Artadi is one of the leading Rioja producers and was one of the first to leave the appellation of origin in 2015, which I wrote about in my Mind the Gap article from August 2016. But Juan Carlos López de La Calle told me in early 2018, “We have not really noticed any difference. Our wines keep selling the same as before.” The wines have not changed much either, but they have changed their name to Artadi de Laguardia, a trick they had employed in order to be able to print the name of their village on their labels. And they have increased their range. 

Other than that, Artadi also has a winery in Alicante, El Sequé, where they work with Monastrell grapes, and Artazu in Navarra, where the grape is Garnacha, mostly red, but they also have a little bit of white. However, the breaking news is that they are releasing their first wines from the Basque Country, in theory a Txakoli, in a joint venture with cider producer Zapian, under the name Izar-Leku Mahastiak—mahastiak means vineyard in the Basque language. But guess what, they are producing a bottle of refermented sparkling wine with unusual finesse, so again, these new wines will be sold without appellation of origin. 

Their Rioja wines are quite sought after, and their single-vineyard El Pisón is regularly at the top of the hierarchy of the region. So, my plan is to taste Artadi’s portfolio every 12 months and publish a special report like this one, as I’m already doing for Vega Sicilia and might do for other relevant producers, like Álvaro Palacios, Pingus and Telmo Rodríguez. I don’t want to take the meat out of some of the most important regional reports, so these wines will also be included in them, whenever possible tasting the wines again and updating the reviews. In fact, the wines from Navarra included here were already published in December 2018 (Issue 240) with my article on the Garnacha wines from Aragón, Gredos and Navarra.

I tasted the bottled 2016s from Rioja, which has turned out to be one of the finest vintages they have produced so far; I also tasted the 2017s, the earliest harvest on record after 2015. The grapes were very healthy and sometimes better balanced than 2015, given the natural reduction in yields. So, 2017 could be an updated version of 2015. 

According to Juan Carlos López de la Calle from Artadi, “2016 was marked by a mild winter with sparse rainfall. A rainy spring provided the vineyard with an important water reserve that favored vigorous budding and vegetative development. Summer was unusually warm, which resulted in very healthy grapes. Drought meant that by the second week of September the vineyards were in good condition but somehow stressed and close to a stop. The 23.6 liters of rainfall recorded over the second week of September made it possible for the development of the cycle to continue until November 3, when we finished picking our grapes. It was a generous crop of healthy grapes that has given us open, clean wines with fruit aromas, full of life and energy.” 2016 is a year with good yields, less alcohol and more elegant wines

As for 2017, “I did not want to miss this opportunity to talk about the frost of April 28, 2017, in our region, similar to what we saw in most vineyards in northern Spain, which has taken a high percentage of our crop, and we were unable to do anything about it.” Yields were small, and the vines got stressed by heat and resulted in wines that are more structured, more powerful and more rustic, without the elegance of 2016. Carlos López de la Calle (Juan Carlos’s son) defines them as “austere, with some tannins that might require some more time in bottle, a little like 2004 or 2006, tannic years.” They lost some 25% of the volume, and the wines are ripe, quite fruit-driven and powerful. 

There are nine single-vineyard bottlings in 2016, some of which are very small, labeled as “Collectors” and sold to a club of members who are made members as soon as they have visited their winery. There will be even more in 2017, as they have produced up to 12 different wines, but they have not yet decided if a couple of them will ultimately be bottled on their own and put on the market. The best of the new names is one called San Lázaro, another vineyard in Laguardia on sandier soils, just below Bodegas Palacios and planted in 1956 (the birth year of Juan Carlos López de Lacalle). They have 1.62 hectares that used to be part of the blend of Pagos Viejos and was one of the first vineyards they bought, around 1994. They first bottled it as 2016 San Lázaro, but as a curiosity, the 2007 was already bottled separately for the 75th anniversary collection of wines from Vila Viniteca, their distributor in Barcelona. 

The 2016 San Lázaro has real finesse, with silky tannins, depth and subtle complexity, as well as great length and persistence. The unbottled 2017 confirmed that this is a serious vineyard that is going to be high up in the Artadi hierarchy, with the finesse provided by the sandy soils, keeping good freshness in a warmer vintage. In short, San Lázaro is phenomenal, my favorite among the new labels and third in the hierarchy after El Pisón and El Carretil. And let’s see if it doesn’t challenge El Carretil with its gobsmacking balance after all… 

Telling you the 2016 Viña El Pisón is phenomenal should not be breaking news. It showed a more ethereal vintage with a vibrant palate and was extremely open, expressive, clean and approachable, with a lot less oak than in the past when I tasted it from tank in early 2018, after only eight months in barrel. The wine has now been bottled, and it’s as good as expected, reaching the upper limit of my estimation from last year. It has energy and power, with chalky minerality and finesse, and is austere and less exuberant than 2015 or 2014. This is their wine that always benefits from more time in bottle. 2016 has to be one of the finest vintages of El Pisón in recent times. It reminds me of the 2010, with a rare combination of elegance and power. 

In Navarra, 2016 was another example that confirmed the year as one of the best in recent times, perhaps a less powerful and less ripe style of vintage but one with lots of class and elegance, very apt for producing fresher wines.”

See the scores below.

 

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