New listing – ‘classic’ producer of Rioja

The search for a new ‘classic’ producer of Rioja is not an easy task, there are many well-known names that have dominated the region for decades; Muga, La Rioja Alta, CUNE and many new rising stars. At Barcelona wine week, we spotted a label we had not seen before, the bottle was wrapped under the traditional wire mesh, often seen on Gran Reserva wines. Behind the table was the striking figure of Gonzalo de Ayala, the fifth generation of Bodegas de Ayala ‘Vina Santurnia’.     

A 30 ha estate, with 8 ha of old vines near Brinas, the family has been producing wines since the 1930’s for their restaurant in the village. In 1983 Gonzalo’s grandfather started selling wines further afield, under the Vina Santurnia label. Now Gonzalo and his uncle work together in the vineyards and cellar to produce traditional wines of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva status.     

Their vineyards, nestled at the foothills of the Sierra Cantabria on calcareous clay soils, are right on the line separating Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. With few (but well-known) neighbours, their old vines are at a slightly higher altitude for the area and benefit from the windy slopes surrounding them. The quality of the fruit is so important for the long ageing required to obtain a balanced Reserva, and Gran Reserva wine. They practice lutte raisonnée in the vineyards and only spray as a last resort. The cellar is clean and well organized, when you have so many vintages in one location for ageing, there must be order!