Promotional featureTradition, innovation and dedication since 1890...
The presence and contribution of Bodegas Riojanas has been a cornerstone of Rioja’s overall success; having played a role in the foundation of key associations including the Rioja Wine Exporters Syndicate in 1907, as well as promoting and protecting the development of the Designation of Origin itself, the family aiding in the birth of the DO in 1926.
Riojanas was established in 1890 and was the result of a collaboration between the Frias Artacho family – who had a deep-rooted winemaking tradition stretching back centuries – and a Catalan businessman called Rafael Carreras.
Around four decades later the company made a major step forward in its development and outline for its future, choosing to concentrate solely on bottled wines and specifically those aged in oak barrels; bulk wine was now a thing of the past.
Today it owns outright over 200 ha of Tempranillo vineyards in Cenicero, San Vicente de la Sonsierra and other adjacent tracts of vines. It also has in its possession one of the largest vineyards of Mazuelo and Graciano; all vineyards been set on the ideal soil of clay and limestone.
‘At Bodegas Riojanas, the grape harvest is more than the mere picking of grapes,’ says Santiago Frías, CEO and fifth generation family member. ‘It is a crucial time for the quality of our wines. The batches of grapes for the different types of wine need to be selected, but the fruit from the oldest vines are gently taken to the crush pads in tubs, where the clusters are checked one at a time on the sorting tables.’
Over the decades, the portfolio has increased dramatically, and its most iconic wines are the Monte Real and Viña Albina; the latter crafted as a tribute to the wife one of the founders, while the former is Riojanas’ star. It is made using fruit that solely comes from estate-owned Tempranillo vineyards, planted in Cenicero in the heart of Rioja Alta and aged in American oak. As with all Riojanas’ wines, the eye for detail and quest for the very best is undeniable.
‘Monte Real and Viña Albina are undoubtedly two of the most widely recognised brands among historic Rioja,’ exclaims Frías. ‘They are representative of a style that earned fame and recognition for this region and continues to arouse the admiration of connoisseurs and amateurs alike. They are classic, historic wines, appearing in all their splendour in the best vintages which explain why, for many experts, they remain the paragon of quality wine.’
Furthermore, there are almost 30 additional wines that fall under the Riojanas umbrella thank to its dynamic diversification drive that has seen it move into other famed Spanish regions, as well as further afield, thanks to the building of new wineries or purchase of or agreements with existing producers in Toro; Rueda; Ribera del Duero; Rias Baixas and Cava (plus a little side-project with Vermouth).
This is a producer that evidently does not rest on its laurels. The original 1890 winery is still in full use, but has gone under significant and persistent expansion – eight in total – incorporating latest practices and processes to remain a leader within its field, and where once it had a capacity of 50,000 bottles, today it is five million.
It has also displayed admirable innovation in other areas of its work, including the setting up of one of the region’s first research and development centres in partnership with the University of La Rioja, including projects on aspects such as fermentation control, and tracking the wine during ageing.
This family team has also kept a its keen eye on the explosion in wine tourism and in recent years, they took advantage by fitting out part of the winery to be to able to handle such events and activities. Today this facility goes from strength to strength, with the last year’s opening of a ‘Wine Sensations Room’ and two years ago a wine shop. It is unsurprisingly proving to be a very popular stop-off for visitors.
There’s truly no doubt that Bodegas Riojanas will continue to go from strength to strength as it looks to increase its presence at home and abroad (as evidenced by the creation of an American arm to its offices in 2009; a move that has helped it make inroads in the US market).
It is a producer that is proud of its past but has both eyes set firmly on its future, or in Frías’ words: ‘We have become one of the most highly reputed wineries in Spain; an example of tradition and modernity. The Frias Artacho family boasts a profound winemaking tradition that goes back more than three centuries, but at Bodegas Riojanas, innovation is not incompatible with respect for tradition.’