Riojana de Alcanadre is a co operative of over 100 growers around the village of Alacanadre. When you see concrete fermentation tanks, you generally don’t think "modern and well equipped" because if the halogen lights from above do not reflect blindingly off of shiny stainless steel tanks, you are not keeping up with the new world.
There were also no wedding facilities, no art collection and no sculpture garden … slackers. Alcanadre was built in the 1950’s and as a result, they have concrete fermentation tanks, which, as luck would have it, are in fashion again with hipster-doofus Somms everywhere!1 They also have plenty of stainless steel tanks. So, whichever method of production you (dear, opinionated, wine professional) prefer - well that’s the way they were made! I’m being flippant here on purpose. Dogma is always dangerous, “I only drink wines that get 95 points or more”, “I only drink biodynamic”, “I like DRC but I think they have the wrong clones of Pinot Noir, I only like 777”. The simple fact of the matter is that we’ve all had great wines made in a variety of ways and what really matters, the one and only thing they all have in common is that they source from great vineyards.
Our visit here was an early morning tasting in the vineyard! We spent all of ten minutes looking at the winery and we spent two hours in the vineyards. Priorities. It’s counter intuitive, but it is widely recognized that co-operatives in Rioja hold most of the best vineyards.
In 1975 Rioja had 60 producers, 60,000 hectares and18,000 growers. Today there are about 391 producers, but the same area and same number of growers. The demographics of land ownership (vineyard sources for large producers and co-operatives) have not changed appreciably in a half-century. Burgundy, by comparison, is ½ the size (28,000 hectares) but has sixteen times (3200) the producers! Riojana de Alcanadre’s members manage “about 1000 plots” of land, 510 hectares which averages to roughly ½ hectare per plot. Alcanadre is sourcing from Burgundian scale vineyards owned by family farmers. Alcanadre provides state of the art technical support for the vineyard owners.
They use satellite imaging to determine ripeness, and require each member to maintain a very strict vineyard regimen that includes lower yields, minimal pesticides, and minimal manipulation at picking… all the things would make most co-ops cringe.
Alcanadre fulfills the promise of Rioja’s fundamental base quality and the region’s unparalleled ability to bring wines with this much value to a world wide audience.
1 From UrbanDictionary.com: “1. Someone who has taken being hip and unique to an extreme and therefore worn the ‘cool’ out of the hip”. Yep. Shhhhh! Please don’t tell the kids that wine was once fermented in clay amphora, or they’ll want that for their lists. I can only hear; “Gravner used to be my favorite, but now I buy Damijan, it’s much more versatile with food.” so many times before losing it. It’s only ‘natural’.