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Published:  23 July, 2008

The Codornu-owned Rioja producer Bodegas Bilbainas (BB) is launching the first primeur' Rioja, available for shipping straight after bottling, despite it spending 15 months in oak.

I suppose you could say it is a "primeur" wine as, unlike the normal system in Rioja, we are letting the customer decide when they want to drink it,' said BB's technical director, Jos Hidalgo. They may prefer to drink the wine young or simply want to follow its development'.

Named after the vineyard where it is produced, Vicuana - which at more than 750 metres above sea level is one of the highest in the Rioja Alta region - the wine will be sold as Rioja'. Despite the wine spending enough time in new French barrels to be labelled Reserva', it doesn't have the requisite bottle ageing stipulated by the DO.

If the original style brought by the French is called generation one, and the new style of Rioja that emerged during the 1990s generation two, then this is third-generation Rioja,' said Hidalgo.

A blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Graciano from 25-year-old vines, the release price hasn't yet been set, although it is likely to be somewhere around 15. Around 20,000 cases of the first vintage, 2003, have been made, with around 10% of the production expected to reach the UK.

We think it is as good as our top wine, Vicalanda, but we will probably price it a little lower than that [17.99], as without the word Reserva' on the label it will be harder to sell,' added Hidalgo.