When you think of wine from Rioja you probably think primarily of Tempranillo. Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) are the usual blending partners for Tempranillo in the region and these wines are great partners for roasted or braised meat. I love them with lamb. Red wine production predominates in this region of northern Spain that straddles the Ebro River, but white wine and rosé are made in the region as well and are worth exploring.
Today we’re tasting two wines from Bodegas Vivanco that were provided to us as tasting samples. Vivanco has a multi-generational history in Rioja with a winery and museum in Briones (Alta Rioja) and vineyards in select Rioja locations. In addition to growing the expected varieties native to Rioja, the family is committed to indigenous varieties that are not well known and that’s one of the things that makes the white wine in this tasting so interesting to me.
2016 Vivanco Viura-Tempranillo Blanco-Maturana Blanca Rioja — pale yellow in the glass with generous ripe pear and white flower aromas. Complex flavors include dusty minerals, dried hay and pears. This wine has juicy acidity and finishes with a squeeze of citrus. It has nice weight in the mouth and a good long finish. 13% abv. SRP $14.99
Truly one of the most complex and unique white wines I’ve tasted recently. The aromas will draw you in and the flavors will keep you sipping this lovely wine.
Viura is commonly used in the white wines of Rioja, but Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Blanca are less common. Tempranillo Blanco is a natural mutation of Tempranillo and was only discovered in a Rioja vineyard in 1988. Maturana Blanca, on the other hand, has been documented in Rioja since 1622. A blending of the expected, the new and the old. Bravo!
Each variety is vinified separately in stainless steel, and spends 4 months on the lees, before blending. Do yourself a favor and snag a bottle or two of this wonderful white wine. It loves food.
2010 Vivanco Reserva Rioja — dense ruby in the glass with generous aromas of cedar and dark fruit and hints of dried dill which diminish with time in the glass. Ripe blackberry and dried blueberry fruit flavors are supported by backnotes of dusty earth. Firm, drying tannins and juicy acidity linger on the palate with fruit, cedar spice and leather. The body is relatively light for a wine with so much flavor and such firm tannins. Give this wine time in the glass, you will be rewarded with increasing complexity. 14% abv. SRP $17.99
This blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano was aged for 24 months in French and American oak followed by 24 months of aging in the bottle. This is not a shy wine. You will want to pair this Reserva with grilled rib eye or flank steak. Don’t be afraid to add chimichurri, even though it is a South American sauce and not Spanish, the flavors will match nicely.
These artful wines are contained within distinctive bottles that are designed after an eighteenth-century bottle on display in the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture in Briones. The artwork that appears on the Vivanco Reserva is that of Spanish artist Juan Gris and is part of the family’s art collection.