Rioja has for a long time been one of the UK’s favourite wines. There is perhaps something about the mellow yet rich character of the reds that fits almost perfectly with our never ending autumn-winter cycle of seasons! We are fortunate at Jeroboams to represent in the UK two fantastic wineries from Rioja: Marques de Reinosa and Bodegas Ezquerro. And, every once in a while, in the spirit of strict quality control, we send out two lucky soles to take a lay of the land. So, in early June, it was the turn of Dennis and Nicola from our wholesale arm, Laytons, to make the trip along with a few key customers from St John and Kouzo restaurants, and The Winchester Group.
Starting off in Bilbao, the team set off for Marques de Reinosa in Autol, to tour the facilities and marvel at the sheer size of some of their tools: gigantic 55,000 litre tanks and a sea of 6,000 barrels, in which the wines age quietly. This may seem out of step with your ideas of the scale of a winery, but Rioja is a different business, where innovation and growth are matched hand-in-hand with tradition. Tasting the range of wines demonstrates this perfect, with an unusual white clone of the tradition Tempranillo grape producing a delicious wine that at once appears distinctly recognisable and unfamiliar at the same time.
One interesting point about this region is that it is home to the mushroom in Spain, which is the world’s biggest producer of these little fungi. This was clearly evident in the local cuisine, with Dennis in particular enjoying the variety of dishes on offer!
After an evening of sight seeing and clean living, the next day was reserved for visiting Bodegas Ezquerro, located in the village of Tudlilla in the province of La Rioja. Ezquerro are a new addition to our range of Riojas, and their owner, Carmello Ortega, was keen to show the team the local sites, including a mushroom farm! In addition to the pre-existing knowledge of wine, Dennis and Nicola are now our in-house experts on mushroom cultivation. The estate has a storied history, which is expressed in the age of some of their single vineyards that are home to vines planted as long ago as 1896. Needless to say, the wines are absolutely superb. Given the level of quality achieved at every point in their operation, this is hardly surprising, but only achievable with the care and passion the Ortega’s inject into every day.
Rioja is a wonderful region to visit, with exceptional food, wine and, most importantly, fantastic people.
Dennis van Duuren, Wholesale Sales Manager