El Coto

Rioja, rioja Spain

El Coto was founded in 1970 in Rioja Alavesa and has grown from humble beginnings into one of the best-known Rioja producers. Today El Coto has over 700 hectares of vineyard in production across the three Rioja DOCa sub-zones of Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental. This makes them the largest vineyard owner in Rioja and gives them great control of the quality of the grapes which go into their wines, the majority of which are sourced from their own vineyards. Their stand-out reds hail primarily from their estate at Cenicero in the heart of Rioja Alta. There is an increased focus on sustainability, both in the vineyard and the winery, including the use of cover crops and integrated pest management. In addition, they are in the process of converting 38 hectares of the Los Almendros vineyard to organic viticulture, aiming to be certified in the next two years.

They have invested in a new property, Finca Carbonera, ideal for the production of their white wines. With parts of the estate reaching almost 900 metres above sea level, it is the highest vineyard in all of Rioja, and perfect for the new white grape varieties – Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo – recently authorised by the Rioja Wine Board. Besides Viura, the Blanco contains a small proportion of Sauvignon Blanc and Verdejo which adds freshness and aromatic intensity to the blend. In addition to the Blanco, they make a single-varietal Verdejo which is crisp, aromatic and vibrant. The ‘875m Finca Carbonera’ Chardonnay, a nod to the high-altitude single vineyard from which the grapes are sourced, is barrel-fermented and aged for three months in new French oak barrique, giving delicate notes of vanilla and brioche alongside stone fruit flavours.

Head winemaker César Fernández oversees production, starting with hand picking into 350 kilogram crates to ensure the grapes arrive at the winery in pristine condition. Modern and intelligently designed, the emphasis in the winery is on temperature control and gentle handling of the grapes. The Blanco is fermented at 14 – 16°C to preserve aromas and to retain freshness. The Rosado, a scented blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, is bursting with fresh strawberry aromas.

All the red wines are fresh and juicy with nicely balanced oak. The Crianza, made solely from Tempranillo, is aged in American oak for 12 months and a further 8 months in bottle prior to release. It is clean, vibrant and supple. The Garnacha Crianza, also aged for 12 months in lightly toasted American oak, displays aromas of fresh red fruits with hints of mocha and sweet spice.

The ‘Coto de Imaz’ Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva are made from a selection of the best Tempranillo grapes from estate vineyards in Rioja Alta. While the Reserva is 100% Tempranillo, a small amount of Graciano is used in the Gran Reserva to add complexity. Maceration on the skins lasts for three to four weeks and the resulting wine is aged in oak: 18 months for the Reserva and 24 months for the Gran Reserva. Both wines nicely combine the traditional oak characters of Rioja with a freshness and fleshiness of fruit that make them very classy indeed. We were delighted that this quality was recognised at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2019, with the 2012 Gran Reserva taking home ‘Best in Show’ and 97 points. More recently, it was listed ninth in Wine Enthusiast’s Top Wines of 2020 and came ‘highly recommended’ as one of Decanter’s Wines of the Year 2020. The 2014 ‘Coto Real’ – a blend of Tempranillo sourced from the 50-year-old ‘Los Cuatros Viejos’ vineyard with a little Mazuelo and Garnacha – won Silver at the DWWA 2020. Aged in oak for 24 months, followed by a further 18 months in bottle prior to release, it is tightly knit with good intensity and great length.


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