Telmo Rodriguez ‘LZ’ Tempranillo 2013
A jam-packed cranberry+field herb nose (red lavender anyone?) is perfectly struck - fresh fruit and earth, lift and depth ... The palate is perfumed, ovoid, lissom, and really harmonious - built beautifully on Telmo's trademark natural fruit tannin-acid twin-track. Juicy and deft, it's not just good and typical, nor merely delicious … this is spectacular wine for the $$. Spain's Greatest Pizza Wine just climbed a higher rung.
Telmo and Pablo’s Riojas Telmo and Pablo are involved in three sub-regionally distinct Rioja projects. Of these, Remelluri - mentioned above and formerly his father’s property - is now in Telmo’s hands. Along with his sister, Amaya, Telmo is refining this property nestled high up under the Sierra Cantabrias between Labastida and San Vicente. But let’s consider that a separate story to the projects of he and Pablo (despite Pablo’s long association with Remelluri) - you can consult our detailed note on the beautiful wines of Remelluri elsewhere. Together, Telmo and Pablo have two extremely site-specific projects in Rioja. Las Beatas, from an ancient site just out of Haro, is yet to release its first wines - stay tuned for news on Las Beatas, and read below for the full story. The Rioja output currently under Telmo’s name is the LZ, Lanzaga, Altos Lanzaga trilogy, which come from the north-eastern village of Lanciego, 20 minutes north of Logrono.
Telmo is very fond of saying he doesn’t believe in ‘Rioja’, rather that there are “many Riojas” … a panoply of sub-regional and site-specific Riojas to choose from and interpret. This is a million miles from the view taken by the CRDO, however. The Consejo Regulador of the Denominacion de Origen is better conceived of as the ‘Conejo Regulador’ – the official bunny of the big companies. The regulatory body of Rioja, obedient to its commercial masters (the giant commercial houses), steadfastly promotes Brand Rioja and the lake of poorly grown, over-made Rioja that comes from everywhere and nowhere.
So generic is the official conception of Rioja, that it is in fact illegal to associate your wines with a specific village or place. In the rest of the wine world, it is much different: the village of Wehlen in the Mosel gives us vineyards such as Wehlener Sonnenuhr; that of Chambertin in Burgundy gives us Charmes-Chambertin and many others, and we distinguish Barolos from La Morra versus Serralunga d'Alba. In Rioja, however, we just have Rioja! Telmo and like-minded producers such as Artadi across the valley from Telmo in Laguardia are serious challengers to generic notions that place doesn’t matter in La Rioja. So, while it is illegal to name your Rioja wine by its village of origin, Telmo and Pablo are all about location. Their Riojas are Lanciegos!
Lanciego (Lantziego in Basque) is a tiny village in Rioja Alavesa, in the rolling foothills leading up to the limits of wine growing in the Cantabrias. Telmo and Pablo’s holdings are a select patch-work of vineyards purchased on various soils on the hill adjacent to Lanciego. The wines produced here, LZ, Lanzaga and Altos Lanzaga are a three-way telling of the wine story of this specific place. ‘Lanzaga’, the brand name, is an invention of Telmo’s … it points to ‘Lanciego’ without actually naming it on the label, which is as close as the law allows Telmo and Pablo to say, “this wine is from here” … ‘Here’ at Lanciego where Telmo and Pablo have chosen ‘their’ Rioja, is very cold and remote, just at the limits of grape-ripening viability. The soils ‘here’ are varied, featuring elements such as silty-sand, pebbles, ferrous clays, sandstone and limestone. A typical profile is a shallow ferrous clay textured with pebbles and sand over a first bedrock of sandstone, then a deeper silty-chalky clay over a second bedrock of limestone.
The vineyards, too, are mixed. Most are ancient field blends, planted to variant tempranillos, garnacha in significant proportion and support acts graciano, mazuelo, viura, and moscatel. Taken together they have a natural light and shade - inherent complexity - and are a million miles from industrial monoculture and the stultifying contemporary closure around high and even ripening regimes. There is no dull regularity here.