Artadi: a Different Approach to Rioja

The family-owned Spanish winery Artadi is a low-intervention winery that has left the DOCa Rioja behind them. Their approach has led them into the global spotlight. Peter Douglas and Alexandra Wrann report. 

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Success has been achieved as a result of maintaining a consistent sense of uniqueness.
Success has been achieved as a result of maintaining a consistent sense of uniqueness.

In the Spanish region of Rioja, the concept of vinifying and bottling single vineyard wines is still a recent development. Traditionally, the quality system has been dominated by the aging classifications of Crianza to Gran Reserva, focusing on the maturation process rather than the terroir. Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi has been doing the exact opposite since its inception.

How it all began

The project started in Laguardia in 1985 as a collaboration of different winemakers, including Juan Carlos de Lacalle. They shared a common belief in the potential for producing excellent wines in Rioja. especially in the higher-altitude sub-region of Rioja Alavesa on the northern bank of the Ebro River. They were convinced that this could be accomplished without the need for prolonged aging in barrels.


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Focus on single vineyards and old vines

In 1992, the Lacalle and Laorden family took over the enterprise. Since then, winemaker Juan Carlos de Lacalle has led the independent winery to the forefront of not only the Spanish wine scene but also the international stage. His approach has been different from most of his neighbors. It focuses on single vineyards and old vines, employing organic and predominantly biodynamic viticultural practices, following a low-intervention philosophy, utilizing spontaneous fermentation, and implementing relatively short aging periods in French oak.

Influenced by Burgundy

The flagship wine of Artadi is Viña El Pisón. The Tempranillo vines were planted in 1945, resembling an amphitheater. This vineyard extends over 2.4 hectares (about 6 acres) and possesses a unique terroir characterized by limestone, chalk, and clay components. It is located at an elevation of 480 meters. Artadi currently produces eight additional single vineyard wines, some sourced from micro-plots of only about half a hectare (about 1.25 acres). The vineyards at Artadi range from the youngest, planted in 1989, to the oldest dating back to 1920. The foundation of their wine range is the "Viñas de Gain," which represents their village-level wines. These are crafted by blending grapes from multiple vineyards. The range includes an oak aged Viura. All of their wines share a Burgundian elegance, deliberately contrasting with the wines of traditionalists, which are heavily influenced by long aging in barrels.

Thinking outside the box

In 2015, Artadi decided to officially withdraw from the DOCa Rioja, opting not to market their wines under the renowned region's name. 

The Lacalle and Laorden Family / Bodegas Artadi
The Lacalle and Laorden Family / Bodegas Artadi

In 2015, Izar-Leku in the Basque Getaria region joined their portfolio, producing an Espumoso (sparkling wine) from the local white grape variety Hondarribi Zuri.


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