32-year old Roberto Oliván is one of the most exciting names among the new generation of young producers in Rioja. He is deeply attached to Viñaspre, a hamlet in the district of Lanciego —a vineyard area on the foothills at the eastern end of the Sierra Cantabria mountains. High altitude (around 620 metres) and replanos, a term used to describe tableland areas with distinctive limestone and sandstone soils, are characteristic in this area and provide a unique character to his range of wines.
His most popular wine is Tentenublo, the name given to the ringing of bells aimed at fighting off hailstorms in some Rioja villages. Under this brand, he produces a fresh, lively and persistent red (around 10,000 bottles, €14-15 in Spain) as well as 1,300 bottles of a Viura and Malvasía barrel-fermented white (€14-15). White grapes are usually mixed-in or planted on the higher parts of his old vineyards.
He has recently launched a fruit-driven red called Xérico (6,300 bottles, €15). It pays homage to his grandfather whose photograph appears on the label. This wine comes from limestone soils and includes some Viura grapes in the blend.
The Escondite del Ardacho range, which retails above €30, is named after a native lizard species that appears dressed as a human on the label. It comes from identified old plots with tiny productions which sometimes do not exceed 1,000 bottles.
The range includes two Garnacha wines that do not undergo malolactic fermentation: the extremely juicy El Abundillano (a plot of less than one hectare which carries 9% Tempranillo and some Malvasía; 1,300 bottles); and the long and elegant Las Paredes (a 0.37 ha. parcel also with some Tempranillo). Las Guillermas comes from two adjacent plots, one of them planted with Tempranillo, the other with Viura (up to 40% of the final blend). The resulting red wine is extremely original with remarkable acidity and great cellaring potential.