A farewell dinner for a linguist friend who is off to finish his studies abroad. I found a nice chunk of lamb that I encrusted in herbs and prepared in the oven so that it was only a little red inside (I thought the wine would be more mature than it was - considering the tannins and acidity I should have left it more rare!). I can't think of a better dish to go with traditional, mature Rioja. So I opened up the Castillo Ygay GR Esp 1987 (12,5%, c.40€). The colour was still deep but with a bit of orange - it was rather mature looking.
The nose was also rather mature seeming with a "bouquet" already having developed: very nuanced, but it is hard to put names to all the nuances. It's easier to say that though it has the sweetness and almost citrussy quality of old Rioja, it is leaner, earthier and more vegetal than some other recent examples I've had (e.g. Ygays 1959 and 1970, Monte Real 1981).
It comes as a bit of a surprise that the palate is much younger seeming. Granted, the fruit is like that of mature wines, but the acidity is very, very high (which I happen to like) and the tannins are still present. But with the lamb the shrillness of the acidity and coating feeling of the tannins are merged into the fruit making the balance impeccable. Having tried the same dish with the Ygay 1970, I'll have to say that this is the superior food wine at the moment.
I know that my sense of fruit is vastly different to most peoples' (I tend to find much fruit in wines that most say are lean and mean), but for me this had such a concentration of fruit that I'm sure it will keep on developing well. I wish I had more so I could revisit it in five or so years time.