Bryan MacRobert hails from South Africa, where he was assistant winemaker to renowned Swartland producer Eben Sadie before making his own exquisite range of wines. He and his Spanish wife Clara, however, now live in Logroño, where he made his first vintage of Laventura in 2013. One of a new breed of winemakers putting more emphasis on terroir and fresher, elegant wines in a region where the grand bodega and barrels still rule, Bryan's wines are already causing quite a stir and are some of the most thrilling bottles to come out of this traditional region in many a year.
The emergence of winemakers like Bryan, with this focus on vineyards, has prompted a re-think. Recently producers were permitted to label their wines with single vineyard or village designations, and Barranco del San Ginés is one of the first single-vineyard Rioja reds.
It’s a pretty special single vineyard too. Just 1.3-hectares in Rioja Alavesa, planted in 1935 on limestone at an altitude of 520-600 metres and farmed organically. The grapes? Tempranillo for the most part, plus a bit of Garnacha, Graciano, Cariñena and Viura.
As with the old vineyards of Rioja it is unirrigated and planted with a narrow row spacing of 1.4m x 1.4m between each vine with goblet head training. The grapes are handpicked, sorted and de-stemmed. Natural fermentation takes place in cement tanks over 2-3 weeks. Malolactic fermentation is done in barrel. Once pressed the wine is aged for two years in oak before being released. The oak is only intended to stabilise the wine, not to impart flavour.
This is magnificent, with great ageing potential. Fruit that’s at turns dark and light, red and black, taut and fleshy. Bryan says this wine is representative of the soil and climate of Laguardia. If that’s the case, lucky Laguardia.