Oxer Bastegieta, Rioja

The Oxer Bastegieta name is little known in the UK at present. One of a number of wineries across Spain, all small and family owned, they belong to the ‘Bertha Group’, headed up by Gil Núñez i Domènech, whom I first met 13 years ago when he was export director for Bodegas Briego of Ribera del Duero. After a lifetime working with wineries in different Spanish regions, Gil now heads up the Bertha Group, which represents and markets the products of its 10 member wineries. Gil contacted me again recently and sent a selection of wines from Oxer Bastegieta for me to taste for myself. Oxer bottles Oxer Bastegieta is a family estate, based in the Basque country in the northwest of Spain and producing both Txakoli and Rioja from their own vineyards. For their Txakoli they use 100% of the Hondarribi Zuri variety, but the three wines I would taste are all from their estate in Rioja Alavesa. Zubair Mohamed of Raeburn Fine Wines has just begun to import these wines into the UK an describes Oxer Bastegieta’s vineyards as “amazing,” adding “As usual, that is the secret.”

Indeed the vineyards do sound remarkable, as the red wines are made from very old Tempranillo and Garnacha vines, aged between 80 and 110 years old. I imagine these will be typical of vineyards of that age, dry-farmed and grown as simple bushes rather than being trained on wires, and certainly yields are tiny, as is production of these wines which ranges from just 80 cases to 840 cases of the wines tasted here. It is cleary a premium quality project, with a strict selection of the best fruit and careful use of top grade French oak. A wine like the white Rioja for example, 100% Viura fermented and aged in new oak, shows such a delicate touch with no obvious or overbearing oak influence. These are exceptionally good Rioja wines I must say, modern in terms of being the diametric opposite of the heavily American-oak influenced style of some examples, but wonderfully elegant, complex and profound. I suspect they will cellar very well too, and prices are not stratospheric for this quality. A very welcome new addition to the UK wine shelves.

The wines

These wines are being shipped to the UK at time of writing and quantities available will obviously be small. Please contact Raeburn Fine Wines for more information.

Oxer Bastegieta, Rioja Blanco ‘Iraun’ 2011, Spain
What a lovely nose: there is a deal of oak here, of vanilla and gentle creaminess, but it is also fragrant and delicate, woven through the lime and ripe orchard fruits and with a burgeoning sense of minerality. In the mouth it is textured and full, again a little vanilla in the weighty mouth-feel, but masses of taut, mineral salt-licked precision too, with dry apple core acidity and hints of orange and lime peel giving some extra texture and dimension. A really stylish white Rioja this, subtle in its way despite the oak, 14.5% alcohol and impressive concentration. 92/100. £28.99, Raeburn Fine Wines.

Oxer Bastegieta, Rioja ‘Artillero’ 2010, Spain
The first release of this wine, 100% very old Tempranillo from a single vineyard, also weighs in with 14.5% alcohol. It is a vibrant, deep and saturated colour, the nose has really deep, glossy black fruit, but it is more smoke-swirled plum and deep, ripe cherry than cassis. There’s a delightful, subtle floral fragrance and elegance, partly the quality, lightly-toasted oak, partly the natural fruit concentration. In the mouth that cherry skin bittersweetness again, quite spicy and exotic, nuanced flavours of cardonom and anise amongst the fruit. The oak is polished, smoky, chocolaty but edged with firm endive and liquorice bite. Hugely concentrated and excellent. Should have considerable cellaring potential given the balance and intensity. 93/100. £29.80, Raeburn Fine Wines.

Oxer Bastegieta, Rioja ‘Suzanne’ 2011, Spain
With its 15% alcohol and yield of less than a 10hl/ha – not to mention 14 months of ageing in all new oak – you might expect this to be somewhat overblown, but how wrong you would be. From a single vineyard of 110-year-old Grenache planted in 1903 in limestone and clay with 10% of rocks, the concentration here is entirely natural and vividly fresh. The ageing was in 500-litre French barrels, not the standard 225-litre barrique – so the impact of the oak is lessened too, adding just a delightful floral and exotically spiced edge, and touch of creaminess. In the mouth it has dramatic, dark plum, damson and blueberry intensity, all smoothed by the coffeeish background of oak and wonderfully supple and creamy tannins. Briary, cherryish acidity completes a totally convincing picture of a terific wine, and hugely impressive contemporary take on Rioja. 94-95/100. £29.80 , Raeburn Fine Wines.

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