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Spanish wine made for Asia

Winemaker Alejandro Garcia Lopez has created a special-edition wine to complement varied Asian food

The practice of dining together and sharing plates is something Asian and Spanish cultures have in common.

So Spanish winemaker Alejandro Garcia Lopez, director of Rioja winery Vina Pomal, wanted to make a wine to suit the shared dining experience in Asia. He created the Vina Pomal Edicion Limitada 2012, which will be sold exclusively in Asian markets, including Singapore, China, Japan and Indonesia.

"In Asia, you have different profiles of food with spices, flavours and aromas, so to complement that, I wanted to make a special-edition wine with a good structure and body, and the potential to age," he tells The Sunday Times during a promotional trip in Singapore last week. "We also wanted the wine to be easy to pair with food."

Vina Pomal is the flagship label of Bodegas Bilbainas, one of Rioja's oldest wine estates. Only 10,000 bottles of the Edicion Limitada - made of 100 per cent Tempranillo grapes - have been produced.

The grapes are sourced from only old vines that are between 45 and 55 years old and planted in the clay and limestone soil typical of the region. Some of the land on which they are grown has been worked by the winery since 1904.

The climate of the Riojan capital of Haro, where the winery is located, is also influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, which lies 160km to the north.

"So the grapes have a really long ripening process because of the climate, which makes the tannins very soft," Mr Lopez, 40, says.

Only 10,000 bottles of Vina Pomal Edicion Limitada 2012, by winemaker and director of Rioja winery Vina Pomal Alejandro Garcia Lopez (above), have been produced.

The grapes are handpicked from three different vineyards - they add up to no more than 2ha of land - within the 250ha property. Each vineyard contributes a different quality, including fruitiness and minerality, to the blend.

Even the ageing process had to be tailored to these grapes. Since the grapes were from old vines, Mr Lopez decided to age the wine in French oak barrels instead of American ones that are typically used for Rioja wines. For Edicion Limitada, 70 per cent of the wine is aged in new oak barrels and the remainder in barrels that have been used for a year.

French oak, Mr Lopez notes, results in a wine "with more structure and flavours like tobacco, wood and spices".

After 18 months in the barrel, the wine spends another year ageing in the bottle.

The result is a deeply aromatic Rioja with black fruits and spiced flavours on the nose, and a velvety soft texture and long finish on the palate. Even though Edicion Limitada has spent six years ageing, the wine still tastes fresh.

It also does not adhere strictly to Rioja's wine classification, which is based on how long the wine spends in the barrel. One that is labelled Rioja spends only a few months in oak before it is bottled, while Gran Reserva must be aged in oak for at least two years and then spend three more years in the bottle.

But Mr Lopez did not want to feel restricted when creating the Edicion Limitada.

"We wanted to feel free as winemakers to do what the wine needs, not what the rules require," he says.

While the wine can be drunk immediately, he adds that it also has great ageing potential.

"It is made of a selection from our best vineyards and, because it spends such a long time in the barrel and bottle, it can also be opened in the next 10 to 20 years," he says.

Vina Pomal Edicion Limitada 2012 has a recommended retail price of $85 and can be ordered from its distributor, Singapore Beverages, or at Cellarbration stores in Circular Road, Seletar Mall, Ubi Road and Marina Square.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 18, 2018, with the headline 'Spanish wine made for Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe