The orography and the village’s peculiarities meant that land consolidation was avoided and the area is home to some of the best Tempranillos in Rioja.
In villages like Ábalos, in the heart of the Sonsierra, it’s hard to find one single family who is not somehow linked to the business of wine as grapes are practically a monoculture and winegrowing is a millenary tradition. There are 15 producers among a population of around 300 inhabitants, although there are dozens of caves and small cellars where families used to make their own ‘cosechero’ wine.
The orography and the village’s peculiarities -a considerable part of the farming land was owned by one noble family until the 1980s- meant that land consolidation was avoided and the area is home to some of the best Tempranillos in Rioja. The Eguíluz family owns 12 hectares of vineyards in Ábalos and purchases grapes solely from growers in the Sonsierra to reach 30 hectares, mostly from the villages of Ábalos, Samaniego and San Vicente de la Sonsierra. These vineyards are personally supervised by Bodegas Eguíluz to ensure the excellent quality of the grapes.
Bodegas y Viñedos Eguíluz was born in 1982, but the family traces back its winegrowing roots to several generations before. Javier, the father, has spent a lifetime working in the vineyards. First with two of his brothers, with whom he built the winery, and now with his wife and son, who help him with the management. It’s a family business through and through: Javier takes care of the vineyards, his wife Blanca handles the exacting paperwork and admin tasks on a part-time basis and their son Israel is in charge of winemaking, sales and distribution. “I graduated as an Industrial Engineer but I knew that my heart was in wine, so when I finished my degree I took an Oenology course in the evenings. I now combine my studies with making the wines here”, he explains.
The Crianza and Reserva wines of Bodegas y Viñedos Eguíluz are made in open concrete lagos or wine presses and aged in barrels in a small cellar. The family’s efforts are focused on this front as they get increasing praise for these wines, but as Israel points out, “the young carbonic maceration is our flagship wine”. This style of wine, fermented with whole clusters, is traditional in the Sonsierra.
Eguíluz is a special, artisan wine, made with the best part of the lago; grapes are treaded by hand (or rather with the feet) as it was done hundreds of years ago: each concrete vat is filled with 25,000 kg of grapes to produce around 17,000 litres of wine. For his bottles, Israel exclusively selects vino de repiso —the top quality wine in the lago—, around 8,000 litres in each lago, discarding the free-run juice and the pressed wine. The result is an easy-drinking, round fruity wine with moderate alcohol which tends to ‘evaporate’ once it’s been opened. In fact, of the 300,000 kg produced at Bodegas y Viñedos Eguíluz annually, only 200,000 litres are selected to be bottled and sold under its brand.