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Danger here: Tempranillo meets Pauillac in this unputdownable Rioja


Anyone know the Spanish for ‘boreen’?…

AS TOM PUYAUBERT drove us down what can only be described a long, winding, dusty boreen, miles from the main road through endless rows of craggy old vines, I asked the question, “how on earth did you ever come across these plots, Tom?”.

The plots I was referring to are 15 micro-parcels of bush vines, ranging in age from 30 to 90 years old, that make up the vineyards of Bodegas Exopto. Bordeaux-native Tom had arrived in Rioja in 2000 and had effectively rescued these old vine gardens from neglect and disuse. As evidenced by the quality of Tom’s wines, the quality of the fruit was staggeringly good. I just couldn’t work out how, in a place as renowned and populated with wineries as Rioja, he had acquired such wonderful raw materials.

Horizonte de Exopto is the mid-tier wine of three reds from Bodegas Exopto. Aged for 12 months in French oak (that’s the softer, less aggressive type), it misses the “Crianza” classification as it’s not aged in bottle for the same time before release. I tasted the newly-landed 2014 last weekend and, frankly, it just doesn’t need it.

Ripe, soft and minerally with gorgeous, glossy black fruit, whether deliberately or not the wine is distinctly Bordeaux in style with a real elegance and fine-boned structure. This is not guts-and-glory show-off Rioja, rather Tempranillo meets Pauillac.

I thought it was pure class and Tom’s best vintage yet. The danger is the sheer drinkability. Unless you’re planning on finishing the bottle yourself (who am I to judge!), share the love. You’ll be rewarded with oohs and aahs and oodles of Brownie points. And, heck, you can always open another bottle.

As for how Tom found all those old vine plots? “You’re from Ireland, how do you think? I went to the pub and made some friends who told me where to look.”


*It’s 20% off Spanish wines at Curious until the end of May, including Horizonte and the rest of Tom’s wines

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