Bodegas Amaren, the sister winery to Luis Cañas, is a tribute to winemaker Juan Luis Cañas’ mother Maria Ángeles. Located in Samaniego, a town in the Province of Álava in Basque country, it lies within the Rioja Alavesa wine region, the smallest sub region of Rioja in Spain. Ángeles was a woman known for her dedication to the family vineyards as well as a passionate appreciation for the earth. It is that same commitment to quality and respect for the environment that the winery aims to bring to every bottle.
The Cañas family’s third winery project, Bodegas Amaren, was started in 1995 and then incorporated as an independent winery in 2009. It produces one white wine and four red wines in very limited production. The white is a blend of mostly Viura and some Malvasia. The Ángeles de Amaren is a blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano from vines that average over 40 years old. The single varietal Amaren Graciano is from vines that are more than 60 years old, and the flagship Amaren Tempranillo also comes from vines older than 60 years.
We were introduced to the wines of Amaren during a tasting at Luis Cañas a year and a half prior. The 2010 Tempranillo y Graciano was a standout not only for its quality but also its price point—a trait we find more common than not amongst our favourite Spanish wines. It was that tasting that prompted our desire to visit Amaren on our most recent visit to Spain.
We arrived at the winery and were warmly greeted by Natalia Larrea Duenas, Amaren’s Public Relations Director. As she began to take us on a tour of the winemaking and production facility, she spoke of the family bond between patriarch and founder Luis, and his son Juan, who is Cellar Master and now runs the winery. But she also spoke with great admiration of Ángeles, who was the heart of the family and the inspiration behind Bodegas Amaren.
Amaren is a culmination of all three of them. Luis built his winery on tradition while Juan has added modern techniques to those traditional values his father instilled. Juan then combined those winemaking techniques with the care and attention to the earth that his mother was so passionate about. Sustainability is a major focus of the winery which doesn’t use any herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. In fact, Luis Cañas was the first winery in Spain to obtain the BRC Protocol with AENOR, the ISO 14.000, and the ISO 9.002 quality certification.
Under Juan’s guidance the focus has been to produce more age-worthy wines which has increased the importance of the methods used to draw the very best from the vineyards and ensure quality control during the winemaking process. The winery is surrounded by 65 Hectares of old bush vines planted on slopes and terraces characterized by calcareous soil. The vines range in age from 35 to 110 years old, more than half of which are over 60 years old. The fruit is entirely hand-picked and once at the winery, the harvested fruit goes through a double sorting process. This consists of a hand sorting procedure separating the clusters, followed by a second process of inspection for each individual berry.
Once sorted, the fruit is stored overnight at 6 degrees. Natalia explains that this is done to produce a “pre-fermentative intracellular maceration in the grapes”, a process to help extract the fruit’s primary aromas. The fruit for the white wine is barrel fermented while the red fruit goes through fermentation in concrete vats followed by malolactic fermentation in French and American oak barrels. When Juan purchased the property for Amaren, the winery that was there originally had concrete vats which were traditionally used as a way of protecting the juice from temperature fluctuations. The vats have been fully restored and are used today as an homage to the way wine was made during his mother’s era.
All of the consideration put into making wine at Bodegas Amaren is with the sole objective of producing a wine that evokes emotion. For the Cañas family, there is no greater satisfaction than knowing their wines have been enjoyed and shared with friends and family. That is how they deem themselves successful and we think that Ángeleswould be very proud of the result.
2007 Amaren Garnacha
Made from 100% Garnacha (Spanish term for Grenache) grapes of vines averaging 50 years of age. Flavours of mature red fruits are delivered in a modern, ripe style where the primary fruit characteristics receive the emphasis. The flavours are intense but the body is soft and round leading to an overall impression of elegance. Notes of black cherry receive secondary support from hints of rhubarb and black pepper which add complexity.
2009 Tempranillo Reserva 60
This is the winery’s top cuvee and comes from 60 year old vines. Rich raspberry flavours are joined by subtle notes of leather, espresso, dark chocolate and other savoury notes to create a very complex and tasty wine. The mouthfeel is quite sumptuous and rich but this kept in balance by the wines firm backbone and the peppery and spice notes that dominate the long finish.