Contino Reserva, from Rioja’s blessed 2010 vintage

6 Apr 2020

Finely tuned, terroir-driven Rioja

'Since tasting Contino Reserva 2010 a couple of years ago… I've believed that there's something special about the 2010 vintage'
- Tim Jackson MW,

Some vintages just seem to be blessed. These are the years when Mother Nature cooperates exactly with the winemaker's desires, and every weather event falls into place at the most convenient moment. The blissful vineyard manager has little to do. Winemakers like to joke that if you can't make good wine in a vintage like this, it's time to change career. These are the years when wineries get repainted and walls get repointed. Today, we're not offering the most recent vintage of the Rioja Reserva Contino. (You'll be able to find that elsewhere). Instead, we have seized on a parcel of 2010, the most blessed recent vintage in the region; 2010 has taken its place in the pantheon of great Rioja vintages together with 2001, 1973 and 1964.

Rioja always used to be about blending. Bodegas would source grapes from growers across the region, then blend for a house style under their proprietary label. But when (in 1973) the grand old bodega CVNE acquired the historical Contino estate, they decided to try something different. Contino was a special place. There had been vines here since medieval times, enjoying a sheltered, propitious site on a slope above a bend on the River Ebro. CVNE allowed Contino to operate on what they thought of as the Bordeaux-chateau model, making wine on the estate exclusively from the surrounding vineyards. And so it has been ever since.

It's very recognisably Rioja. The blend is classic: mainly Tempranillo, blended with small amounts of Graciano (for perfume and freshness), Mazuelo (for colour, tannin and structure) and Garnacha (for sheer sweet ripe fruit). There's a touch of vanilla and clove from the American oak. The raspberry and red cherry are brightened by a touch of orange, and balanced against an earthier, spiced note with a smidgen of graphite that is halfway on the road to Bordeaux. It is a smooth, complex wine, finely-poised and expressive. /NT

Offered subject to remaining unsold; available June 2020