Led by visionary winemaker Telmo Rodríguez, Bodega Lanzaga is reshaping what defines Rioja by crafting human-scale, terroir-driven wines. Embracing the village-based winemaking traditions of Rioja’s history, Telmo Rodríguez founded his flagship project, Bodega Lanzaga, in 1998 with a radical mission to focus on small-parcel, small-production wines from places that authentically reflect the true essence of Rioja.
Telmo Rodríguez founded Bodega Lanzaga in 1998 and opened his winery in 2009 in the village of Lanciego, located in the subzone of Rioja Alavesa. He saw incredible potential in the area, but it’s worth pointing out that before the establishment of the large firms in the 1850s, Rioja Alavesa was historically defined not by commercial interests but by individual grower-makers, a mantle Telmo proudly takes on. of the 18th century.”
At the heart of Bodega Lanzaga is its connection to history and place, working only with head-trained, old-vine, and organically farmed vineyards in and around the villages of Lanciego (population: 650) and Labastida (population: 1,500). Telmo’s methods are at once ancient and innovative; by returning to an old style of farming and winemaking, he’s pushing forward winemaking in Rioja. The irony isn’t lost on him; as Telmo puts it: “We dream of making the best Rioja wine of the 18th century.”
Telmo Rodríquez was born into the family that owns and operates the Remelluri estate in Rioja. As a young man, he worked at Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux, Chave in Hermitage, Clape in Cornas, and Beaucastel in Chateauneuf, before returning to his family winery.
However, after ten years, he was unsatisfied to work only within the confines of his father’s style and struck out on his own. As he told James Suckling in 2022, “my father didn’t allow me to touch the red wine, because he was worried that I was going to do something that no one was going to understand.” So, starting in 1994, he became an “itinerant vigneron,” working with his partner Pablo Eguzkiza (a disciple of Jean-Claude Berrouet of Pétrus) to explore and restore neglected old vineyards in the classical regions all over Spain. He brought these various projects under the banner of Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez. In practice, Telmo and Eguzkiza would hire a young local enologist, make a simple wine with them to better understand the terroir of the area, and then look for exceptional vineyards to create top bottlings.
These experiences gave Telmo Rodríguez a deep respect for traditional – even historical – styles of viticulture and winemaking.
In 1998, he founded Bodega Lanzaga in Rioja Alavesa, finding inspiration in old bush vines in the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountains. The estate’s 30 hectares are farmed organically, and Telmo sources additional grapes from principled local farmers for his Corriente bottling. The vineyards are 500-700 meters above sea level, with a mix of old and new vines which are all head-trained, made up of primarily Tempranillo, Graciano, and Garnacha, though he estimates there’s perhaps eight or more native varieties interplanted around his estate. The soils are clay/calcareous (commonly associated with Rioja Alavesa, while Rioja Baja and Rioja Alta are a mix of alluvial and iron-rich clay), with outcroppings of sandstone and marl. In the cellar, all the wines are fermented spontaneously, and he employs a mix of concrete tank, 1,200-liter foudres, and barriques for fermentation and aging.
– Telmo Rodríguez
ESTATE & LOCATION
Proprietor: Telmo Rodríguez
Winemaker: Telmo Rodríguez
Vineyards: Rioja Alavesa
Telmo’s work in the region is deeply linked to this history as he only makes wines from specific villages or single plots. Somewhat uniquely, the estate doesn’t work on Rioja’s more common system of labeling wines according to their aging (i.e. Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva). Rather, he employs a Burgundy-inspired, terroir-based model for his bottlings, with three “village” wines and four “cru” wines. And, while the wines are farmed and made very traditionally, it would be a mistake to assume that they are at all rustic or ‘sauvage.’ These are pristine, powerful, age worthy, and expressive wines that are clean transmitters of terroir.
Unsatisfied to model change only within the confines of his various projects, Telmo’s travels also inspired him to become a leading voice in Rioja for the promotion of terroir, both in the vineyard and within the larger denomination. Famously, in 2015, he organized a meeting that would produce the “Club Matador Manifesto” (known more commonly as the “Terroir Manifesto”), gathering 150 signatures and lobbying the Rioja consortium to allow village and vineyard designations on Rioja bottlings – the consortium relented and changed its rules in 2017, a significant victory for quality-minded producers and wine lovers all over the world.
PORTFOLIO IN DETAIL
Bodega Lanzaga’s flagship bottling is their eponymous Rioja ‘Lanzaga,’ a field blend from estate vineyards and, according to Telmo Rodríguez, “the backbone of our project, the identity, the purest expression of our work in Lanciego.”
It’s noteworthy that the wine doesn’t feature Rioja’s typical labelling system of Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva; instead declaring – through omission – an intent to represent terroir over technique. What’s more, the ‘redacted’ wording on the label is a form of protest against Rioja’s ‘village’ labelling regulations, which tend to favor larger producers.
The grapes are the top selections from 35 different plots of organic vineyards with various soil compositions. All the vines are bush trained and sit between 450 and 650m asl.
LZ, or the ‘Little Lanzaga,’ is an unoaked expression of the native grapes of the region; a ‘pure’ and approachable young wine, vinted as a democratic tribute to the grape growers of the 1920s. This is the wine they would have drunk; as Telmo puts it, “we wanted to keep alive that memory of taste.”
The wine comes from organic estate vineyards and spends six to seven months in concrete tanks before bottling.
‘Corriente’ translates to ‘common.’ The name references an unofficial but often-used wine classification from the early 20th century. It references the wine’s ‘everyday’ quality – its versatility and directness – that nevertheless represents a region and its culture.
The wine comes from estate plots, as well as vineyards from principled growers with traditional vineyards in and around the village of Lanciego.
We import three ‘vinos de pueblo’ from Bodega Lanzaga, as well as four single-cru wines from small historic vineyards in and around the villages of Lanciego and Labastida.