Ortega Ezquerro: the identity of Tudelilla

The family winery recovers the ‘pride’ of one of the most highly regarded wine-producing villages in Rioja, albeit ‘diluted’ by the small number of bodegas that make wine in it.

Tudelilla is one of the historic villages of Rioja, with distinctive stony soils and the largest non-irrigated amount of land under vine in the whole of Rioja. Its proximity to the Sierra Carbonera mountains (also known as de la Hez) and the natural water retention of its soils lend freshness to its wines and grapes ripen gently and gradually. Tudelilla wines have been appreciated and sought after since the 19th century by the historic wineries of Haro, which found in these Garnacha grapes the ideal freshness to complement their Tempranillo.

Bodegas Ortega Ezquerro, with 16 hectares of vineyards, is a family winery with roots going back to four generations of grape growers when Quintín Ortega, a professional cask maker, decided to buy vineyards and make his own cosechero wine. Carmelo Ortega, great-grandson and current owner, entrusted winemaker David Bastida with the revitalisation of the family wines, focusing on village wines that are true to the typicity of Tudelilla.

El Monte is a five-hectare property planted to Garnacha and Tempranillo vines. With its grapes, Ortega Ezquerro makes Quintín Ortega Tinto Especial, in honour of the family's founder: "The vineyard features old-style Garnacha vines, with some Monastrell and Garnacha Blanca vines scattered around,” explains David Bastida. "This site's singularity is defined by the gravelly soils, typical of Tudelilla, and also by its proximity to the Sierra de la Hez,” he adds. Accordingly, vines climb beyond Carbonera, making Tudelilla one of the last villages to finish the harvest in Rioja.

Historically, vines were dry-farmed in poor, less fertile soils, which were not suitable for beetroot, potatoes or cereal, causing the village to lose a considerable part of its population. But it is in these soils where vines flourish: "Tudelilla is spectacular, with historic Garnacha vines ascending towards the mountains. However, the very name of the sub-region, Rioja Baja, means that we need to explain things further", says David Bastida. "Interestingly, most of our vineyards are above 650 metres elevation, higher than in Haro, and yet we call ourselves Rioja Baja... or, now, Rioja Oriental,” he points out. A real character with wit and a sense of humour, in addition to the Quintín Ortega range (red and white), David Bastida also makes a wonderful Tempranillo and Garnacha wine with some ageing under the Ortega Ezquerro brand, as well as a spectacular varietal Garnacha (OE). The range has recently been extended with OE Mazuelo, a less common variety which has nevertheless been grown for centuries in the area.