In a nutshell: A big, but elegant and pure oak aged white Rioja from a perfectionist producer.
The lowdown: White Rioja is less often seen than red and it's made in a variety of styles, both oaked and unoaked. Abel Mendoza makes quite a range of whites and is quite expert in getting the best out of them. This cuvée is made from 30 year old, 100% Viura vines, the Rioja region's main white grape. It's fermented and aged in new French oak barrels for a period of 5 months which gives it a fabulous nose of patisserie, orange, almond, honeycomb and citrus. There are touches of oak and subtle oxidised notes on the palate which mingle with bursts of intense, vibrant citrus fruit flavours. And it all leads up to a bright, smooth, silky and nicely lingering finish.
When to drink: Subtle but with a real richness it's a great partner to meaty fish dishes, all manner of full flavoured cheeses and foie gras.
Abel Mendoza founded his bodega in the town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra in the heart of Rioja with his enologist wife Maite in 1988.
They farm 18 hectares of vineyard and 37 different parcels themselves around San Vicente, in the shadow of the Sierra Cantabria, an area well-known for having some of the best vineyards in the area. His knowledge and understanding of the soils is enthralling and to taste in his cellar can be an education on the effects different soils have in different years. He wants only to express the fruit and the soil and unlike many Riojans, he leaves it more or less at that. He does not want to stamp the wines with any particular style or mark of his own other than his respect for the very natural quality of the grapes and the magical places that they were grown. And to emphasise this he doesn't bother with conforming to the usual age statements (like reserva etc).
Preferring to let his wines do the talking he spends virtually no effort marketing the business and as a result goes somewhat under the radar especially in foreign markets. In Spain however he has developed something of a legendary status to those in the know.