Viñedos de Sonsierra – Viñedos Singulares
La Rioja Alta
Viñedos Singulares is a brand new project from leading visionary Rioja Alta producers Bodegas Sonsierra, who have recently been named as Tim Atkin MW’s 2022 Rioja Cooperative of the Year, for the third time in four years. The Viñedos Singulares classification, introduced from the 2017 harvest, makes up the highest category of Rioja wines, and Bodegas Sonsierra boast nine of these special designation vineyards, which is more than any other Rioja producer.
Under the legal requirements for a Viñedos Singulares wine, vineyards must be at least 35 years old, with yields set at 20% lower than the rest of the DOCa – hence the fruit is highly concentrated. Their outstanding wines are highly limited editions, given the small size and low yield of the plots certified as Viñedos Singulares.
The three wines that are so far being released have all received 94 points and above from Tim Atkin in his Rioja Special Report, and were also included in Atkin’s selection of “Wines of the Year”. We expect great acclaim to follow over the course of this year.
Meet The Winemaker:
C&C Wines’ Portfolio Ambassador Peter McCombie MW in discussion with Rafa Usoz
PM: Bodegas Sonsierra has more Vinedos Singulares than any other producer in Rioja. How did you identify the vineyards? Was it as simple as applying the official criteria such as a 35 year minimum vine age or did each vineyard have something special to say?
RU: No, it wasn’t as simple as that. We actually have 220 vineyards that are more than 40 years old, which is the age we consider old vineyards. We used a spectral camera to determine the vigour of all of these vineyards, and selected nine in 2017, each of which has something special about it, whether that be the soil, the age, the orientation, the vines….We had many vineyards to select from, and of course, we selected the ones we thought could bring contribute something unique.
PM: Can you describe the wines in terms of what the vineyard brings?
RU: El Manao is a vineyard near the river Ebro, but the soil isn’t aluvial, it is calcareous clay. The wine is well-structured and tannic, with around 14% alcohol, and needs a medium ageing period to reach its best. Duermealmas is a vineyard which is also near the river, but the soil is partly alluvial and partly calcareous clay. Its tannins are softer, and because of this it is ready to drink sooner. The El Rincón de los Galos vineyard is made up of sandy soils, but this sand comes from the degradation of the sandstone rocks. It is the earliest maturing vineyard due to the soil, and we usually harvest it before the white grape vineyards, because it suffers a lot from drought. It usually has the most powerful tannins and continues to improve and become more rounded in the bottle. All three have a lot of ripe fruit, the old Tempranillo from la Sonsierra almost always contributes ripe fruit, and rarely fresh (and more underripe) fruit.
PM: Blending has long been the tradition in Rioja. Does making single vineyard wines require a new or different approach, either viticulturally or in winemaking?
RU: No, in terms of viticulture we treat each single vineyard in the same way as all of our other old vineyards. In winemaking terms, we adjust the number of pumpings and temperatures to each vineyard, just to achieve the best of the vineyard.
PM: The bodega has built a new winery just for the VS wines. What does this facility allow you to do differently?
RU: We built a new winery with the possibility of making “micro” fermentations, with vats from 700-5000kg, which we didn’t have previously.
PM: We might expect prestige bottlings in Rioja (as elsewhere) to be impressive and powerful and given extensive oak ageing. I found the Sonsierra VS wines I have tasted so far to be impressive indeed, but happily also, balanced, without excessive oakiness. How did you achieve this?
RU: We don’t like excessive oakiness in wines, and believe our wines must show what they are and where they come from. So we always search for a balance between fruit and oak. Although we use new french oak, the wines have enough structure to balance the fruit with the oak. We decide upon the time in oak by tasting and deciding when to take the wine out of the oak, which is usually not until 16 months. Though it may sound strange, in Tempranillos with 12 months of french new oak the wood stands out more than in Tempranillos with 16 months.
Viñedo Singular ‘El Manao’
The name of the vineyard, ‘El Manao’, is a local word referring to an area of natural springs on the banks of the River Ebro, and this little gem covers just 0.24 hectares. The careful selection and low yield from this vineyard meant that only 576 bottles have been released in the market. Awarded 95 points by Tim Atkin and 91 points by Decanter.
Viñedo Singular ‘El Rincón de los Galos’
Awarded 96 points from Tim Atkin and 95 points from Decanter, 100% of the grapes are handpicked from Tempranillo vines grown in an area known as ‘El Rincón de los Galos’. The careful selection and low yield from this vineyard meant that only 2,016 bottles have been released in the market.