97 Wine Advocate April 2015
One of the best showings for this wine in years, the 2012 Contador has an intoxicating nose of violets, lilies, blueberries and black cherries, with great harmony, denoting superb elegance. The palate is silky, with world-class tannins and texture, focused, clean flavors, very good balance and gob-smacking power and elegance. A rare combination. This is truly other wordy. It has the balance, stuffing, acidity and minerality to have a long life in bottle, but its exuberant youth is difficult to resist. Unfortunately, wines like this come at a price. I tasted two bottles, and even though it’s not as polished as the Carmen Gran Reserva, it was approachable. But it would clearly benefit from more time in bottle. A couple of weeks later, I was served it and didn’t recognize the wine at all; I found it extremely oaky and extracted, and in fact I guessed it to be a Tempranillo from Toro, which was disturbing when the wine was revealed as I didn’t identify it at all (not even Rioja!). It showed very differently. We all know different bottles and circumstances show very differently, so I thought this was relevant to be mentioned here, as it made me hesitate. They told me the day of that blind tasting was a root day, but still I’m adding a question mark to my score, which might ultimately bee too conservative. 5,900 bottles produced. I tasted an impressive portfolio of wines from Benjamín Romeo, one of the best I can remember, with Contador going back to the elegance and Chambolle-like purity that I remember from vintages like 2000, but cleaner and more focused. The more traditional Carmen shows how the modern and traditional styles can coexist and even converge. Bravo Benjamín!
The Bodega Contador story starts in 1995 when Benjamin Romeo, winemaker and vine-grower, acquired a centuries old cave hewn into the rock beneath the Castle of San Vicente de la Sonsierra (Rioja). In 1996 he made the first vintage of his “La Cueva del Contador” wine and started to buy vineyards for his plan to become a “bodeguero” – a wine producer. – In the following years he carried out small scale vinifications in the cave and continued to acquire vineyards. In 1999 he made the first vintage of “Contador”. – Seeing these first wines favourably received by the market and specialist press, in 2000 Benjamin decided to dedicate himself full time to his personal project. – Throughout 2001 Benjamin Romeo reconditioned and equipped the garage at his parents’ home in San Vicente for winemaking, thereby increasing the vinification capacity over what was possible in the cave. – The North American wine critic Robert Parker’s Review awarded maximum points (100) to the 2004 and 2005 vintages of Contador, made in the garage. This accolade, hitherto unknown in Spain, hugely increased the label’s international prestige. – From 2004 to 2006, Benjamin Romeo and the architect Hector Herrera worked together on the design of his winery, which was built in 2006-8. – The new winery (bodega) was opened on 21 June 2008, coinciding with the summer solstice. The building sits at the foot of the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, in the centre of the area where the various Bodega Contador vineyards are located. – The three floors or terraces of the winery mirror the original slopes of the site where it is located, at the same time enabling both fruit and wine to be moved by gravity. – The building’s terraces are covered with plants that blend in with the local vegetation. The winery has exposed concrete walls so that gradually they become coated with dust and end up melding with the earth from which they came.