At the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla last October, I attended a seminar about the wines of Bodegas LAN, led by Doug Frost, one of only four people in the world with both the MW and the MS certification. The thought of that seriously makes my head hurt. I digress......
Bodegas LAN was “born” in 1972 and is named after the initials of the three political provinces in the DOCa Rioja: Logroño (now La Rioja), Álava, and Navarra. LAN blends the best of Rioja tradition with modern winemaking and an innovative approach to oak use. They own 20,000 barrels, so there are a lot of oak options. Signature handling of oak includes the use of Russian oak, hybrid oak barrels with American staves, and French oak tops and bottoms. Yes, they use Russian barrels, and they admit it! Overall LAN has evolved into a more modern winery versus a traditionalist. They make wines in the international style. This helps the international market understand what they do and helps move bottles…the ultimate goal!!
In Rioja there is a good number of women winemakers and oenologists. According to Doug, women are making more “exciting” wines in the Rioja, such as María Barua at the helm of winemaking at Bodegas LAN. Though we all know that good winemaking actually begins in the vineyard. The 72-hectare (178 acre) estate vineyard is named Viña Lanciano and is situated between the sub-regions of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Bodegas LAN subscribes to sustainable viticulture with no mineral or chemical fertilizer (only organic solutions, as needed) use. And no herbicides or pesticides.
At the vineyard, the continental climate is moderated by the Cierzo and Solano winds. The vineyard is nestled between the Cantabrian mountain range and a loop of the River Ebro, which both shield the vines from extreme frosts and summers. Many think that Rioja is just HOT. It can be, but it is not a one-trick pony. It is close to the Atlantic and also has Mediterranean influences.
Viña Lanciano offers well-drained soils of sandy loam (including pebbles, gravel, and sand). Consequently, the vines dig their roots deep into the soil for nutrients. The vines (planted to: Tempranillo, Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha) are old, low-yielding and between 40-60 years of age.
LAN Classic Range
Grapes sourced from long-standing suppliers in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.
LAN Crianza 2014 $14 (95% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo)
Young, fresh fruit on this value-priced, everyday red wine. Bright, juicy red fruit plus black cherries. Medium, well-integrated tannins plus a whisper of tertiary notes (coffee and chocolate).
LAN Reserva 2011 $20 (92% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano)
A nice interplay of lovely fruit plus some savory notes. The oak influence is starting to show here. This wine tells a beautiful Old World story in the glass…..and that whole story is a bargain at $20. Compare that to the sea of shitty, commercial $20 wines out there. The best wine tip (as far as finding a good value), is to go to the Old World!
LAN Gran Reserva 2010 $25 (90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo)
In order to meet the “Gran Reserva” category in Rioja, the wine must have a minimum of 5 years aging: at least 24 months in oak plus at least 24 months in bottle. This wine sees 24 months in barrel plus 36 months in bottle before release. If this wine was a music style, it would be an R&B slow jam…..some baby makin’ music! It’s slow…..smooth……and warm. Notes of cigar box (smoke) plus spice box moves into licorice and coffee bean on the back palate. Also some garrigue notes (fennel/cumin). Will continue to age for 20+ years.
LAN D-12 2014 $20 (100% Tempranillo)
The winemaker’s favorite tank (#12). Produced with select wines from small parcels in the Rioja Alta and Alavesa. Vignerons choosing their favorite tank to keep and drink themselves is a tradition in Rioja.
LAN Estate Range
Reflects the unique identity of Viña Lanciano, the estate vineyard.
Viña Lanciano Reserva $30 (87% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo)
Named in homage to the vineyard, and is the flagship wine. Oh yeah……big ass tannins. But very well-integrated. Give me some food here, and I’m a happy girl!
LAN Edición Limitada $50 (87% Tempranillo, 9% Mazuelo, 4% Graciano)
All grapes come from carefully hand-selected vines of very low production in the “Pago El Rincón” area of the vineyard.
Culmen Reserva $65 (88% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano)
All grapes come from carefully hand-selected vines of very low production in the “Pago El Rincón” area of the vineyard. This wine is only produced in excellent vintages. A perfumed note makes this wine very special. Especially tannic plus a savory/garrigue note.