Bodega Lanzaga | Rioja Alavesa

Bodega Lanzaga Vineyards in Rioja Alavesa, Spain

In the early 1990s, Telmo Rodríguez left his family estate in Rioja to make a name for himself in the rest of Spain. When he returned to Rioja in 1998, founding Bodega Lanzaga with his friend Pablo Eguzkia, he brought with him a broad experience from not only Spain but also Burgundy, Bordeaux (where he studied) and the Rhône.

This experience urged him to approach Rioja with an approach vastly different from the Consejo Regulador, which chimed with Telmo’s innately rebellious character. This is reflected through the labels of both `LZ` and `Lanzaga`, where much to his distaste, Telmo was told by the Consejo Regulador that the village name ‘Lanciego’ could not be used on the label submitted for approval. Characteristically, he drew a black line across the name rather than remove it altogether, hoping that one day his Burgundian approach will be accepted by the authorities. Telmo’s knowledge of the history of Alavesa also informed his decision-making, as he knew that old vines had been planted on the hills surrounding the village of Lanciego for centuries. As a result, this village name can be viewed as an indication of origin and quality (similar to Burgundy) and this approach to site-specific winemaking is something that makes Bodega Lanzaga one of Rioja's most exciting producers.

Bodega Lanzaga now comprises almost 25 hectares of vines. 20 of these are close to their purpose-built winery, on a beautiful plateau just south of Lanciego with an elevation of over 500 metres. They are now farming close to 40 plots surrounded by dry stone walls and often have fruit trees planted in the middle of each row to enhance biodiversity and echo practices employed by the farmers of the past. ‘LZ’, their ‘regional wine’ in Burgundian terms, is made from Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha sourced from the vineyards that are close to the Lanzaga winery. After fermentation with indigenous yeasts, it ages in cement tanks for 6-7 months before bottling. This lack of time in oak preserves the brightness of fruit, which is complimented by perfectly managed tannins.

The village wine, Lanzaga, is sourced from dozens of plots totalling 20 hectares around Lanciego. A selection of the best fruit is hand-harvested and fermented in cement tanks, before ageing in a combination of large and small oak barriques (up to 25hl) for up to 14 months. The result is a rich, complex, yet elegant wine that honestly reflects the nuances of the vineyard site.

Bodega Lanzaga have also selected four vineyards they deem to be exceptional, to create the single-vineyard Riojas. Two of them, ‘El Velado’ (mostly Garnacha and Tempranillo) and ‘La Estrada’ (Tempranillo with a dash of Graciano), are just north of Lanciego, higher up towards the mountains. They are both very small, with ‘El Velado’ being just under a hectare, while ‘La Estrada’ is less than half a hectare. Along with ‘Tabuerniga’ (Tempranillo and Graciano), which comprises 2.7 hectares of vines west of the village, towards ‘La Bastida’, these three are Lanzaga’s ‘Premier Cru’ vineyards.

Bodega Lanzaga’s ’Grand Cru’ vineyard is ‘Las Beatas’, a remarkable site planted 600 metres above sea level, on the terraced hills of an amphitheatre west of Lanciego. Like all their vineyards, ‘Las Beatas’ is farmed organically and biodynamically. This wine ranks among Spain’s finest and vindicates Pedro and Telmo’s decision to establish Bodega Lanzaga almost 30 years ago. All the wines from Bodega Lanzaga have reimagined the style of Rioja, and cumulatively act as a beacon to other producers wishing to break free of the constraints of the Consejo Regulador.