Rioja’s Bodegas Corral has committed to organic growing and sustainability in its winery. Chris Losh gives an overview of the green strategy; while Natasha Hughes MW tastes and rates the new Ecológico and Vine Roots wines.
When you have been growing grapes for over 120 years it’s safe to say that you don’t merely have a deep understanding of your land, but also a profound love for it, and a desire to pass it on in perfect condition to the next generation.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that Bodegas Corral, with a long, proud history of grape growing in the heart of Rioja, should be so thoroughly committed to an ambitious ecological programme.
The winery’s first vines were planted by Saturnino Daroca back in 1898 in the small village of Sojuela. His daughter married one Martin Corral, and the winery has carried the latter’s name ever since.
There have been changes in business strategy and structure over the decades. But perhaps the most significant development occurred a few years ago, when the winery committed itself to becoming completely ecological by 2024: fully organic in the vineyards and fully sustainable across the rest of the business.
Over the last five years, Bodegas Corral has worked with dozens of its partner growers across Rioja to support them in their conversion to organic practices.
Meanwhile, in the winery, big strides have been taken to reduce the use of water and sulphur, and to employ sustainable energy sources. It’s all done with the aim of reducing the bodega’s carbon footprint.
The hard work has been worth it. Not only are all the wines now vegan, but over the summer Bodegas Corral was proudly accredited into the Wineries for Climate Protection scheme.
All of this work hasn’t just been good for the land or for the planet, however. It’s been great news for wine lovers too, since it has allowed Bodegas Corral to create a whole new range of wines.
Part of the Don Jacobo range, the Ecológico wines currently comprise two unoaked Tempranillos (a red and a white) and a Tempranillo crianza, with twelve months in oak and six months in bottle. Over time, as more of their partner growers attain organic certification, this range will grow.
Wine explorers should definitely look out for the Vine Roots wines, too: limited-production wines from small plots and mostly old vines. In a region known for blending varieties together and majoring on Tempranillo, it’s exciting to try wines made 100% from Garnacha (red and white versions) and the wonderful, mercurial Graciano.
The winery has two key goals for this year; to achieve 100% organic production for the 2020 vintage, and for 80% of wines sold to be ecological in some way.
Even after 120 years, Bodegas Corral is still learning, still changing – and still in love with its land.
The wines tasted by Natasha Hughes MW
Bodegas Corral, Altos de Corral, Single Estate, Rioja Reserva 2015 92 pts
Lovely balance between bright primary raspberry and cranberry fruit and savoury tertiary notes of tobacco and Worcestshire sauce. Complex, vibrant and long. Quite traditional in style. Drink 2020-2028. Alc 14%
Bodegas Corral, Vine Roots Graciano, Rioja 2018 91 pts
Organic. Vibrant red cherry and cranberry, tinged with cracked pepper and star anise. Chewy tannins and a long finish. One for acid freaks. Drink 2020-2025. Alc 14%
Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Vino Ecologico, Rioja Crianza 2017 89 pts
Organic. Sweet oak spice well blended into a dense palate of damsons and cherries, with a hint of earthy development to add complexity. The tannins are slightly grainy, and the finish bright. Drink 2020-2024. Alc 13.5%
Bodegas Corral, Vine Roots Garnacha Blanca, Rioja 2019 87 pts
Organic. Lovely, bright notes of lemon zest, lime blossom and under-ripe pineapple balanced by fresh acidity. At the moment it’s overwhelmed by slightly heavy-handed oak, but this should integrate in time. Drink 2020-2024. Alc 13%
Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Vino Ecologico, Rioja 2019 87 pts
Organic. Slightly jammy dark cherry and plum fruit, with a hint of liquorice and sweet spice, underpinned by slightly chewy tannins. An attractive, easy-going wine. Good value. Drink 2020-2023. Alc 14%
Bodegas Corral, Vine Roots Garnacha, Rioja 2017 86 pts
Organic. Plenty of sweet oak spice, slightly dominating Garnacha’s typically ebullient red fruit. Juicy acidity, chunky tannins and a trace of warmth on the finish. Drink 2020-2023. Alc 14.5%
Bodegas Corral, Altos de Corral, Single Estate, Rioja Crianza 2017 85 pts
Lots of concentrated fruit on the mid-palate, but the tannins are tough and rather over-extracted, and alcoholic warmth on the finish detracts from overall appeal. Drink 2021-2026. Alc 14%
Translated by ICY
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