Viña Ilusion 'Prana' Rioja
Region: Baja Rioja < Spain
Grapes: Tempranillo + tiny parts Garnacha + Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic ++ farming; loamy soil with sand, silt and permeable clay at 600-700 meters above sea level. with healthy biodiversity; grapes are hand harvested then 50% undergoes carbonic maceration while the other 50% is destemmed and crushed and fermented traditionally; bottled unfined/unfiltered with miniscule addition of SO2; 13% ABV; 200 cases
Winemakers: Martin Alonso + Gloria Plaza Medina
First, as diehard yogis, we were drawn to this wine's name 'Prana'. Then Martin Alonso tells us this, “There is a saying that goes 'I wanted to change the world, but nothing changed, I changed myself and everything changed'. I believe that really defines my organic philosophy”. Yep, we're hooked, on the wine and the story. Which goes something like this: city-dweller Martin was deeply attracted to nature and always had an “illusion” or a fantasy that one day he would farm his own land. In 1992, he made the dream a reality by purchasing some land in Rioja Baja with his partner Gloria. The duo went to work experimenting with green vegetables fertilizers, recycled organic matter and flocks of sheep to find the secret sauce for their vineyards, olive groves, almond and quince trees. Their farming practices incorporate both Fukuoka’s permaculture methods (Martin traveled to Japan to learn from the "do-nothing" farming master) and Rudolf Steiner’s biodynamic theories. The winery is powered by solar energy and the vineyards are now certified organic. When they began, their neighbors were critical of them, but after many years they are starting to change too.
This would be an inspiring story anywhere, but in this part of Spain, which isn't really known for hands-off farming or truly natural wines, it's particularly heroic. This is Rioja, where a predictable supply of dependable wine is necessary to keep the wine export business going, so Martin was swimming against a strong tide from day one. And we're so happy he did, because Prana is a gorgeous and refreshing take on Rioja -- and we never say that about Rioja, which is generally not our jam. Light-ish bodied and chillable, this is aromatic and floral, a fruit bowl of bright red fruit, sour cherries, bouncy pomegranate on a bed of minerals, with nary a whiff of barnyard or funk. The perfect, all-purpose summer red.
SERVE SLIGHTLY CHILLED.