A terroir trailblazer eschewing Rioja’s traditional oak-ageing categories, José Gil is producing masterful site-specific wines from ancient vineyards high up in Rioja Alavesa.
Growing up in the hills around San Vicente de la Sonsierra, José learned his craft at his family’s Bodegas Olmaza – a domaine famed for having some of Rioja’s oldest vine holdings.
After working in Burgundy and the Mosel, José started his own project in 2011 with just 2ha of vineyards. Taking over high-altitude plots that his family struggled to manage, José and his wife Vicky farm 8ha of organic old-vine Tempranillo co-planted with small amounts of Garnacha, Viura, and Palomino.
Pressed gently and fermented with indigenous yeasts, their wines are aged in a combination of large French oak and neutral vessels in a cellar carved out of the hillside.
From a patchwork of 80-to-130-year-old vines, the exceptional value ‘village-blend’ ‘San Vicente de la Sonsierra’ combines Tempranillo’s pure fruit with Burgundian elegance, while ‘Vinos en Labastida’ shows added aromatic intensity and floral lift – the result of its warmer aspect.
José also produces three single-vineyard wines in tiny quantities: from a north-west-facing site, ‘Bardallo’ offers an intoxicating fragrance of ripe berries and fine chalky tannins. A 0.4ha vineyard planted among lavender and thyme bushes, ‘La Canoca’ shows a juicy palate layered with herbal nuances. From the domaine’s oldest plots, ‘Camino de Ribas’ is silky and seductive with black cherry and exotic spice.
Since receiving huge scores from the critics for his 2020 vintage, José’s wines have become some of Rioja’s most sought-after allocations – we expect his 2021s will be similarly lauded.
San Vicente de la Sonsierra 2021 (£37) Sold out
Vibrant and energetic – spicy berries and silky tannins
Vinedos en Labastida 2021 (£39) Sold out
Fragrant with sappy bramble fruit and floral tones
La Canoca 2021 (£52) Sold out
Dark, juicy fruit streaked with rosemary and fresh acidity
600 bottles produced
Bardallo 2021 (£57) Sold out
Ripe cherries layered with chalky tannins
650 bottles produced
Camino de Ribas 2021 (£67) Sold out
Black cherry and dark spices – sumptuous and long
620 bottles produced
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