Brothers Ivan and Mario Santos specialise in Garnacha rather than Tempranillo, a delicious alternative to your staple Riojan fare. The family has a history of supplying top quality grapes to the established Rioja houses, but the Civil War left devastation in its wake, the premises and buildings destroyed and their grandfather oversaw a long, slow recovery as a simple grower.
The brothers built a new bodega in 2006 in Navarette and set about producing richly fruited, intense wines themselves. They have three maxims: they want to make 'vinos de pueblo' - wines that reflect the land they were harvested from; they eschew the terms Crianza and Reserva, and the rules of the Consejo Regulador, preferring to give their wines exactly the barrel ageing that suits their character each vintage; and they want you to enjoy drinking their wines as much as they do! The concentration they coax from their old vine Garnacha grapes, grown at 850 metres in the Rioja Alta, is remarkable – tasted blind you could mistake them for Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Southern Rhône. What strikes you with their wines is the richness and drinkability but with more silky fruit than oak. There’s lots of substance and body too, making this a very attractive, generous range of new-wave Riojas.