In 2020, for the first time in its history, the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles introduced the Sylvain trophy for the best oaked wine. For this major first, the prestigious accolade was awarded to the 2008 Don Jacobo Gran Reserva by Bodegas Corral in Rioja.

Located along the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route, the impressive Bodegas Corral does not go unnoticed and yet the family dimension remains essential for Carlos Rubio, the estate’s director. “Our family-owned winery has been producing wines since 1898. We are situated along the famous pilgrims’ route, in the heart of Rioja. Every year, 250,000 visitors travel through the area, many of them stopping to taste a glass of Rioja to lift their spirits”. Recently, the estate has decided to go down the organic route. “We now focus on producing sustainable and organic wines because we feel that our native grape varieties are well-suited to the demands of climate change. In fact, we are proud members of the Wineries for Climate Protection scheme”.

“We consider the Sylvain Trophy to be a significant international acknowledgment of our expertise in using oak sparingly to maximise the enjoyment of drinking a top red wine”

A refined approach to oak

The northern Spanish bodega came away this year with the Sylvain Trophy for the finest oaked wine: “This is a real honour. We consider the Sylvain Trophy to be a significant international acknowledgment of our expertise in using oak sparingly to maximise the enjoyment of drinking a top red wine”. Using oak to craft a consummate red wine does indeed require a high level of proficiency. “There is no denying that achieving a harmonious balance between acidity and the lift that comes from the tannins is uppermost in our minds. For us, the oak touch is pivotal to the identity of Rioja. At Bodegas Corral, the use of oak for our traditional wines really still is the best way of allowing the wines to express their bold, long-lasting characters. Oak adds an appealing touch of vanilla and spices which, over time, lend the wine intriguing complexity”.

Brimming with typicity

Most of the vines used to create the 2008 Gran Reserva are over 50 years old. The main grape variety is Tempranillo, grown primarily as bush vines and harvested by hand in October. The variety is considered to have originated in Rioja and is the denomination of origin’s hallmark grape. The soils are clay with iron and the vineyards are located at an average elevation of 400 metres above sea level. The prevailing climate across the region is continental and Mediterranean. The wines are matured for 36 months in oak casks. “Oak influence is still very evident and gives the wine excellent structure and layered tannins which fuse perfectly with the underlying fruit characters”. Visually, the 2008 Gran Reserva displays a medium garnet-red colour. On the nose, the wine opens up to recollections of toast, coffee, clove-like spices, ripe fruits and black pepper. On the palate, the tannins are extremely soft and the acidity low with raisin and cacao notes, capped off with a very long finish. This is undoubtedly a top-class wine which deserves impeccable serving conditions and a temperature of between 16 and 18°C. It makes the perfect companion for some flavoursome red meat.

About the Sylvain cooperage

The Sylvain cooperage is based near Saint-Emilion and has been in the same family for three generations. Since the first workshop was opened by Gérard Sylvain in 1957, the team of craftsmen have been making customised barrels that dovetail impeccably with the high standards of winemakers. Supplying consistent quality barrels vintage after vintage requires control of the entire supply chain, from thorough selection of French oak and assembly of barrels tailored to individual needs, to fabrication techniques and traceability. Combining both traditional skills and innovation, barrels made in the Sylvain cooperage can be found in a large number of highly renowned chateaux and estates. The family-run company, now managed by Jean-Luc Sylvain and his children Claire and Rémi, has successfully made its mark in export markets which now account for two-thirds of its production.

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