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A vast valley protected between two mountain ranges, northern Spain's La Rioja features terrain, wind conditions, and soil that differs from one village to the next. The River Ebro flows through it all from west to east flanked by the Cantabria Mountains to the north and the La Demanda Range to the south.
Vivanco Family Vineyards, a fourth-generation estate established 100 years ago by great grandfather Pedro Vivanco González, remains a small operation in La Rioja's Alberite. It wasn't until third-generation Pedro Vivanco Paracuellos, father of brothers Rafael and Santiago (who run the winery today) received formal training in wine making. Eventually a museum and restaurant were added to the vineyard operations enhancing the overall experience for those visiting in person.
Today Rafael and Santiago each bring their unique skill sets to Vivanco, complementing each other's strengths. Rafael leads wine production, while Santi shares and promotes his passion of wine culture through the Foundation and Museum devoted to the Culture of Wine.
Rafael was first inspired by weekends spent as a child traveling from Rioja's provincial capital Logroño up to Briones to work in the family vineyards. At age 18, he enrolled in an agricultural engineering program in Pamplona, learning the technique, science and all aspects of wine making. He fell in love with Bordeaux wines leading him to study at the Faculty of Oenology for 2 years. As part of his training, he worked at some of the most renowned wineries in the region inspiring him to deeply reflect and capitalize on the potential of La Rioja and its terroirs.
Santiago is in many ways the direct opposite of Rafael, inspired by the interdependence of wine and culture. “Wine has always been much more than aromas, flavors, textures, and the vineyards they come from. I'm interested in the human side of wine and its 8,000 years of history."
Santiago studied law in college, where he discovered the classics, philosophy, ethics, and poetry, particularly Neruda's ode to “wine, spiraling, swirling (...) never has a glass been able to hold you, nor man.” The more he read and studied, the more he learned that history was intertwined with wine inspiring him to eventually build the Museum of Wine Culture in 1998, celebrating the symbiotic relationship between these fermented juices and culture.
Here are 2 of Vivanco's youngest vintages that are sure to inspire you as well:
Vivanco Tempranillo Garnacha 2016 - The Tempranillo and Garnacha Blanca grapes used in this blend come from three regions in the Rioja. About 15 miles south of Briones at about 1,900 feet above sea level in Aleson, only grape varieties like Tempranillo with less need for light and warmth to ripen are able to thrive in their Finca San Antón, featuring loose, stony soils with a southeastern exposure. In San Vicente, the River Ebro climbs up towards the Sierra de Cantabria. The higher altitudes overlooking the Ebro in El Bosque promote greater freshness and slower ripening. Located just five miles from Logroño in Rioja Central, Villadmediana is situated at 1,400 feet, where winds coming from the interior are milder and less humid bringing less rain than any of the Rioja Alta terroirs.
Tasting Notes: A lively bright pink with purple hues, its nose unfolds with red licorice, raspberry, and hints of strawberry. Fresh in the mouth, with a pleasant acidity, you get a bright fruity finish perfect with spicy Asian dishes and fresh pan seared seafood.
Vivanco Tempranillo Blanca 2016 - The Tempranillo Blanca grapes used in this vintage are sourced from two regions in the Rioja. One of the most demanding terroirs, Briones is situated at 1,600 feet ,where vigorous winds blow from the Bay of Biscay, bringing moisture, rain, and freshness. The soils are stony and loose packed with yellow limestone and red clay. Just the right balance of not too much sun or cold ensures slow ripening perfect for Tempranillo Blanca, a delicate grape variety that Vivanco calls The Damsel since it is so capricious. But here it is satisfied with these ideal conditions rewarding you with fruity, fine, elegant aromas.
At an altitude of 2,296 feet, their other source of Tempranillo Blanco is the Rioja Oriental's Tudelilla supporting one of the highest vineyards in the region yielding an excellent balance of maturity and freshness.
Tasting Notes: Clean and bright pale-yellow with green hues, this sprightly vintage is very fresh and well-balanced, with a spicy patina and well balanced minerality on the mouth feel that continues into a bright palate cleansing finish.
Photos courtesy of Vivanco Family Wines. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored tasting.