José Manuel Azofra worked as export manager for one of Rioja’s top family bodegas for many years but always dreamt of making his own wine. By the time he made the decision to go it alone, he had explored the huge area of Rioja fully and decided exactly where and how he could put his plan into effect.
Rioja has three distinct zones running east to west, Rioja Baja, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, which also gain in altitude. The style of wine that José Manuel wanted to produce was elegant, bright and joyful, full of freshness, which is best suited to the Rioja Baja area since the gentle Mediterranean climate begins to influence the vineyards more than the harsher Atlantic and Pyrenean Rioja Alavesa to the west. He also wanted to make 100% organic wines, respectful of the environment but also better for wine drinkers’ well-being, and with these criteria in mind he honed down the search and selected some parcels of mature Tempranillo just east of the town of Calahorra.
The range he offers, under the entirely made-up name of Emporia Ekho, consists of two reds with different time in barrel, and a white. Why this name? “I just liked the sound of it,” says José Manuel “and I suppose Ekho sounds a bit like “ecológico” (the Spanish word for organic). These are easy-drinking wines with perfect fruit expression and enough structure for the reds to age a little in the bottle, but it’s not necessary. The basic red has seven months in used barrels (of one wine) and could be labelled Crianza, but José Manuel doesn’t really go for the whole Crianza system, he thinks it is restrictive and doesn’t guide the consumer properly. His superior red has seen 4 months in barrel, with a proportion of new oak, and could be labelled Reserva – if he wanted to!
The white he makes is of particular interest, being made from Tempranillo Blanco. We are beginning to see a bit of this variety on the market, it is a natural mutation discovered here and there in the Rioja Baja area in the late 1980’s, then isolated and propagated by one single grape grower purely out of curiosity. It’s only been officially recognised by the Consejo Regulador in Rioja since 2007 and it’s interesting because of its vibrant aromatic nature, with floral and citrus flavours, producing a style of dry white wine which responds to current demand for crisp, refreshing whites with a difference.
In addition to this attractive style, José Manuel’s two hectares of White Tempranillo are the only ones in the world (as far as we can find out) to be certified organic. And as a final shot, he donates 10% of profits to ecological projects. All in all a very attractive package.
|Organic Tempranillo Blanco, Emporia Ekho, Rioja, 2016
|Organic Tempranillo Tinto (7 months), Emporia Ekho, Rioja, 2015|
|Organic Tempranillo Tinto (14 months), Emporia Ekho, Rioja, 2014|