, declared ‘Berta Valgañón is producing highly intense and expressive wines. Remember her name!’
So I had to visit her on my travels in northern Spain this week, to find out more.
We meet at Berta's winery/garage in the tiny village of Cuzcurrita in Rioja Alta
The tour doesn’t take long - there’s a space for tanks, an area for barrels and bottling, and an underground cellar for ageing her bottles.
She then proudly shows me her new tasting room upstairs beside her office. It’s simple but perfect.
It doesn’t get any more small-scale and artisanal than this.
We get talking - between her limited English and my limited Spanish, we make it work.
Berta explains that she’s the fourth generation in her family to farm the vineyards, and the first woman to do so.
These aren’t just any old vineyards - they’re really old vineyards. The oldest was planted in 1901.
In 2016 she decided to give up her career as an engineer, to restore the family’s precious old vineyards, and start making wine from them.
To revive the family tradition, before it was lost forever.
We taste the wines, and they’re every bit as good as I remember at the fair
The Tempranillo is unlike anything I’ve tasted from Rioja before. Inky-dark purple in colour, full of lush and juicy blackberries, a savoury edge, and gorgeous florals from the 5% of Grenache, Graciano and Viura in the blend.
You can taste the power, concentration and complexity from those incredible old vines in every sip.
And the white - just wow. It’s a blend of Viura and Malvasia, fresh and aromatic, with a subtle smoky nuttiness, and a delicious saline finish. Burgundy lovers rejoice. 93 points from Tim Atkin MW - high praise indeed.
I ask her about where she exports her wine - and she laughs
Between tending the vineyards (with organic and biodynamic principles), making wine, and mothering two kids, she doesn't have time for sales.
She occasionally hosts small groups in her tasting room, and gradually boca-a-boca (word-of-mouth) is getting out there.
Bingo - that’s where you and I come in
We hop in Berta’s car and drive 10 minutes to her vineyards. We’re in the furthest, most northwestern corner of Rioja. It’s a wild, remote place, with unpredictable weather and harsh conditions.
According to Ferran, this could be the most extreme place in the world for growing Tempranillo.
Berta tells me the only way to grow good fruit around here is from low-yielding, old vines.
As we stand in the vineyard, what really hits me is the dedication, passion and, above all, hard work that's required from Berta and the generations before her.
Compared to how easy it is for us to just buy the wine and enjoy it.
As we drive back to the winery, I’m totally convinced I'm going to work with Berta, and share her amazing wines with my customers.
Meeting Berta is exactly why I started this company
To share world-class wines from brilliant people with wine drinkers like you.