Small Letters, Big Wine

If you have allergies like me, June is the worst month to taste wine. It’s a lose-lose situation. If I take my allergy medicine I can’t drink or drive. If I don’t, I spend the whole day sneezing, my nose is plugged up and I can’t taste a thing. It also makes me really ornery!

So it was fortunate that it rained yesterday and today, clearing the air of pollen, allowing me to skip my pill and taste some wine.

I usually buy my wine at local wine shops rather than supermarkets because the releases from small wineries are only available there and in restaurants.  I bought today’s bottle from Miguel Reinares at La Viñería but often buy at Universal de Vinos, owned by Juan Carlos Somalo, with whom I’ve shared lots of bottles. These two shops are the places to go to discover new wines in Logroño.

Today for lunch I opened a bottle of  ‘Letras Minúsculas’ (Small Letters) 2009 from Bodegas Exeo in Labastida.  The wine is made from tempranillo (75%) and garnacha (25%) from the winery’s vineyards located around Labastida in Rioja Alavesa..  According to the back label the wine had been aged for five months in ‘mixed’ (ie from different origins) oakbefore release.

The wine blew me away.  It was soft, fresh and smooth, with red berry flavors and just a hint of oak, perfect for sipping or just about any kind of food. It was a magnificent statement about the potential of garnacha-based wines in Rioja Alavesa.

I wish more wineries would take a chance with garnacha, once the dominant red grape in Rioja but now sadly relegated to a distant second place behind the ubiquitous tempranillo.  Garnacha sometimes has problems with fruit set but when the conditions are right can make stunning wines in Rioja.

I checked out the website and learned that Exeo’s wines are distributed in Spain, Holland, Australia, the USA (Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia) and Puerto Rico.

 The winery’s website is


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