Thu 10 Apr 2014

A Real Privilege: The Birth of a Wine


Fine wine manager, Shaun Kiernan, helped blend the exclusive Contino 930 Reserva Rioja 2010, The Society’s first Rioja to be offered en primeur. Here he describes the process.

I’ve worked for The Wine Society for many more years than I care to remember, but fortunately opportunities regularly arise to remind me why I continue to do so.

207759 (283)Last February, I had the privilege to visit Spain with Pierre Mansour, our Spanish buyer, to taste through a large number of old Riojas, which we subsequently listed in an offer. At the same time we visited the cellars of Contino, a long-term Society supplier, and their charming winemaker, Jésus Madrazo, to blend what has become our first Rioja Reserva to be offered en primeur.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in blending new wines before in Stevenage and, on occasion, helped with the mix for The Society’s Claret out in Bordeaux, but this was special as I was witnessing the birth of, and helping to shape, a wine which I think will give members enormous drinking pleasure over a number of years.

It was a fascinating process and I have to admit to feeling quite daunted as we entered the cellars where we were confronted with numerous bottles all containing wines with different attributes from different vineyards and different grape varieties.

Our job was to come up with a blend which was in keeping with the Contino style and one that Society members would enjoy over the next decade.

After about an hour and half of extreme pipette action, tasting and blending and re-tasting and re-blending, we finally felt that we had found a wine which achieved what we set out to do. It is Contino 930 Reserva Rioja 2010, a blend of tempranillo, graciano, garnacha and mazuelo aged in French and American oak for nearly two years, including fruit from Contino’s most famous ‘Olivo’ vineyard.

It is offered now in bond (until 9pm, Tuesday 29th April), while still ageing in Contino’s cellars, and is due for release in early 2015. We think it will be ready to drink on arrival but will start peaking from 2019 until 2025.

Witnessing, and playing a part in, the birth of something so special was one of the very memorable moments of my career here at The Wine Society. I hope that you enjoy the fruits of our labours.

Categories : En Primeur, Spain


  1. John Legg says:

    I buy modest quantities of the Society’s en primeur offers in most years but have reached an age when I concentrate on those that can be tried sooner rather than later.
    I like the idea of participating in this first from Spain but you ‘think it will be ready to drink’ in 2015.
    I recognise and accept that when shipped the drink date may have moved on a year or two and that the wine will be at its best some years later but shall be grateful if you say a few words please, about how most people are likely to find it in the early year or two post release.
    Thanks, John Legg

  2. Shaun Kiernan says:

    Many thanks for your comment. I’ve been recalling the flavours of the different component parts of the blend which I thoroughly enjoyed even when they were still so young. They weren’t overly tannic or overtly oaky and had lots of upfront fruit which I think bodes well for early drinking but also all the way along its evolution. It’s not a wine which will go in on itself and become closed.

    I also like my Rioja relatively young but ideally would start to approach this from around 2017 just to ensure that I maximise the enjoyment. I’d probably be at that stage decanting it well in advance just to give it maximum exposure and every chance for it to develop. It isn’t an exact science, which is what makes it interesting, and in an ideal world I’d open a bottle a year from 2017 to check on the development and see the change. Suffice to say that it will be upfront fruity and approachable when young but just won’t have taken on those sweet mellow leathery tones of maturity which many people like in older Rioja. Hope this helps.

Leave a comment