Artuke's 'La Condenada,' along with the single vineyard 'El Escolladero' make up Artuke's "Grand Cru" offering; meaning the best sites the brothers have come across in Rioja Alavesa; capable of producing incredibly balanced, age-worthy single vineyard wines. 'La Condenada' meaning 'The Condemned' is a reference to the recent history of the site - although the vineyard was planted in the 1920's it was left abandoned for several years by it's previous owner and had to be painstakingly restored to health by Arturo and Kiki. The site is at the highest point of an outcrop above Banos de Ebro, a ridge so weathered that the vines dig directly into fractured rock. Nothing in this site can be done mechanically; picking, plowing, pruning all entail clambering between odd shaped vines haphazardly planted in between the rocks. The previous owner became too old to manage the task and with no family to pass the vineyard on to he was left with the option of selling or letting it slowly die. Back then Arturo and Kiki were not in a position to buy and the old man chose to let it die rather than sell to an outsider - such is the parochial nature of some parts of Spain 'outsider' in this instance didn't just mean the big wineries owned by foreign corporations but also meant all those upstarts from Madrid or San Sebastian lured to Rioja in search of vinous-fame. Luckily, with five generations of wine growers in the same village bearing the de Miguel name, Arturo and Kiki we're considered local enough, just, to be allowed to purchase the site; but only after it had sat fallow for more than a decade.
Fascinating origin stories aside - what's inside a bottle of La Condenada is incredible. It's dark, brooding and powerful Rioja whilst also somehow managing to maintain an beautifully fine structure. If Arturo and Kiki, as a lot of 'modernist' Rioja producers do, have chosen to organise their work around a Burgundian model, it's with wines like La Condenada and El Escolladero that you see Tempranillo at it's most transparent, it's most Pinot-like. In every vintage it's incredibly hard to pick a better wine between the two, but the consistency of personality is remarkable - where's Escolladero always throws off beautiful high toned fruit from day one; La Condenada broods, stays muted, needs time and air but patients becomes an immensely impressive wine.