Sandra Bravo is making some of Rioja’s most interesting wines at her project Sierra de Toloño


Sandra Bravo is making some of Rioja’s most interesting wines, with a focus firmly on the vineyard. She is half from Rioja (she was born in Logroño), and half from Basque country.

Prior to making her own wines, she worked widely elsewhere, picking up experience in Entre deux Mers (Bordeaux), Chianti (where she cites flying winemaker Goffredo Agostini as a major influence) and then seven years working in Priorat. In Priorat, Ricard Rofes of Scala Dei influenced her significantly. ‘I learned this artisan way of winemaking and decided to come home and start my own thing.’

So Sandra returned to Rioja in 2012. ‘I started from nothing, renting a vineyard in Ribes de Tereso.’ After the debut vintage, people began to offer her very old vineyards, and she developed the project, always focused on the viticulture. Currently she rents 3 hectares and owns 7 hectares. The winery is rented. ‘All my investment is in the vineyards,’ she says, ‘otherwise it is impossible to make this kind of wines.’

Coming back to these high-altiutude old vineyards was a fantastic experience. ‘It was like working in a very fresh Priorat with old vineyards and bushvines, a lot of biodiversity,’ says Sandra. ‘It is such a special place. It is a Mediterranean environment with rosemary and thyme in the vineyards. You can taste it in the vines.’

She works biodynamically, and is certified. Since she started working this way she finds  better balance between acidity and alcohol in the wines: acidity is higher, alcohol is lower.

There’s nothing magical about the winemaking. It’s just sensitive and allows the place to shine through. ‘I am very focused in the vineyards,’ says Sandra, ‘but I have become more simple in the cellar.’


Sierra de Toloño Blanco 2023 Rioja, Spain
11.5% alcohol. This is Viura, calcareous soil. Stainless steel. Wonderful aromatics here with fresh citrus and pear fruit as well as some grapey richness and a hint of honey on the nose. The palate is lively, pure and mineral with lovely precision and a nice acid line. Such fruit expression. Distinctive and lovely. 93/100

Sierra de Toloño Nahikun Blanco 2023 Rioja, Spain
A field blend of old varieties from five microplots. These were planted by people selling grapes who simply planted where they could find land, high in the mountains, directly on the rock where no one else wanted to plant. ‘This is the patrimony that I want to leave alone here,’ says Sandra. So vivid and intense with lovely precision and purity, showing bright citrus with some steely acidity and a really mineral character on the finish. Fresh and intense, but with real length and complexity. 95/100

Sierra de Toloño Tempranillo Tinto 2021 Rioja, Spain
Bush vines from high altitude in Ribes de Tereso. I have learned to be passive to harvest at the end of October but still keeping the freshness. Spends 8 months in neutral small oak. Lovely intensity and freshness here with ripe, sweet black cherry and berry fruits with some cured meat and olive savouriness. There’s bright acidity and a touch of sour cherry on the finish. Lovely brightness here with a focus firmly on the fruit, but there’s some seriousness, too. 94/100

Sierra de Toloño Raposo 2021 Rioja, Spain
This is from the valley. The soil has more of a river influence with alluvial character. The wine spends longer time (one year) in 3000 litre barrels. Concentrated, vital and energetic with lovely freshness and focus. There are notes of olive and pepper with some meaty richness, but also freshness. Lovely structure here and also nice fresh acidity. Has drinkability but also complexity: a lovely wine. 94/100

Sierra de Toloño La Dula Garnachas de Altura 2022 Rioja, Spain
Sandra says she learned to make Garnacha in Priorat. This comes from 650 m altitude. ‘This is a perfect place for Garnacha, giving ripe tannins and good acidity,’ says Sandra. Matured in amphora. Truly beautiful with lovely sweet ripe red cherry and black cherry fruit with smooth, silky fruit and nice tannins. Beautifully expressive with volume, elegance and finesse. Such purity and precision, but also a sense of deliciousness. 95/100

Sierra de Toloño Terseño 2021 Rioja, Spain
‘I discovered the potential of Garnacha with this wine,’ says Sandra. Like Dula, it’s also made in amphora, from 90 year old vines at 630 m. Calcareous rocks. Really floral and expressive with bright red cherries and plums, and nice spicy grip. Such personality here with amazing elegance to the fruit and then a remarkable tannic structure and a nice acid line. Offers silkiness but also grainy, grippy structure. A remarkable wine with great precision and purpose. 96/100

Sierra de Toloño Nahikun Tinto 2022 Rioja, Spain
Field blend of local varieties, harvested together and cofermented. ‘They were so clever planting all these varieties, in the right place and the right proportion,’ says Sandra. Ripe and sweetly fruited with a nice silkiness and some depth, showing raspberry and cherry fruit with a smooth texture to it. Generous and ripe, but still remaining fresh, this offers pleasure with purpose. Fine and expressive with lovely weight, and some fine tannins on the finish. 95/100

Sierra de Toloño Rosado 2023 Rioja, Spain
‘I started making this wine in Covid when I had lots of time.’ It’s from the coolest plot she has (where some grapes were still green even in November), with some bits skin contact and others direct pressed. Full pink/red in colour, this has lovely cherry and raspberry fruit but also nice structure and freshness. There’s a purity here with some smoky, spicy, grainy character adding interest. Nice grip on the finish. 93/100

UK agent: Lea & Sandeman