Rioja’s regulatory body has just approved the creation of a classification for a new Single Vineyard (viñedos singulares) which will enable winemakers to state the origin of their wines and to emphasize quality over quantity. However, from its inception, Contino has led the way of quality, producing single-estate wines since 1974. Today Contino is considered the pinnacle of Rioja, its bottlings always universally garnering the top notes.
Viñedos del Contino was created by CVNE in 1978, establishing the “château” concept in the Rioja region. The quality of the vineyards was so incredible that they were previously solely used for Viña Real Gran Reserva. The estate is rooted in an ancestral farmhouse which was lovingly restored and updated by CVNE’s Urrutia family, who have spare no expense in constructing a state-of-the-art winery. The wines are made exclusively from the stocks planted on its 152 acres located inside a bend in the Ebro River in Laserna, near the town of Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa region. Graciano is a minority planting in Rioja (1,200 hectares out of the 67,000 hectares planted, 1.86% of total vineyard area), but it is the soul of the Contino wines. Except for the 100% Garnacha, every cuvée has a minimum of 10% Graciano in the blend, which gives the wine an increased capacity for aging. Contino strives to produce wines with a modern and fresh style that expresses the climate and terroir of their land.
The vines at Contino average 45 year old, the oldest vines being from 1930. When needed, the vines are replaced using selection massale. The dry-farmed vineyards are divided into 7 main parcels, that over the years have been broken down into 32 micro-parcels. The average yield is between 4.000 and 4.500 Kg per Ha depending on the year (average in Rioja is 6.500 Kg/Ha). Contino does use machinery in the vineyard to remove growth in between the rows of vines, and the work is done depending on each specific parcel, grape variety and weather condition. The harvest in done in steps, at different dates for the different parcels, depending on the grape varieties planted, their maturity and what they will be used for. It is always the winemaker’s decision.
But the most important element to Contino’s success is the range of impressive bottlings (7 to date) complementing the original Contino Reserva cuvée. These include a 100% Graciano, the Viña del Olivo and the Rioja Blanco. The only wine made every year is the Reserva, the other wines are exclusively made in exceptional years. Fermentation is on native yeasts or from native strains that were identified in the early 1990s. After benefiting from the talents of winemaker Jesús Madrazo, who was part of the family and saved Graciano from oblivion, Contino is since the 2017 harvest in the hands of Jorge Navascués, a young winemaker with lots of experience from Cariñena, and an expert in Garnacha.
Farming practices: Organic. The winery will be certified by 2021.