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Loyalty to the Tempranillo Grape

By Sherwin Lao | Mar. 12, 2013 at 06:01pm
Tempranillo is Spain’s proudest home grown grape varietal, and Rioja its most popular region, it is therefore only befitting for a relatively new winery to harp on these two solid foundations to catapult itself to immediate respectability in the highly competitive Spanish wine industry. Such is the case of Bodegas Altanza, a winery that started only in 1998, but has in so short of a time already build a good reputation for its fine crafted wines. Bodegas Altanza is a corporation established by a group of businessmen with similar wine-related backgrounds. The group is led by Jose Luis Milagro, a veteran wine sales executive with exceptional experience and knowledge of Rioja wines.

Best of tradition and modernity 

The facade of the state-of-the-art Bodegas Altanza Winery

The Bodegas Altanza winery is located in Fuenmayor, the heart of Rioja Alta region. Rioja Alta is also arguably the most reputable sub-region in Rioja, over those of Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. The winery was build in the 320+ hectare prime land enclave, with 200 hectares allotted for vine growing, 70 hectares for olive growing, and 10 hectares for their tranquil French garden. (The French Garden concept, also called `Jardin à la Française’, is a style of garden based on symmetry and the principle of imposing order over nature and had its roots in the 17th century with the creation of the Gardens of Versailles). The winery prides itself in incorporating both tradition and modernity in its architectural structure as well as winemaking. Traditional materials as wood, stones and solid bricks were used in designing and building the winery. Modernity comes in the form of huge investments in winemaking technology from climate and humidity control systems, large capacity (up to 50,000 liters) stainless steel tanks, and Wooden Vats made by the renowned Tonnellerie Seguin Moreau among many features. “Lealtanza”, the brand name of the winery’s best selling wines, means “loyalty” in old Spanish, and this is exactly what Bodegas Altanza has done in focusing on Rioja, as well as Spain’s undisputed king varietal, the Tempranillo.

Differentiation with other Rioja bodegas

Over the past decade or so, Bodegas Altanza has build its soaring reputation not only generally from the high quality of its wines, but on two very distinctive reputations. And these are:

Entrance to Bodegas Altanza in Fuenmayor La Rioja

1) 100 percent Tempranillo in their Rioja red wines. Most, or almost all Rioja wineries resort to blending of Tempranillo with other varietals like Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano in their red wines. The Bodegas Altanza winemakers believed in the versatility of Tempranillo and have truly extracted the wide flavor profile of Spain’s most cherished varietal. The winery makes 60 percent of its wines from their own vineyards, and purchase the rest from long-term contracted experienced vine growers, who owns very old vines, some as old as 85 years. This is why a young winery like Bodegas Altanza has amazing access to the best Tempranillos grown in Rioja region. Tempranillo in Bodegas Altanza has been used as the solo varietal in creating fresh Rosados (Rosé), Joven Tintos (young reds), Crianzas, Reservas, all the way to Gran Reservas.

2) Bodegas Altanza is known for its Reserva wines. Bodegas Altanza has several wines in the Reserva range, from the Lealtanza Reserva classic to Altanza Reserva Especial, Club Altanza Reserva, the Spanish Artist Series of Gaudi, Goya, Dali and Miro, and even on exclusive Football labels of super teams Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Bodegas Altanza is the only Rioja winery I know with this much different Reserva wines, and these wines are marvelously distinctive from each other, when I had the chance to taste almost all of them in Spain. The Reserva range due to the Spanish strict laws on age-aging and labeling is what most wine experts believe is the best range for Rioja wines. The Gran Reserva, because of its prolonged minimum two years in oak rule may be a bit too woody to the unseasoned drinkers.

Customary Tasting Notes

My visit to Bodegas Altanza will never be complete without my wine tastings, so here below are my tasting notes:

The Wooden Vat Room next to the Oak Barrel room

• Lealtanza Rioja Blanco 2012 – `this is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, one of the allowed international white varietals consented to by the Regulatory Council of Rioja to boost white wine business; very fragrant, gooseberry (one whiff may mistake this wine for a Marlborough version), tangy acid, very juicy and racy up to the last drop’; the first 100 percent Spanish Sauvignon Blanc I liked since my deep adoration of the Torres Fransola from Penedes; won various awards already in both domestic and international competitions

• Lealtanza Rioja Rosado 2011 - `this Tempranillo wine was fermented with skin for a short period of time to extract the vibrant translucent fruit punch color; nose of fresh strawberry, light and delightful on the palate, with a nice ripe racy finish’

• Dominio de Heredia Rioja 2011 -  `sweet berries on the nose, minty and herbal, good fruit acid, and clean finish; this is a very clean and enjoyable good value young Rioja wine’

• Capitoso Rioja 2011 - `young and fresh, very inviting nose, rhubarb, strawberry, ripe berry taste with a surprisingly long finish’; another incredible Joven Rioja wine at very good price

My Wine Tasting session at Bodegas Altanza’s cozy meeting room

• Lealtanza Rioja Crianza 2010 - `lovely oak, black currant, cloves, nice medium body, well structured and a lovely cassis-like finish’

• Hacienda Valvares Rioja 2010 - `this is a single vineyard wine made in Joven style; sour cherry, tomato, nice elegant nose, very fresh in the mouth with a lot of berry flavors and a very clean finish’; a lot of beautiful varietal characters in this wine without the oak influence

• Lealtanza Rioja Reserva 2008 - `vanilla, white chocolate, a very captivating nose, delicious on the taste, with bitter sweet tannins and long lingering aftertaste’; Bodegas Altanza’s flagship wine

• Lealtanza Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 - `for a Gran Reserva, the nose remains quite fresh, crusty, warm pie, noticeable acid but with ample fruit backbone, a meaty wine’

• Altanza  Rioja Reserva Especial 2004 - `cinnamon nose, luscious ripe fruits, a lot of hefty flavors in the palate, supple and sweetly spiced, and a very polished lovely finish’; one of Bodegas Altanza’s most limited production wines at circa 20,000 bottles per release

The Spanish Artist Series (L to R): Goya Reserva 2008, Dali Reserva 2004, and Gaudi Reserva 2005

• Lealtanza Artist Series Dali Rioja Reserva 2004 - `the first of the three Spanish artists inspired wines I tasted; super complex nose, so much bouquet, leather, saddle, cherry, long, viscous and peppery, with tea-like dry finish’;

(Each Artist Series has three different labels from the same wine, as differentiated from what pioneering Chateau Mouton Rothschild did in their labels, which is one design per vintage release)

• Lealtanza Artist Series Gaudi Rioja Reserva 2005 - `long and deep on the nose, vanilla, raisin, a lot a fruit grip on the palate, very flavorful and meaty, amazingly rich and complex with a succulent licorice finish’;

• Lealtanza Artist Series Goya Rioja Reserva 2008 - `sweet fruity nose, rose, violets, raspberry, toasty and delicious grainey texture on palate, and an integrated balanced finish’

• Club Lealtanza Rioja Reserva 2005 - `very round and intense nose, ripe cherry, buttered toast, dry and crisp on the taste, and with great concentration on the delectable lingering finish’

Incredible tastings top to bottom indeed ……. and I found out after my tastings, not surprisingly that almost all the above wines, including all Reserva wines are Parker 90 pointers and above. It is amazing to taste pure Tempranillo Rioja wines in different styles and characteristics. Bodegas Altanza has indeed transformed Tempranillo winemaking into art form, and this is the sort of loyalty to Tempranillo that has proven to be the winning formula for the early success of Bodegas Altanza. Bodegas Altanza is exported to over 45 countries worldwide. In the Philippines, Bodegas Altanza wines can be found in The Straits Wine Company. The Straits Wine Company shop is located at the UPRC III Building, #2289 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City. You can reach them at (02)757- 1180, or visit their website at


For comments, inquiries, wine event coverage, wine consultancy and other wine related concerns, please e-mail me at I am a proud member of the Federation Internationale des Journalists et Ecrivains du Vin et des Spiritueux or FIJEV since 2010. You can also follow me on twitter at
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