Juan Carlos Sancha, a professor of oenology at the University of La Rioja, founded his eponymous winery in Rioja Alta along the border of D.O.Ca. Rioja, in the coldest zone of this wine denomination. Along with various plots of old vine Garnacha Juan Carlos Sancha’s winery also has vines of minority varieties such as Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Tinta and Maturana Blanca, varieties that he and his university colleague Fernando Martinez de Toda discovered, rescued from extinction, and developed. The wine-making philosophy is based on organic practices and minimal intervention in all stages of the process, the aim being to preserve the purity and clearness of their carefully selected grapes to produce personal, elegant and powerful wines. Tim Atkin not only lists them as one of his top 20 in the region but Juan Carlos was the 2019 Viticulturist of the Year.
This cooler location, in Baños de Río Tobía (Rioja Alta) in the Najerilla Valley, contributes to the high quality of their wines. Alongside his range of redescovered varieties, bottled under the “Ad Libitum” label the winery also bottles Grenache from his family’s 100 year old vines as “Pena el Gato”. In the last 20 years, Spain has uprooted over 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) of Garnacha (Grenache). In the denomination of origin-Rioja, Garnacha has gone from representing almost 40 percent of total vineyard in 1973 to an astounding 8 percent in 2012.