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Rioja 2020 Special Report by Tim Atkim

"There is nothing like a good vintage to put a collective smile on the face of a wine region; 2019 looks like the year Rioja has been waiting for since 2010."

14 of February of 2020

"There is nothing like a good vintage to put a collective smile on the face of a wine region; 2019 looks like the year Rioja has been waiting for since 2010."

With this unequivocally optimistic tone Master of Wine and journalist Tim Atkin begins his fifth annual report on Rioja. Using his own point system inspired by the 1885 Bordeaux classifications, Atkin has returned to the region to select the best producers and best wines where "quality is the only criteria". After tasting 1,228 wines for his research, Atkin once again offers high praise for the Gómez Cruzado winery: categorizing the 100-year-old winery as “second growth”, including its TERROIR SELECTION (CERRO LAS CUEVAS, PANCRUDO y MONTES OBARENES) among the year’s best, and awarding all of its wines between 90 and 96 points.

Atkin applauds Rioja for “[shifting] its focus from ageing requirements and oak to vineyard origin”. He also notes that “Rioja seems to be going through one of its better periods at present”, and considers that “wine by wine, and vineyard by vineyard”, the region is making progress toward recognition as one of “the great appellations of the world”.

In this latest edition of the Rioja Special Report, CERRO LAS CUEVAS 2017 features as one of the most outstanding wines from this winery in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación. Awarding it 96 points, Atkin remarks on the “brilliant winemaking” of this vintage “made with fruit from the bodega’s 2.5 hectares in Ollauri for the first time”. PANCRUDO 2017 received the same score (96 points) for “showing the freshness of old vines at 650 meters” in the Alto Najerilla Valley, which “has arguably the greatest concentration of venerable vineyards in the world. One-hundred-year old parcels are almost commonplace". Meanwhile, MONTES OBARENES 2016 (95 points) redefines the winery’s take on the classic white and continues to outshine others in its category for its “Burgundy-meets-Rioja style” style and for being “rich, intense and stony”. Regarding HONORABLE 2015 (94 points) the winery’s flagship bottle made from 20 plots located among the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria Range, Atkin underscores that it “ages extremely well in the bottle” and describes it “[a] fresh and perfumed stylish red” that expresses "the richness and power of a hot vintage".

Gómez Cruzado’s BLANCO SECOND YEAR 2018 (92 points) reaped the benefits of an “Atlantic-style vintage”; their CRIANZA 2016 (91 points) is lauded for its “fresh acidity” and as “modern with a classic touch”. Meanwhile, Atkin claims that the RESERVA 2013 (91 points) is “more traditional than the rest of the Gómez Cruzado range”, describing it as “light and balsamic” and explaining that it “benefited from the addition of all the Honorable grapes in the tricky 2013 vintage.”

With a critical and constructive approach and boasting over 30 years of experience visiting the region and tasting its wines, the British writer makes a highly favorable assessment of the region’s current status, underscoring the growing inevitable importance of terroir and the vast wealth of the so-called 1000 Wines of Rioja, a slogan that, in Atkin’s opinion, “falls short”. Tim Atkin also advocates for greater varietal diversity in the region, while continuing to praise the potential of Garnacha. Atkin considers that global warming poses the greatest challenge for viticulture in Rioja, where certain areas have already been tangibly impacted by the changing climate in recent years. Looking to the future, he believes that Rioja should increase their investment in wine tourism, in terms of quality and quantity, given that the region’slandscapes are as “dramatic” and attractive as those of the world’s top wine tourism destinations. Atkin also argues that the path forward should be one of synergy, given that“the wineries of the Barrio de la Estación in Haro have already shown that working together is a great way to promote the region, both locally and elsewhere”. In any case, Atkin’s tone is unwaveringly favorable throughout the report: from the image of a smile on the region’s face in the introduction to later claiming that “Rioja’s best years are still to come”.

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