We arranged a visit at Pujanza on the recommendation of Madeleine’s good friend and new Contino winemaker, Jorge Navascues. I’m grateful to Jorge for the recommendation because these are classy, mainly single-vineyard Rioja wines, very much in the ‘new wave’. By chance, Ruth and I had already tasted one – Norte – in the best bar-restaurant in central Laguardia – Los Parajes – who had it by Coravin.
We were horribly late, as our visit to Ysios overran by at least an hour and I’m also very Grateful to commercial manager, Jesús Viguera for waiting for us. Towards the end of the tasting, we were also joined by renowned ex-Contino winemaker, Jesús de Madrazo, who then took us for a quick tasting at his new project El Sacramento. A busy day with great wineries and wines!
Bodegas Pujanza was founded as recently as 1998 by owner-winemaker, Carlos San Pedro. The bodega owns 40Ha, 17Ha of which are unusually, directly around the winery. The home vineyard was planted in 1975 on 30-40cm deep limestone-clay soils over rocky bedrock, entirely to Tempranillo, and is divided into 9 parcels for separate vinification. These are then blended to create one of the winery’s 3 single-vineyard Riojas – Finca Valdepoleo.
Viticulture here is close to organic, but they are not interested in certification, preferring just to learn their land and vines better than when they acquired them, and thereby making their viticulture as precise as possible. With lots of humidity in the period we were in Rioja, we saw a team spraying prophylactically on the day of our visit. Training is a mix of styles but they have some older 49-50 year old Tempranillo trained en vaso. Interestingly, the home plot still has an old drip-irrigation system installed, but that is apparently no longer used
The other 2 single vineyard expressions are Norte, which is unsurprisingly to the North of the winery towards the Sierra de Cantabria, though still in the Laguardia area, and Cisma. Cisma, a <1Ha parcel planted in 1925, on its own roots in sandy soils, and recovered by Pujanza, creates their top wine and it certainly showed its class in our tasting (which it ought at €130 / bottle for one of the c. 1,100-1,400 bottles produced each year!).
There is an entry level wine, Hado, which is a blend across their vineyards and will therefore qualify as a Laguardia village wine from the 2017 vintage – Vino de Municipio. This really punched above its weight, given that it retailed in Spain for €11-12 / bottle, giving more depth, interest and dimensions than might be expected at that only somewhat elevated price-point.
Stylistically, their aim is for Tempranillo with elegance and low pH. Fermentation and maceration total length is therefore relatively long at 30 days, due to maceration for colour and flavour over tannins. Fermentation is in stainless steel and controlled up to 30-31°C. Press wine is generally not used as it gives more tannic power than desired. Oak is French with an aim for best quality and a mix of oak ages. Maturation time is variable – for example, Cisma can be anything from 12 to 24 months, depending on vintage – and like Artadi and other ‘new wave’ producers, the wines are not bound-into the Crianza-Gran Reserva hierarchy.
A small production Rioja Blanco is made as well. Typically 1,500-2,000 bottles, this is a very interesting project. 2Ha of 47 year-old Viura in San Juan de Anteportalatina is fermented in a concrete egg, then barrel matured to produce transparent, minerally, long wines.
More interestingly, it is named and labelled differently, depending on the character of the vintage. As the name suggests, Añadas Frías is the brand in cool years, with a blue colour accent to the attractive label design; in warm years, a red tint accompanies the somewhat unwieldy Anteportalatina name.
We tasted examples of both, side-by-side, and they of course have similarities since they’re the same vines in the same place. But do show different characters – more generosity and fruit in the Anteportalatina guise; tighter, brisker and more minerally in Añadas Frías mode. Fine wines in each style, though I gave the Añadas Frías the edge, just.
Pujanza wines are primarily sold in Spain through Primeras Marcas, but also are found in 15 markets around the world, including the US, Germany, recently in Scandinavia, Canada, Mexico and Switzerland. The UK is a target market for them, where they are looking for an agent to give them profile as much as sales, and with an on-trade focus to fit that.
Pujanza Rioja Hado 2015 (16.5 / 20)
23 small parcels are blended together, along with any leftover wines from the single vineyard bottlings. 12 months in 2-4 year old French oak. Commercial value through giving an affordable entry-point to Pujanza’s wines, both domestically and at export. €10-12 / bottle.
A: Deep purple with a broad rim
N: Delicate floral notes – rose and orange. Hint of cedar-herb. Nutty background oak. Some dustiness
P: Sweet red cherry fruit. Pure and lively. Orange peel touch. Moderately-firm, fine tannins. Brisk acidity. Peppery mid-palate. Decent length
Pujanza Rioja Finca Valdepoleo 2014 (16.5+ / 20)
Home vineyard blend of 9 parcels at 600m altitude. 14 months in oak. 14% ABV.
A: Deep purple with a broad rim
N: Dusty, herbal character. On opening, some sweet black cherry emerged, but very closed
P: Flinty and stony. Blackberry. Smoky, inky tones. Backward. Chewy, fairly firm, peppery tannins. Warming finish
Pujanza Rioja Finca Valdepoleo 2015 (17 / 20)
More ‘Mediterranean’ vintage than cooler, Atlantic-influenced 2014.
A: Deep purple with a broad rim
N: Dusty almond-skin tones. Ripe, almost jammy, briar fruit. Some minty hints
P: Bramble and red-cherry. Spice. Nutty tones and dusty minerality. Fairly-firm, slightly wild tannins. Bright acidity. Long
Pujanza Rioja 2004 (17 / 20)
Finca Valdepoleo only at this stage, before single-vineyard labelling.
A: Deep garnet
N: Tobacco, dried red cherry. Dusty minerality. Mushroom development. Toasty-nutty oak tones. Fully mature
P: Plush red cherry and blackberry fruit. Firm, drying tannins. Spicy finish. Brisk acidity
Pujanza Rioja Norte 2015 (18 / 20)
750m average altitude. 16 months in Medium- toast oak. High-grade €1 / cork closure.
A: Mid-deep purple
N: Crunchy bramble fruit. Lifted rose and violet scent. Some fresh leather traditional winemaking notes. Broad. Complex
P: Juicy, vibrant acidity. Orange. Red cherry and blackberry. Herbal touch. Spice and crushed rock. Floral. Fairly-firm, peppery tannin. Long
Pujanza Rioja Cisma 2014 (18.5++ / 20)
<1Ha. 95 year-old Tempranillo on own roots in sandy limestone soils. 22 months in new, low toast French oak. €130 / bottle.
A: Deep purple
N: Aromatic. Sandy mineral and chalk. Expressive, red cherry scent. Linear and focused nose. Chocolate and crushed rock complexity emerges
P: Sweet blackberry. Firm, but very fine, velvety tannins. Dense fruit but with good freshness, so not in the least soupy. Bright. Flinty, rocky minerality. Long
Pujanza Rioja Blanco Anteportalatina 2015 (17.5 / 20)
Warm vintage. 1,767 bottles.
A: Pale gold
N: White flower tones. Some reductive fresh leather. Ripe lime and lemon sherbet fruit. Some stone, with waxy, honey overtones
P: Chalk and cream. Subtle spice. Ripe, yellow apple and lemon. Stony mineral. Creamy medium-long to long finish
Pujanza Rioja Blanco Añadas Frías 2016 (18+ / 20)
Cool vintage. 1,821 bottles.
A: Pale lemon
N: Lifted apple and white flower. Subtle spice and almond oak. Lime. Cool, flinty minerality and chalk
P: Tight, chalky and spicy. Leaner, flinty lemon-lime. Brisk acidity. Tight and chalky. Long