Deeply rooted in Rioja’s Haro, Bodegas Bilbaínas strives for a harmonic blend of tradition and originality
When it comes to Rioja, Bodegas Bilbaínas – founded in 1901 and registered as the longest serving bottling company of La Rioja – has been a consistent presence from the get-go.
Since its genesis it has adhered to the French châteaux concept, meaning that of its 250ha of Rioja Alta vineyards in the Haro commune (making it the largest holder of land under vine in the area) 130ha encircle the winery.
With its Atlantic influence, the land can be relatively cool here and combined with the limestone soil underfoot means that the Tempranillo grapes ripen sedately, resulting in wines with silky, elegant tannins and extraordinary ageing potential.
Its Viña Pomal project has been around almost as long as Bilbaínas itself, with 1904 marking the debut vintage, and Pomal is a perfect encapsulation of how Bilbaínas manages to both celebrate its heritage while keeping a finger very much on the contemporary pulse.
Navigating Pomal’s path is Bilbaínas’ much-lauded Chief winemaker Diego Pinilla who has headed up the Codorníu Raventós group since 2016 and been technical manager of Bodegas Bilbaínas since 2007. Under his management Viña Pomal, Viña Zaco and La Vicalanda became frontline brands in the market.
Pinilla’s remit and boundaries when it comes to his daily job are relatively loose, therefore affording him opportunities to bring life back to long-forgotten plots of land and similarly disregarded indigenous varietals though new launches such as the Vinos Singulares line.
‘This is a range of wines that represent our experimentation and commitment to high-end wines,’ says Pinilla. ‘They are micro-vinifications of unique plots and micro-zones which are decided on after trying different varieties on different soils and using varying ageing methods, with grapes including Graciano, Garnacha, Tempranillo Blanco and Maturna Blanca.’
Then there are its Alto de la Caseta and Gran Reserva cuvées, which go just as far in reflecting Bilbaínas’ impeccable credentials and deep heritage.
‘It is the best version of Tempranillo we have been able to make and expresses a single vineyard concept,’ reveals Pinilla. ‘While the Gran Reserva is our flagship wine and represents the entire philosophy of our winery, it is only produced in outstanding years in a limited number of bottles.’
It is this placement of Rioja tradition at its core, yet supplementing it with forward thinking winemaking which has delivered such a solid present-day base for Bilbainas, while at the same time very promising for the future.