And the winner is...
Marqués del Norte 2010, Viñedos de Aldeanueva Soc. Coop., DOCa Rioja
This an ASDA own-brand, specially made by this co-operative in the Rioja Baja.
The style, however, is very Alavesa – mainly Tempranillo, no oak, made fresh and fruity to drink as soon as it’s bottled, and described by ASDA as “a modern style of Rioja which is well balanced with real purity of fruit”. The co-op was founded in 1955 as Bodegas San Isidro (the patron saint of farmers), but didn’t start bottling its wines until the 1970s.
In the 1980s it became so successful that it was able to buy a majority shareholding in Bodegas Berberana, and to diversify into the higher-quality end of the market. The Berberana share was sold in 1995, the bodega changed its name to Viñedos de Aldeanueva, and today winemaker Martín Saénz has 2,550 ha of vines to work wit: although this is the Rioja Baja the altitude is still well over 300 metres, and the soil is chalk-rich clay.
The coop’s most prominent brand in export markets is Azabache, but Marqués del Norte was made according to the buyer’s brief: a Tempranillo/Garnacha mix, picked in the second half of September for the right combination of ripeness and acidity for immediate drinking which, again, is very much in the Alavesa style.
Interestingly, the 2009 vintage of Marqués del Norte won a bronze medal in the 2010 Awards, so it seems that the winery is still upping its game.
Written by John Radford