Sarah Jane Evans MW attends an intriguing tasting hosted by Ramón Bilbao winemaker, Rodolfo Bastida...

Past

Ramón Bilbao was founded in 1924 and acquired by Diego Zamora, the owner of Spain’s citrus liqueur, Licor 43, in 1999.

The changes instituted under his management to the well-established Gran Reserva line were evolutionary. Tasting the 1999 Gran Reserva alongside the 2009, there is a clear migration of style towards juicier, up front fruit.

The arrival of Mirto (first vintage 1999) was radical and in tune with the trend at the time for icon wines or ‘vinos de autor’. It is the modern face of Ramón Bilbao: all French oak. As winemaker Rodolfo Bastida notes, it’s difficult to get a great wine from the same plot every year.

Hence Mirto is a blend of selections from 7 villages from around Haro. Each is fermented separately and Bastida takes samples to French coopers to match each lot with the most appropriate French oak.

Present

The latest development for Ramón Bilbao was the purchase in 2012 of 90ha of vineyards at an altitude of 700 metres in Rioja Baja, close to the Monte Yerga (1101 metres). These had already been supplying grapes to the winery, so their potential for producing great cooler climate wines was well understood.

A great example of how this cooler climate is working in his favour is the Lalomba Rosado. The 2015 is the first vintage of this delicate, Provencal coloured rosé, made from fruit sourced from one of the Monte Yerga vineyards. It is certainly a promising start.

Future

At the tasting, Bastida also showed some work in progress: two 2014 Tempranillos, from different plots.

‘Monte Yerga Sector F’ had a forthright tarry character with very fresh black fruits.

‘Monte Yerga Sector A’ was also densely inky, but this time the blackcurrant fruit was more apparent. An elegant, pure approach; the same oak treatment as with ‘F’ but more subtle, perhaps more promising. We can look forward to their release in the future.

Sarah Jane Evans MW’s top rated wines from the tasting: