Wine region / Country
Reto 2015 (2 bottles)
Viñas de Gain 2014 (2 bottles)
Valtravieso Crianza 2013 (2 bottles)
Normal retail price: £82.60
Club Discount Price: £70.05
You save: £12.55 (15.19%)
The world of wine, like life itself, is full of challenges, trials and tribulations, that need to be overcome just to keep going and move forward, making sure customers are happy year after year, with the changing tastes of wine drinkers. Challenges concerning Nature, the climate...; business, technical difficulties...; readjustments in the operation of the company, family or the organisation the winery belongs to… or is no longer part of.
This month, the three wines highlighted for having overcome in a special way one of these challenges are: Reto 2015, from Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce, which we mentioned at the start; Viñas de Gain 2014, the last vintage in which this fantastic Artadi wine appears on the market with the Rioja back label (because if you weren't already aware, Artadi left the Rioja QDO at the end of 2015, a most difficult decision to make), a wine that is and always will be a Rioja without "being" a Rioja; and Valtravieso Crianza 2013, a wine with a Ribera structure but Rioja refinement? Three challenges exceedingly well overcome.
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Barrel Aged white. Bodegas y Viñedos Ponce Manchuela, Spain Albilla de Manchuela
Bottle: £10.41 club members / £12.28 non-members
Juan Antonio Ponce, creator of this fantastic wine, set himself a challenge ('reto' in Spanish means 'challenge'): to produce a white wine with personality, moving away from the more usual white wine profile and using local grapes. Plenty of originality, that's for sure! You'll find Reto a very interesting wine: pure, unpretentious, authentic, that you'll be getting at a very fair price. That said, the challenge for the consumer will be to find bottles on the market: you either get them when they're just released, or you make a note for next year. Ponce has that ability: to make splendid wines of limited production at such sensible prices they simply fly off the shelves (have you tried his Depaula?).
Reto has been nourished by a great variety of soils planted in high areas, between 700 and 820 metres; these are granite, calcareous-clay, calcareous, rocky, alluvial soils... and when you taste the wine you'll notice a saline undertone and wonder: where has this Atlantic, sea element come from? Ponce told us that there used to be some natural salt flats in the area, and we all concluded that the salt is still a feature deep in the ground. To achieve greater personality, each parcel is fermented and matured separately, the grapes are not destemmed so as to avoid over-extraction, and after pressing the must goes straight to the barrels, without maceration, where it matures on its lees for several months. This results in a delicate wine, almost transparent as regards colour in the cooler years, with plenty of volume but no heaviness; and a wine that fuses its rustic and floral components, a complex and mineral wine with a definite saltiness on the finish.
We won't say much more, as it's a wine to discover gradually and delight in its surprises. If the first impression reminds you of beer, you wouldn't be wrong, because the yeast aromas are very characteristic, very marked in some vintages. Smell it, savour its minerality, its refinement, its fresh whiffs of fennel and its marine undertone — it seems more like a Galician wine than one from the Cuenca region! You'll discover how appetising and seductive it is too on the palate: subtly sweet, saline, creamy, citrusy, with apple peel, lime, quince... It's Ponce's only white wine but truly a one-off. You've done more than overcome the challenge, Juan Antonio!
Mushrooms / seafood in sauce / braised vegetables / chicken / turkey / fish in sauce
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Red Crianza. Artadi Rioja, Spain Tempranillo
Bottle: £14.12 club members / £16.64 non-members
Viñas de Gain is also the most approachable Artadi wine, a youngster full of life, rich in refreshing red fruit aromas, encased as always in impeccable ageing, and elegant like all in this great family. Its approachability and pleasantness will amaze you from the moment the bottle is opened, but do let it breathe a while and you'll enjoy it all the more: cherries, plums and redcurrants, eucalyptus leaves, liquorice stick, coffee beans, damp earth. On the palate it's flavoursome, very supple, easy to drink, elegant and very harmonious. Powerful, enjoyable and with a delightful evolution. Should anyone be left questioning whether this is or isn't a Rioja, it's undoubtedly an Artadi.
NOTE: Viñas de Gain 2014 is the last vintage to have a Rioja back label. Artadi left the Rioja QDO at the end of 2015, a decision taken with great difficulty, as they have explained whenever they have had the chance, faced with the impossibility of being able to reflect the extraordinary diversity of the Rioja terroir on the labels of their wines, and always out of a respect for all the region's vine growers and producers. Starting with the 2015, Viñas de Gain, like all the rest, is being released onto the market with the winery's label: Artadi - Álava - España, without being affiliated to any denomination. From this vintage onward, Artadi wines will have to be sought in other categories or directly by their name: Artadi.
Ox fillet / oven-cooked meats / magret of duck / chops / grilled fish / grills / rabbit lamb with fine herbs
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Red Crianza. Bodegas y Viñedos Valtravieso Ribera del Duero, Spain Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Bottle: £10.50 club members / £12.37 non-members
The wine is modest, in the sense that it's not pretentious, but it's not simple; it's refined and doesn't overwhelm. With considerable elegance, it starts off timidly and gradually ends up enticing us until there's not a drop left in either glass or bottle. Lovely, accessible, sweet, fresh... In the Valtravieso Crianza you'll discover fresh fruit and woodland aromas, predominately red fruit (redcurrants, wild strawberries, cherries, crunchy fruit and a little bit of blackberry jam) and aromas of rosemary, of scented wafts, violets... and humus too, plus an undertone of cloves and toasted bread. Melting in the mouth, it's medium-bodied with well-polished tannins. Judging by its aromas now and the varietal mix, we're just left with the feeling we'd like to taste it after a couple of years more in the bottle, to enjoy its tertiary qualities which we'd surely love. Valtravieso strives to make wines with a Ribera del Duero structure but a Rioja fineness, wines that are easier to drink and in our opinion they've achieved their objective. They've successfully produced a Ribera that's making itself extremely popular.
Peppered steak / oily fish / risotto / suckling lamb / grills / lamb with fine herbs / cooked sausages / rabbit lamb with fine herbs / oven-cooked chicken / tapas
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