Bodega Akutain, Rioja Reserva
Bodega Akutain, Rioja Reserva

Bodega Akutain, Rioja Reserva

Rioja, Spain 2017 (750mL)
Regular price$65.00
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Bodega Akutain, Rioja Reserva

Look no further if you wish to experience the shining example of artisanal, deeply traditional, drink-now-or-age-for-decades Rioja Reserva. Like Bordeaux, Rioja is an illustrious wine-producing machine churning out millions of gallons per annum. And while the best producers offer some of the most refined and longest-lived wines on the planet, they too, tend to be Goliath-scaled operations with inexhaustible inventories. Except Bodega Akutain.

Here’s the rare bodega whose garagiste-scale and sporadic releases mean we’ll never be able to consistently feature their wines. So, yes, today’s 2017 bottling is an exciting affair, and well worth the wait: This six-year-old Reserva overflows with supernormal energy, a polished rusticity, and a velvety texture, exemplifying why Rioja is one of the world’s greatest terroirs. We have a very limited number of cases to share, and when that last bottle goes, that’s it. Trust us when weI say that this wine is as sensational as it is rare!

Akutain is largely a one-man operation. You’ll find Jon Peñagarikano Akutain manning a horse stable-turned-cellar and tending to a minuscule amount of vines. He farms just four vineyards, each between 1-2 hectares in size, all of which lie within La Rioja Alta. Home to legendary estates like CVNE and López de Heredia, this subzone is responsible for the region’s most cherished and longest-lived wines. Aside from Akutain’s small holdings, also most unusual for the region is the fact that he follows a true “estate” model, making wine entirely from the fruit he himself farms. It isn’t talked about much, but the truth is many Rioja bodegas purchase the majority of their fruit. Indeed, 80% of all the grapes grown there are farmed by families who own only vineyards and no winery facilities. Akutain represents true farm-to-table Rioja.

The Akutain story begins with Jon’s father, Juan José. Juan was deeply ingrained in the Rioja wine industry for years, albeit not as a grower or winemaker. He actually sold cooling and refrigeration systems to wineries, and counted many of the most famous producers in the region as his clients. The job offered Juan the opportunity to get to know the region intimately as he drove back and forth constantly between the region’s most famous vineyards. Plus he had plenty of chances to taste examples from his clients’ voluminous libraries. After spending years secretly searching for the ideal site to plant a vineyard of his own, he found Shangri-La in 1975, just a few miles west of Haro. There, he established the vines his son works today, comprising 75% Tempranillo and 14% Garnacha with a tiny splash of Viura. All three varieties are in play in this 2017 Reserva. The grapes ferment spontaneously in fiberglass vats, and are blended together before aging in old American oak for over two years. This is followed by an additional year of bottle aging before release.

At this stage, Akutain’s 2017 Rioja Reserva is best served in a Bordeaux stems around 60 degrees after 30 minutes in a decanter. The nose sings with fruit and savor: dried black cherries, spiced red plum, and redcurrant are all in unison with aniseed, vanilla bean, sandalwood, fresh leather, and loose tobacco. On the palate, it’s vibrant and almost juicy, with firm yet resolved tannins and a prominent streak of iron and baked clay. There’s no new oak to get in the way, no overly ripe flavors, just wonderfully unadorned, soulful Rioja magic that reminds us why these are some of the most respected wines in the world. Cheers!

Bodega Akutain, Rioja Reserva


Eastern Spain


The Montsant DO is Priorat’s downslope neighbor in northeastern
Spain, but other than differences in altitude, there isn’t much else to tell their terroirs apart. Both appellations contain some of the world’s greatest old-vine Garnacha (Grenache) in soils of fractured granite and shale known locally as llicorella. It is a Mediterranean climate, with wide diurnal temperature swings.

Eastern Spain


Technically, a wine labeled ‘Cava’ can be produced in several different regions, but Penedès, on Spain’s northern Mediterranean coast, is its
spiritual home. The climate is Mediterranean, the soils a favorable mix of limestone (key in pre-serving acids), sand, and clay, and Cava sparklers are crafted in the traditional ‘Champagne’ method. The traditional grapes used for Cava are Xarel-lo (cha-RAY-yo), Macabeu, and Parellada.

Northwestern Spain


Galicia is lusher, colder, wetter, and greener than most of the rest of Spain, especially where wine-growing
is concerned. Viticulture up here is some of the most “heroic” in the world, as vineyards cling to impossibly steep slopes along snaking rivers such as the Miño and
the Sil. The influence of the Atlantic Ocean is profound, often lending wines a salty, “sea spray” character.

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