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Tim Atkin “Rioja Special Report 2020”

07/02/2020 Breaking news

Tim Atkin, the prestigious British Master of Wine, has released his fifth annual ‘Rioja Special Report 2020’. A much-anticipated report where the wine guru not only rates 1,228 Rioja wines, but also gives his opinion on the current landscape in this wine region.

tim atkins la rioja

Caballero del Vino, Chevalier du Tastevin and member of the Ordre du Bontemps, Tim Atkin is known for his long career as a wine journalist. With a deep love for Spanish wines, he has visited the country many times and he knows the Rioja region better than almost anyone else. So much so, that five years ago, he decided to create the Atkin list of the best Rioja wines. An annual report where wines are rated using the Bordeaux system, with five different categories and including a wide range of producers: modern, traditional, large, small, new and established. Bearing in mind that 85-89 points is a bronze medal, 90-94 a silver medal and 95-100 a gold medal, this year’s ‘Rioja Special Report 2020’ is a good one. Of the 1,228 wines Mr Atkins tried, 106 have been awarded 95 points or more.

The future of Rioja: zoning, typicity and something new in the air

In his report, Atkin explains in more depth. From his point of view, issues like climate change, the stagnation of the Regulatory Council and the expectations of a new and more demanding consumer, all call for change.

Looking beyond the three sub-regions

The Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin has traditionally been divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta (27,870 ha), Rioja Baja (25,191 ha) and Rioja Alavesa (13,178 ha). However, Atkin believes that this division is limited to soils and geology and does not work when talking about terroirs. The reality is that climate change is having an effect and the vineyards in Rioja are becoming more varied in terms of appearance, altitude and typology. Classifying them into three simple zones is not enough. An example of this drive for change is the new single-plot wines with specific zoning that goes beyond the administrative areas.

Garnacha, the new star of the show

If there is one thing Rioja wines are known for, it is the Tempranillo grape variety. That is because some areas produce wines using this variety that have made a name for themselves around the world. However, this does not mean it has to be the main variety across the entire D.O.Ca. According to the English wine guru, it is time to open the doors to new varieties that are currently not recognised by the Regulatory Council and that are perfectly suited to the environment. In his opening statement, Atkin puts his money on Garnacha as the future leading variety in Rioja, because it is as diverse as Tempranillo but with an unrivalled ability to adapt to the hotter and drier conditions caused by climate change.  

Something new in the air

Finally, when it comes to the winemaking story, there is more to be said. Although wood and Rioja seem to go hand in hand, there are many producers who are committed to using other methods where generic wine is all the rage. As Atkin explains, new generations bring changes and although they may clash with the traditional rules in the D.O.Ca, they exist to make the best wines and bring a richness and splendour to Rioja. These are changes that all wineries must get on board with, the large ones but also the medium and small ones, because without those latter two categories, Rioja will be in danger of moving from a wine region to a wine industry.

5 recommendations from Atkin’s Rioja Report 2020

1- Artuke La Condenada 2017 red wine (98 points)

A Grand Cru Rioja

This red wine comes from a small but magnificent one-hectare plot that has been revived from almost nothing. Typical Rioja varieties like Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and other white varieties provide the background and shape to a wine that stands out for its balance, elegance and vivacity. A great Gran Cru from the beautiful Rioja

2- Rioja Alta 890 Selección Especial Gran Reserva 2005 red wine (98 points)

A reward for patience

A great selection from the winery’s oldest plots that have created an outstanding wine. A mixture of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo varieties that spends exactly 72 hours in American barrels. A complex, aromatic wine that is incredibly persistent, the result of passing time. 

3- Reserva Viña Ardanza 2010 red wine (95 points)

A spectacular vintage

2010 was a very good year for Rioja and that is clear to see in this wine from a Rioja Alta winery. If you are passionate about the Rioja style, you are sure to fall in love with this wine. It is a classic, made with Tempranillo and Garnacha, which gives it the perfect combination of American oak and fresh fruit

4- Gomez Cruzado Montes Obarenes 2016 white wine (95 points)

The result of typicity

The Tempranillo Blanco and Viura varieties in this white wine come from a single plot with clay-calcareous soils with a high limestone content, influenced by the Obarenes Mountains. In the winery it ferments and ages in a combination of French oak barrels and concrete eggs. The result is a very rich, intense and deeply mineral wine.

 5- Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía Reserva 2015 white wine (96 points)

Wonderfully elegant

Made by one of Spain’s oldest wineries, this wine comes from 70-year-old vines planted at 485 metres above sea level. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in new French wood, it presents elegant citrus notes, spicy touches and a saline, mineral and very elegant palate.

Now that we have given you all the latest on what is happening now and what is to come, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy all the Rioja wines rated by Atkin. Rioja is a region that still has plenty to say. Enjoy!