Artadi ‘Estate’ Tempranillo young vines blend 2014
Artadi’s young vines blend across the four sites of the estate. Gentle oak treatment (9 months in 1, 2 and 3 y.o. French oak) gives savoury, elegant maturity without any hint of oakiness.
In the Basque language, ‘Artadi’ means the ‘place of the Holm oak trees’, grand old examples of which stud the ridges of Artadi’s vineyards in la Rioja. Owned and hand-made by Juan-Carlos Lopez de Lacalle, with the assistance of his wife Pilar and son Carlos, Artadi is a top-flight organic and (selectively) biodynamic producer.
Juan-Carlos works on high altitude bush vines dry-grown in cold soils just under the Sierra Cantabria mountain range near the village of Laguardia, north of Logroño. Unlike most of “BRAND RIOJA” as promoted by the bureaucrats of official Rioja, Artadi are site-specific wines of place and soil – authentic proponents and outstanding exemplars of the (often windy) notion of terroir in wine.
Laguardia, the hilltop medieval fortress town below which Artadi’s holdings lie is a town of ‘two villages’: there is that which you see built above-ground, and the hidden community of interconnected cellars in the secret subterranean world dug by hand into the bedrock of the sandstone and limestone hillside. As well as working in Rioja with Tempranillo, Juan-Carlos also owns two other projects - Santa Cruz de Artazu focusing on Garnacha in D.O. Navarra, and El Seque in D.O. Alicante utilising Monastrell.
Alavesa, Artadi owns 85 hectares of land under vine, with 46 distinct parcels in 22 vineyards. These are planted across a diverse selection of soils and geological sites created by the 3 distinct river/valley systems which run south from Laguardia – the village in which Artadi’s winery and cellar are situated. Most vines are on powerful tertiary era erosion soils - chalky limestone with clay and gravel. There are also some plantings on very poor quaternary period alluvial sand. Soil depths range from profoundly deep, such as the 14 metres of stony clay in Ribaltayo (which goes into the entry estate wine), to less than a metre in the single vineyard El Carretil. Plantings are 100% Tempranillo, save for about 8% of Viura in the oldest vineyards. Yields are around 4 tonnes/hectare … a bit less than a bottle per bush vine.
Organic long before (and well outside of) the fashion
Juan-Carlos is extremely proud of his long (40+ years) history of organic farming. During the short century of US dominance since 1945 during which American hubris, armaments and chemical-industrial agriculture have defined our world, Juan-Carlos has never bought fertiliser. He was organic long before the current boom in organic and biodynamic farming. Nutrition for the vineyards comes by way of plowing in naturally occurring field herbs: poppies, dandelion, clover, veronica, mustard, alfalfa, violet, daisy, thistle, fennel and many more. Oaks, wild roses and honeysuckle abound. New vineyards are fertilised once with sheep poo, and pest control is via sulphur and copper sprays. B-D preparations and methods are used selectively.
One of the refreshing things about Spain’s small handful of outstanding terroirist producers is their commitment to authenticity as well as quality. While most Spanish producers, as in Australia and elsewhere, go to nurseries to buy generic cultivars, Juan Carlos is one of an energetic and intelligent few who bother to plant their fields with hand selected and propagated cultivars of preferable and authentic local material. As with others of Spain’s elite producers, he also eschews volume-oriented machine-era cultivation on trellis in favour of goblet-pruned bush vines in order to control yield and balance energy distribution between the plant’s holdfast in the ground and through two arms into the fruit.