The tiny village of Ábalos lies just a kilometre or so from the Rioja Alta’s border with Rioja Alavasa. Forming a small pocket between the River Ebro and the Basque mountains to the north, the rocky terroir of this area has more in common with nearby Alavesa – the soils are rich in limestone, the climate is cooler and the altitude even higher than most of the Alta area. Ábalos has always been Puyaubert’s most significant source, a position cemented by the addition of his new parcels in La Mimbreram, Carrapeciña and El Hoyo. Blended from a dozen old vine plots, all in Ábalos, this is a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 10% Graciano. This is Exopto’s first ‘village’ Rioja (the Garnacha and Graciano components were previously sourced from the Rioja Baja), a fact that Puyaubert would like to celebrate by labelling the wine “Ábalos”. Sadly he is restricted from doing just this by the regional authorities of Rioja – the D.O.Ca is still dominated by the large companies that are against the idea of single site and single commune wines, for obvious reasons. Naturally fermented in cement vats with a short post-ferment maceration (one week), half of the wine was matured in 600 litre demi-muids and the rest in barriques (20% new) for one year. Following on from the linear 2014, the 2015 comes from a warmer Mediterranean-influenced vintage, yet the wine remains finely focused thanks to the altitude of the source vineyards, the old vines that pump their limestone rich soils and the influence of Graciano (Exopto also picks a portion of Grenache earlier, to bring some freshness to the blend). The result is a ripe, cool climate Rioja with layers of vibrant blackberry fruit shot through with fruitcakey spice and a sappy, brambley undercurrent of freshness. There are also plenty of fine, powdery tannins providing backbone. Lovely now, it will certainly benefit from time in the decanter or the cellar. Another bargain.