Rioja is a happening place. A new generation of growers and wine makers who have moved on from stylistic debates and got down to the business of making the finest Rioja possible from their respective zones.
All the key ingredients are here: outstanding, cool vineyards on rocky soils, very old vines, low yields, a terrific little winery replete with new cement tanks and large format oak, small production (yes, at these prices!) and a passionate winemaker/owner (Tom Puyaubert) who clearly understands the universal principals of high quality wine. Tom is in fact a Frenchman who married a local girl which may explain the atypical, artisanal approach that is found at Exopto. Visiting Exopto reminds us of visiting a small Burgundian producer. The emphasis was very much on the vineyards while the small scale production (around 7,000 cases, tiny for Rioja) and attention to detail was equally impressive. These factors have resulted in Exopto producing modern Rioja in the very best sense – i.e., Rioja that is the result of well-tended vineyards and quality wine making. Rioja that takes the best from the past (Graciano for example and use of concrete tanks & large format oak, etc.) and discards what did not work.
Exopto’s old vine holdings surround the town of Abalos at an altitude of 600-plus metres in the Rioja Alta district. Of the three districts in Rioja (Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja), Rioja Alta is the coolest and has the highest rainfall. Exopto’s Tempranillo vines are between 50-100 years old, Garnacha (Grenache) is 70 years old and Graciano, 30 years old. Soils here are clay and limestone over a sandy, rocky base and ripening very late. Only French oak is used in the ageing process.
The entry level Bozeto is a blend of 50% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano, partially tank-aged to highlight its bright fruit. Horizonte, made from predominantly Tempranillo from Abalos in Rioja Alta is a stylish modern Rioja, branded by old vine/low yield authenticity. The top wine, simply called Exopto, is an atypical blend of 60% Graciano and is made in tiny volumes and only in the finest years.