The wines of Valdemar, Rioja
Part 3 of a series based on a visit to this famous Spanish wine region


Valdemar is a relatively large (although, it has to be said, not by general Riojan standards) winery processing 3000 tons of fruit each year, and a barrel hall with 15000 barrels in it.

The wines are split into a number of ranges, beginning with Valdemar, moving to Conde de Valdemar, and then the new range, which we had specifically come to see: Inspiracíon. This project has its own new winery, which is the facility we visited.

The modern Inspiracion winery

Previously, Valdemar was part of Martinez Bujanda, but the family ownership was split, and Valdemar is held by one side of the family, with Martinez Bujanda holding the other, including Finca Valpiedra, a celebrated single vineyard wine.

Inside a crusher/destemmer

Inspiracíon is interesting, because the focus here is on single varieties, including some unusual traditional ones that are quite rare in the region, such as Maturano and white Tempranillo, which is a new variety resulting from a genetic mutation discovered in the middle of a vineyard a decade ago.

‘Our style is for our wines to be a bit fresher and fruitier than other wines on the market,’ says export director Roberto Alonso. ‘When we started this was unique: now more wineries have joined the club.’ He says that they like to have a higher than normal percentage of Mazuelo in their blends. ‘It’s not very drinkable on its own, but it helps Tempranillo stay fresh for longer.’

Grape reception


Conde de Valdemar Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2009 Rioja
This white is from a single vineyard, Finca Alta Cantabria, planted in 1970 at 700 m altitude (the average in Rioja is 400 m). It has a nice fresh lemony nose that’s quite intense, with some herbiness. The palate has a creamy edge to the white peach, citrus and grapefruit characters. Fresh and persistent with a spicy twist. 88/100

Conde de Valdemar Garnacha 2007 Rioja
This spends 8 months in French oak. Sweet, vibrant, aromatic nose with notes of cherry and raspberry. Quite forward. The palate is vibrant and fresh with a peppery edge to the fresh raspberry and cherry fruit. Lovely purity of fruit here. Modern but delicious. 91/100 (UK retail £9.99)

Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2004 Rioja
90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, two-thirds American oak, one-third French oak for 18 months. Savoury, taut and a bit spicy with some earthy notes under the berry fruits. Quite an attractive spicy style with nice density and good tannins. 90/100 (UK retail £11)

Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva 2001 Rioja
Sweet, aromatic nose with herbs, tea and cherries. Nice freshness and elegance on the palate with some savoury notes. Fine mineral complexity and good acidity, but a tiny bit earthy. 91/100 (£18)

Valdemar Inspiracíon Tempranillo Blanco 2009 Rioja
A new variety discovered as a mutation in a vineyard 10 years ago. Valdemar planted 1.5 hectares in Alta Cantabria, and finally in 2010 listed as an authorized variety in the region. It’s an early variety with low acidity and a creamier character than Viura. This barrel-fermented wine is very rich, open and aromatic with notes of peach, apricot and melon. The palate is dense and fruity with melon and crystalline fruits. Very bold with peach and pear fruit. Quite delicious and forward. 3500 bottles made. 90/100

Valdemar Inspiracíon Graciano 2005 Rioja
Graciano is hard to grow, and needs a warm summer to succeed. This is aged 20 months in new French oak. Brooding, leathery, herby edge to the focused cherry and plum fruit nose. Quite sweet fruit but with some stern, savoury notes. The palate is dense and concentrated with firm tannins and a nice savoury spiciness. Lovely peppery, spicy structure here and high acidity. 94/100

Valdemar Inspiracíon Colección Varietales Maturana Rioja 2005
Maturana was a native variety thought to be extinct, and this wine comes from a 130 year old vineyard. There were just 35 vines left and no one knew what it was, but a scientist was hired to identify it. Valdemar quickly planted 2 hectares, and it was approved in 2009. It’s very aromatic with low acidity, says Alonso, and high colour. Very deep in colour. Lovely sweet, open, ripe, lush nose of plum and blackberry fruit. It reminds me of Carmenere. Dense but smooth palate is concentrated with a gravelly, chalky edge. Round, soft and drinkable. 92/100

(Confusingly, there are two newly approved varieties in Rioja with similar names: Maturana Tinto and Maturano, which is also known as Maturana Parda)

Valdemar Inspiracíon 2007 Rioja
This is the entry level to the range, retailing at £11. It’s a blend of Tempranillo with 10% Graciano. Lovely sweet, forward, liqueur-like cherry fruit nose with some raspberry notes. The palate is sweetly fruited with cherry and berry fruits and nice focus, as well as spicy, peppery notes.

Valdemar Inspiracíon 2005 Rioja
70% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Dense and sweetly fruited with bold character, showing a little evolution. Dense and rich but with fresh acidityon the palate as well as spice and earth notes. Seductive but not as fresh as distinctive as the others in the range. 90/100

Part 1, Finca Allende
Part 2, La Rioja Alta
Part 3, Valdemar
Part 4, Bodegas Riojanas
Part 5, Remirez de Ganuza
Part 6, Ontañón

Wines tasted 10/10  
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