Bodegas Exopto

When we first started shipping this producer, we marked French-born Tom Puyaubert as a Rioja star in the making. That was ten years ago, and today the man and his wines have amply delivered on that expectation. Exopto’s principal vineyards are ploughed by Miguel Angel Mato, a seasoned grower based in San Vicente. Mato owns a number of old vineyards high on the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria, and, under the Exopto label, Puyaubert has been making and releasing a series of small-batch single-vineyard wines sourced off Mato’s familial plots. The grower carries out all the farming 

All the critical artisanal boxes are ticked here: outstanding, hillside vineyards on rocky soils; very old vines (averaging 60-plus years); low yields; a terrific little winery replete with new cement tanks and large-format oak; and small production. Then there’s the grower’s passion for a place where, in 2003, he arrived as a barrel salesman. Today he finds himself at the vanguard of Rioja’s return-to-terroir movement. Exopto works a total of 22 hectares of organically tended old vineyards on the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria (Rioja Alta) and Yerga mountains (Rioja Oriental). The majority of these small holdings lie around the villages of Ábalos and San Vicente de la Sonsierra, in the small pocket of Rioja Alta between the River Ebro and the Basque mountains. This postcode has much in common with Rioja Alavesa and is sometimes referred to as Rioja’s Côte-d’Or. The soils here are rich in limestone, the climate is cooler, and the altitude is even higher than most parts of Rioja Alta.