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My tastings will never be the same.

I’ve been conducting tastings of Dinastia Vivanco wines for 7 years, and in all that time, whenever we had a full dinner to match our wines to, I had to apologise when we got to the dessert as “Dinastia Vivanco don’t make sweet wines“.

dried rioja grapes on the vine

Dried out grapes on the vine in January

I was very surprised to hear, therefore, not only that Rafael Vivanco WILL be making an experimental quantity of a sweet wine, but that there is an ancient local tradition of these ‘raisined wines’ in Rioja. To be fair, it is a largely forgotten tradition, but it is well-known enough that the Rioja DOCa should be accepting these wines as ‘Rioja’.

Below is the press release that went out today which you can read on PR Web too, but you can get in touch with me, or even come to Bibendum‘s Annual Tasting in London today (January 26th, 2011) to speak to Rafael if you are in town.

Vivanco and the January Vintage in Rioja

Wine Culture has always been the thread that strings together developments at Dinastia Vivanco. On this occasion, Rafael Vivanco, winemaker at Dinastia Vivanco, is proposing to rediscover an ancient, deep-rooted Rioja tradition now sadly forgotten; the sweet wines known locally as “Vinos Supurados” or “Raisined Wines”.

The winery harvested the grapes for the Raisined Wine in Briones on Wednesday 19th January 2011. These grapes were the Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes from the El Cantillo vineyard that surrounds the winery in Briones. One of Rafael Vivanco’s experimental projects, this research project is driven by his passion to recover and promote the diversity and richness of Rioja’s winemaking heritage. This will be the second vintage of this wine as a tiny quantity was made in 2009 to provide technical experience and parameters for future vintages.

The Rioja “Raisined Wine” tradition is part of an ancient, local grape growers’ custom of storing grapes at home to eat, dried, until Christmas. They usually selected the most mature fruit and loose bunches (often Garnacha) that would be desiccated after a few months – hence the translation as “Raisined”, or even “Shrivelled” and “Rotten”. At Christmas the remaining bunches would be pressed and fermented in demijohns or other receptacles. The result, once fermentation had stopped after a few months, was a wine with very high residual sugar. This wine, sweet but fresh thanks to the remaining acidity, was used both as a dessert wine and medicinally, for its ‘restorative’ properties.

The Dinastia Vivanco grapes used for this vinification of Raisined Wine have remained on the vine in search of the benefits of noble rot (botrytis). As the agent of some of the world’s most prestigious wines, such as Sauternes, this noble rot, encouraged by the early morning vineyard mists rising from the nearby River Ebro, will add complexity and longevity to the resulting wine. Rafael Vivanco has experience of making these unique wines from his own winemaking education in Bordeaux in 1999.