Why does the Lealtanza Rioja Riserva 2014 have one of the best quality-to-price ratios available? Is it terroir? Winemaking? Government subsidies? All of the above? Either way, this 100% Tempranillo from Rioja is worth twice the price…but I’m glad it’s not.
The Featured Wine of Episode 95: Stories From the Edge of The Wine Glass: A Conversation About Race.
Altanza is nestled in Spain’s iconoclastic Rioja region, wherein the company of wineries dating back to the 19th century, are a relative newcomer, established only in 1998. Yet in no time they have risen to stardom with big recognition from the press, as they have dialed their style down to sit right between traditionalism and modernity.
The greater Rioja region expands into diverse microclimates and various soils that result in multitudes of styles. Rioja is made up of 3 distinct zones: Alta, Alavesa, and Baja. Each whas its own winemaking subtleties. Altanza is perfectly situated in Rioja Alta, a modernist establishment with deeply rooted respect for the region’s tradition-rich history, and this impeccable Reserva truly exemplifies what makes Rioja special.
Does the Spanish Government subsidize Rioja wines?
Spanish wine is famously inexpensive, and the Lealtanza Rioja Reserva 2014 is no exception. Spain has a strong bulk wine industry, an abundance of lesser-known grape varieties, and an industry focus on France and Italy. All of these factors make Spanish wine cheaper than in other countries. But straight out subsidies? Yes. Moreover, in 2020, The Spanish government offered grape growers subsidies to destroy part of the year’s bumper harvest, or distill grapes into brandy, due to a drop in wine sales brought about by the pandemic. At the same time, Spain is producing more wine per hectare. So unless consumption goes up, they’ll have to regulate production.
Dollar for dollar—regardless of who’s spending them—you would be hard-pressed to find a better value out there.
The Critics Go Nuts For Lealtanza Rioja Riserva
92 Points – James Suckling
“This has a vibrant and attractively fresh, fleshy feel on the nose with a red-plum core on the palate. Silky and fleshy with a very open-knit finish. Drink or hold.”
Decanter defined a previous vintage as “a beautiful wine with the X-factor” and that’s exactly how the consistency here pans out.
Oh, and my mom says, “It’s yummy, John.” I should have probably led with that.
Lealtanza Rioja Reserva 2014 Tasting Profile
A translucent garnet to ruby perimeter expands wide from a deeper core of sunset crimson. One sniff and you know you’re in Rioja. Seamless and silky with ultrafine tannins and sweet cherry notes underpinning a mineral backbone. The rich plummy core of ripe berries red and black echo with mellow nuances of iron, and nutmeg. An ideal accompaniment to Paella Valenciana, use rabbit, chorizo, and orzo to go traditional.
Look: A translucent garnet to ruby perimeter expands wide from a deeper core of sunset crimson
Smell: One sniff and you know you’re in Rioja, bridging traditional earthiness with modern spiciness
Taste: Seamless and silky with ultrafine tannins and sweet cherry notes underpinning a mineral backbone
Finish: The rich plummy core of ripe berries red and black echo with mellow nuances of iron, and nutmeg
Pairing: An ideal accompaniment to Paella Valenciana, use rabbit, chorizo, and orzo to go traditional
WINEMAKER: Oscar Martinez
VARIETAL: 100% Tempranillo
APPELLATION: Rioja DOCa, Spain
VINEYARD: Lealtanza Estate
AGING: 21 months, 50% new French barriques and 22.000 liter vats
About the Altanza Winery
Altanza, home of Lealtanza Riserva Rioja 2014, began its story in 1998, dedicated exclusively to top Reserva wines. Since then, their goal has been to offer the best possible quality wine at a sensible price. Located in Fuenmayor (Rioja Alta), Bodegas Altanza is a winery known for its identity, passion, know-how, and creativity. They make wines in a modern style from 100% Tempranillo. They ferment the wines using natural yeasts and then aged in entirely French oak barrels which are renewed every 5 years.
The estate spans 740 acres and provides sixty percent of the total amount of grapes they use; the rest follows a strict selection process. Always thinking ahead, they recently made the decision to convert to the exclusive use of French oak barrels in the aging process. This move will further enhance the quality of the grapes, as the more elegant oak will transfer an abundance of smooth aromas to the wine without covering all the fruity aromas of the Tempranillo.