January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

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January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby David M. Bueker » Sat Jan 02, 2010 3:35 pm

Folks,

As part of an effort to realign some of our many forums, the administrators, with the positive endorsement of some Wine Focus regulars, have decided to move the Wine Focus concept into the main Wine Forum. What this means for now (we are sure this will evolve a bit over time) is that each month there will be a "sticky" announcement about the monthly Wine Focus theme. When there is time (unlike say today) there will also be an introduction with a starter tasting note on a wine from the selected region/variety. In short it will be a lot like our "Open Mike" concept, but for a month at a time.

People are welcome to add their tasting notes on themed wines either to the sticky or in their own posts in the Wine Forum.

This does mean that the Wine Focus area will slowly fade into disuse, but we will not be deleting any posts, so the large archive of information contained in the Wine Focus forum will still be there.

Please bear with us as we make this transition. We welcome any and all input on the new structure for Wine Focus.

I will hopefully back all this up with a tasting note later in the week.

Cheers!
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Daniel Rogov » Sat Jan 02, 2010 3:45 pm

First thought about the wisdom of Rioja........one of the few wine regions in the world to release wines only when they are considered ready for drinking. Capable of cellaring for prolonged periods even after release, but by heaven, ready on release.

Best
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sat Jan 02, 2010 3:47 pm

Very good move. I feel sure this will result in an improved attendance!
I really enjoy the Focus, even though it means some additional financial outlay!!
Some friends even ask me "whats the focus this month Bob?" They are catching on fast eh.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Noel Ermitano » Sat Jan 02, 2010 4:22 pm

I'm up for focusing on Rioja any time!
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Sue Courtney » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:24 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Folks,

As part of an effort to realign some of our many forums, the administrators, with the positive endorsement of some Wine Focus regulars, have decided to move the Wine Focus concept into the main Wine Forum.


Applause. :D
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:16 am

I had an interesting discussion with my friend Nick at DeVines downtown. I mentioned that it will be interesting this month to compare the more traditional style of winemaking as compared to the more recent "modern" styles of Rioja out there on the shelf. Nick mentioned that most bodegas still use mainly American oak so why should there be a big difference.
I was not convinced by his argument but then I guess I am an old world traditionalist at heart!
Thoughts welcome naturally!
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Victor de la Serna » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:45 am

On another board I've discussed an older Rioja wine, 1970 Marqués de Cáceres Reserva, tasted a couple of says ago by an American participant, and I believe my thoughts on it somehow summarize what's happened in Rioja over the past 40 years:

1970 was the inaugural vintage for the Marqués de Cáceres brand, which marked the return to Spain of the Forner family (Château de Camensac, among other properties), which had migrated to France decades earlier. Back then they had no winery, not even a barrel room; they rented a corner of the Cenicero co-operative cellar in Rioja Alta. They didn't make any part of this wine. It was all bought in, mostly from that co-op. They brought Prof. Émile Peynaud from Bordeaux to select the lots and do the blending. I am pretty sure part of this wine was never aged in oak, which goes against Rioja regulations for Crianza and Reserva.

Peynaud went for up-front fruit, concentration and soft tannins first. The result was completely different from traditional Rioja: 1970 Cáceres is considered as the first 'modern style Rioja' ever. It took the Spanish market by storm. (They were fortunate, no doubt, that 1970 had been such a great vintage and even the simplest wines were magnificent.)

Big problem for Cáceres (which now has a full-fledged winery, of course) is that in 40 years they've never made another wine that's been as good as that first one! But more interesting, I think, is the fact that, when in good balance (i.e., not murdered by over-extraction or new oak), 'modern style Rioja', given a decade and a half or more to age properly and develop its tertiary characteristics, will converge with 'traditional Rioja' to become, simply, good older Rioja. (Very few wines in the world age as well as these tempranillo-based blends, BTW.)

On that same board I've also listed some of the many Rioja wineries still making 'the 'traditional', softer, less extracted Rioja that is aged for a long time in old American oak barrels and is more about tertiary flavors and aromas than about fruit. Contrary to popular belief in some US circles, there's much, much more 'traditional' than 'modern style' Rioja made. Another thing is that modern ones get all the ink there, and are also prominent on shelves. Consumers seem to prefer them. Otherwise, much more traditional Rioja would be imported, right?

At any rate, here are the names of some of the traditional producers - in case would-be importers need the info, because some of them are totally unavailable in the US: López de Heredia-Viña Tondonia, Marqués de Riscal, Valenciso, Beronia, Franco-Españolas, Paternina, Riojanas, CVNE, La Rioja Alta, Martínez Lacuesta, Remélluri, Peciña, Olarra, Ondarre, Altanza, Rioja Santiago, Amézola de la Mora, Corral, Domecq, Puelles, Alavesas, Juan Alcorta, Age, El Coto, Viña Salceda, Marqués de Legarda... and a bevy more.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:08 am

Great to see you here Victor! You have given us an interesting insight into the traditional/modern style of Rioja. Here in Alberta I think many wine buyers are keen to explore Spain and might need some guidance when one considers all the names, new and old, out there. Wine prices for Spain are not too bad here and some stores have a fair selection but a minefield for some perhaps!
I do miss the Monte Reals, the Tondonias alongside the Bosconia. Those were the days for me at least!
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Dave Erickson » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:15 pm

The López de Heredia wines, including those from the Tondonia and Bosconia vineyards are available in the U.S. and brought in by Polaner. A few weeks ago I sampled a 1997 Viña Tondonia Rosé, a wine that it took me years to understand, and I'm still not sure I get it. I recall a '94 that I tasted in 2003 and found more or less undrinkable. But this latest try was pretty good. Talk about tertiary aromas and flavors: the wine seemed to me mostly a conveyance for barrel effects: Oak spice, caramel, some citrus character, some baked apple...it's hard to believe this is 60% garnacha, because there really isn't a lot of red fruit. And, unsurprisingly, a little sherry-like tang, which I think should be expected from a 12-year-old rosé. Then again, I can't say I've had much experience with rosés that have been around for 10 years or more, except from López de Heredia!
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Hoke » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:34 pm

Victor, your in-depth knowledge about the Rioja is both fascinating and invaluable. Thank you.

I can testify to my own poorly limited extent of the effect of Peynaud on the Rioja scene. Back in the 80s I visited the Rioja for a week, and spent most of that time with the Domecq family, largely with El Nariz, Jose Ignacio, and his son, Jose Jr. My visit happened to coincide with the annual gathering of the Domecqs to declare the crianza, cosecha and reservas.

I was so excited to hear that, as a young man in the wine biz, and asked politely if there was any way I could observe the process. Jose Ignacio graciously said I could do so...and then on the day they were to begin, came to me and said that their consultant and advisor was ill that year, and since he could not be there, I could take his seat and actually go through the same process. Perhaps I knew their consultant, an older and very respectable gentleman named...Emile Peynaud?

So much to my amusement and delight I found myself going through the multi-day working ceremony of putting together the various master blends. Row upon row and rank upon rank of samples from all the different vineyard lots, with all the technical information on them. And we blended, and blended, and blended... it was as profound a learning experience as I can imagine, and I mark it as one of the moments that helped me truly understand the mystery of wine. And some of my samples actually made it into the semi-finals! Imagine the rush that was for me.

The Domecqs assured me that Peynaud had a tremendous contemporary impact on the style and development of Rioja, and there was a conscious effort toward producing a softer, fleshier, fruitier style of wine, and also one with more prevalent oak.

Now you cite the Domecq Riojas as standing in the traditional ranks. I confess I lost track of the Domecq wines to a great extent over the years (especially when Michael got caught and disgraced), and finally ran out of my Marques de Arienzo stash (they could be excellent, but quite honestly were rather spotty in the 80s). Did they lose their fascination with the Peynaud style to return to the more traditional style over those years?
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WTN: 2001 La Vicalanda de Vina Pomal Rioja

Postby Drew Hall » Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:58 pm

Bodegas Bilbainas.
A very stange wine. On opening, the nose was blueberry and coconut...did I open an Oz shiraz? Checking the bottle, I did not.
Dark garnet with subtle tinges of orange in the bubbles from the pour. Blueberry, blackberry, coconut and leather scents emerge. Like flavors with dusty fruit but that pesky blueberry/coconut flavor was off putting for me. I'm no expert in Rioja but this wine was like the child of Antonio Banderas and "Cate" Blanchett. 13% Alc. Vol. $22

Drew
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Jan 03, 2010 7:04 pm

American oak often results in coconut aromas, but blueberry is just from one thing: really ripe grapes.
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2003 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Jan 03, 2010 8:30 pm

2003 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva
Wasn't sure what to expect from this wine as it came from the year of the heat. Was it unusually hot in Rioja as well? I'm not sure.

Anyway this is dark red, bordering on purple, but it's not at all oversized & the aromas and flavors even show some restraint. Sure there's a good dose of oak, but the fruit is more in the red spectrum, not black or blue, and there's good balance as well. Nice wine.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Joe Moryl » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:05 pm

Had a few glasses of wine last night at NYC's Ten Bells and this was the best of the lot (e.g. it wasn't dominated by Brett):
2008 Arbanta, Rioja, Biurko Gorri:

Quite dark, although the light wasn't suited to telling much else. Nose was restrained and gentle, maybe suggesting some carbonic maceration. This is a 100% Tempranillo (non-certified organic, labeled vino ecologico) Crianza and has soft strawberry fruit with very low tannins, no obvious oak. A very nice lingering structure with a simple purity that is charming. Very pretty wine - it would be interesting to try some of the other wines from this producer. Don't think this would be considered traditional but certainly not trying for the international points-seeking style either.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:20 pm

Ran into a lot of brett Joe? Which wines?
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Joe Moryl » Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:40 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Ran into a lot of brett Joe? Which wines?


Not a huge amount, but enough to detract. Last night it was a Salento (Negroamaro) from Pisari and a Gamay from Cousin somewhere in the Loire....
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Rahsaan » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:13 am

Joe Moryl wrote:Gamay from Cousin somewhere in the Loire....


No surprise there. I think it is rarer to find one of their wines without brett..
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WTN: Sierra Cantabria Cosecha Rioja 2006

Postby Sue Courtney » Mon Jan 04, 2010 1:56 am

Rioja was one of the first international styles that I loved back when I started my journey of wine discovery. Medium-to full-bodied juicy reds with gentle tannins, sappy coconut-like American oak and rather appealing (to me) orange acidity accenting the finish with lingering jaffa (choc-orange) notes. They were savoury rather than fruity and I found I liked the wines that were older on release, the Reservas and the Gran Reservas. The bottles and the labels were fascinating, some with an unpolished glass appearance and one that particularly took my fancy had thin wire netting. An empty bottle of Faustino I, vintage 1982, sat on our trophy wines shelf until I got sick of the cobwebs that the bottles attracted and unable to throw the bottles away, these epiphany bottles are now in a plastic bag in the shed.

Rioja went off my radar when imports flowed almost to a halt after Australian reds became so popular. Now I mostly tend to see new wave styles of Spanish wines and the Rioja style that I loved hardly ever crosses my path. And sometimes when a Rioja is poured I'm disappointed after a blind tasting to find it is Rioja because it didn't evoke any of the memories that endeared this region's reds to me.

The last Rioja I tried that really reminded me of the 'classic old fashioned Rioja' was Marques de Murrieta Ygay Rioja Reserva 1999, last tasted in 2005. It cost just under NZ$40 a bottle.

We also found the Faustino V from the 1999 vintage in early 2006. I thought it a good example of traditional Rioja even with that hint of barnyard in there. NZ$34.

I had the Sierra Cantabria Cosecha Rioja 2006 in the middle of 2009 and for a wine that has had little oak aging, it is not a bad representative. It was translucent deep garnet red and perfumed with a hint of chocolate and a salty herbaceousness. In the mouth it's gentle, mellow and a little earthy with sweet American oak, a hint of orange citrus and some tannin grip to the savoury finish. Tasted blind you get the impression this wine has some age but with persistence to the aftertaste and a tingle from the underlying acidity, there is potential for this quite drinkable wine to further age. NZ$25.

But oh for a Gran Reserva again.

Cheers,
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:01 am

Drew, your star studded red reminds me that I used to be quite a fan of Vina Pomal (from the same outfit) when living in London. Here is their website which takes some time getting through but is of much interest.

http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl ... %26hl%3Den
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Victor de la Serna » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:33 am

Hoke wrote:Did they lose their fascination with the Peynaud style to return to the more traditional style over those years?

The Peynaud fling was very brief AFAIK. Marqués de Arienzo is a mid-level Rioja that for many years has been the epitome of traditional, American oak-aged Rioja.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Bob Parsons Alberta » Mon Jan 04, 2010 6:08 am

WTN: `03 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Crianza.

New wine bar just open in the west end was pouring this afternoon (along with Muga and Bordon). Old established bodegas, 100% tempranillo, $9 per glass and tasted with a goats cheese salad.
Ruby-red in color, purple edge faint. On the nose we found raspberry, red berries, spice and violets. Quite attractive despite the poor glassware! Yup, comment to manager.
Mid-palate was so-so but found some earthyness on the finish and fair acidity. Monte Real it isn`t! Think DeVines has another vintage of this plus they carry the Bordon too.
I finished off with a glass of the `07 Coteaux de l`Aubance from Prince. Starting to fill out since last tasted 6 months ago.
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Re: 2003 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva

Postby Lou Kessler » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:03 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:2003 Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserva
Wasn't sure what to expect from this wine as it came from the year of the heat. Was it unusually hot in Rioja as well? I'm not sure.

Anyway this is dark red, bordering on purple, but it's not at all oversized & the aromas and flavors even show some restraint. Sure there's a good dose of oak, but the fruit is more in the red spectrum, not black or blue, and there's good balance as well. Nice wine.

When it comes to Muga, Victor pointed me to their Prado Enea. That particular bottling changed my whole approach to Spanish wines. :D
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:12 pm

I like the Prado Enea, but don't see it around much anymore. Rioja Alta has been showing up more lately though.
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Re: January 2010 Wine Focus: Rioja

Postby Tim York » Tue Jan 05, 2010 8:52 am

Flicking back through the archives, I am surprised to see how many WTNs I have written on Rioja drunk at home as well as on those met at sip and spit tastings. Digging out some of these notes, I make a rough split of their styles between gradations of modern and traditional. All styles have provided some highly enjoyable examples. I am intrigued by Victor's comment that after decent ageing there is a convergence in style between well made examples of the modern and traditional styles; I have not got his broad and deep experience but I can well imagine some of the moderns noted below,e.g. Contino Reserva 1996, coming to resemble some of the fine old Riscals, Imperials, etc. which I remember well.

Very modern

Rioja Finca El Bosque 2001 – Sierra Cantabria was built with steroids and was contained in a appropriately body builder bottle. Nevertheless the wine was very good with rich complex aromas of sweet dark fruit laced with just a hint of vanilla which just avoided being jammy and a very full powerful body with impressive but beguiling substance, depth and structure. Wood ageing was not at all obtrusive and my main criticisms are upfront shape on the palate giving a somewhat short impression and a tendency to overwhelm the food; 16.5/20+. (Dec 30, 2009)

Rioja Colección Privada 2000 – Sierra Cantabria (Eguren) – Alc. 14%.

The grapes were hand-picked slightly over-ripe Tempranillo from vines more than 50 years old. 50% of the vinification was by “maceración carbénica” and (2006 vintage data) the wine was matured for 18 months in new barriques, of which 50% were French oak and 50% American.
C: Deep ruby/red.
N: Not particularly strong but rich and concentrated essence of sweet cherry and some liqueur.
P: Medium/full bodied with softly caressing and slightly creamy round fruit with, like the nose, quite subdued but attractive aromatics and enough gentle grip for balance. This wine is “modern” in its fruit expression but after 9 years its aggressive sounding oak treatment has integrated very well leaving only those creamy touches. This is easy drinking and not very complex and challenging but I enjoyed it perhaps more than yesterday’s Murrieta 87; 16/20++. (Jan 24, 2009)

Quite modern

Rioja Contino Reserva 1996 – Viñedos del Contino – Alc. 13.5% .
C: Red of medium intensity.
N: Hints of reduction at first but these dissipated after 30 minutes or so in a decanter. Delicious complex of round red sweet fruit with a lot of cherry and touches of liqueur, vanilla and cedar.
P: Velvety, harmonious and classically shaped with rich round fruit with perfectly judged nudges of smooth acidity and discreetly ripe tannic structure to give elegance and balance. A lovely wine; 17/20++. (18th January 2009).

Rioja Contino Reserva 1994 – Viñedos del Contino – Alc. 13% - was finer, sweeter, fresher, more subtle, ingratiating, elegant and complex adding notes of cherry and kirsch to the strawberry, plum and vanilla aromas of the preceding Rioja “Osca Tobia” 02 but was, surprisingly, more subdued in aroma, slightly lighter in body and less full in fruit than the Tobia and much less so than a Contino Crianza 1996 – see below. (I wonder whether this slight undernourishment did not come from a defective cork which was moist up to the top though there was no sign of leakage.) Distinguished and very enjoyable, though; 16/20. (8th December 2008)

Rioja Contino – Consecha 1996 – Viñedos del Contino – Alc.13.5% - was brought up when the preceding and delicious Lascombes ’90 disappeared so rapidly. We were immediately struck by the weight of full ripe fruit with a lot of sweet dark cherry and the resolved structure and good length but the after-taste veered towards jamminess and cloyed somewhat in contrast to the clean and classy fragrance of the Lascombes; just about 16/20. (4th August 2008)

RIOJA CONTINO CONSECHA 2003 – Viñedos del Contino

C : A healthy deep mauve. N: Ripe plum with hints of sweet cherry. P: Full with robust ripe fruit, some freshness, similar aromas to N and good structure, length and support at the rear of the palate. This wine showed none of the cooked, candied notes which disfigure a lot of 2003s from France and Italy and represents good QPR at approx. €15. I will probably buy more (I did). So accessible that I fear that it may not age well (Victor disagreed) but it is very nice indeed right now; 15.5/20++. (3rd June 2007)

Rioja San Vicente Tempranillo 1999 - Senorio San Vicente.

N: Complex dark fruit with sweet cherry notes to the fore lined with some unobtrusive vanilla.
P: Smooth, rich, velvety and well shaped with very attractive fruit, polished structure and good length; again the vanilla notes were present but well integrated. A very nice Rioja but perhaps missing a touch of genius; 16/20. (Dec 23, 2007)



Rioja San Vicente Tempranillo 1994 - Senorio San Vicente

N: Clearly belonging to the same family as the previous but with the fruit a bit darker and the cherry veering to kirsch.
P: Darker fruit than the 1999 and perhaps more complex but also more disjointed and less velvety and integrated with at a slight hollowness in mid-palate which seemed to fill in somewhat towards the end of the bottle. I was expecting more from this “great” year. Perhaps there was subliminal TCA or excessive oxidization from a cork which was within weeks of beginning to weep; 15/20. (Dec 23, 2007)


Intermediate

Rioja Reserva 2004 – Herederos del Marqués de Riscal – Alc. 14% - (approx. €15) (from Jan 25, 2009)

Bob’s WTN on the 2001, which I tried and noted a couple of years ago, pricked my curiosity about this offering from the reputedly excellent 2004 vintage. Let me say straight away that I enjoyed it a lot more than the 2001 at a roughly similar stage in its development based on my memory and notes.

C: Red of medium intensity.
N: Attractive notes of strawberry, plum, gentle spices and a discreet lacing of vanilla.
P: Harmonious and expressive, well fruited, medium/full bodied and long with some firmness of tannic structure towards the finish to encase the attractive aromas. The wood is already well integrated, the aromas are primary as is normal in the 5th year and, though there is a very slight hollowness in mid-palate at this stage of development, I am confident that the aromas will develop complexity, the tannins will resolve and the hollowness will fill in after some more ageing; 16/20 now with + potential.

On the narrow basis of this wine and Rogov’s note on the 2003, it looks as if the Riscal brand may be regaining its lustre.

And here is my note of 9th December 2006 on the 2001

Rioja Reserva 2001 - Marqués de Riscal

At the first sniff upon opening, I thought “oh dear!”. The impression was sweet and sour with the sweet being vanilla, coconut and cigar box and the sour being sour cherry, all in separate strands. Happily after 10 minutes in the glass, the aroma was better integrated with some deeper fruit coming up but the vanilla patina was still quite present.

The palate showed the same aromas with the sweet dominating the sour and was well shaped with flesh and a quite firm tannic structure and good length but, on the after-taste, dry and slightly bitter notes dominated sweet fragrance. There were hints of malt and liquorice in mid-palate towards the finish.

For me this wine did not sing but there was no difficulty in finishing the bottle. My wife liked it better than me being less troubled by the malt, vanilla and liquorice notes. It was much more drinkable than some blockbusting and oaky “modern” Riojas which I have tasted. It is probably too young now and hopefully will be more integrated and expressive in 5+ years.
Will it ever become one of those sweetly elegant and beautifully balanced Riojas which I have enjoyed in verticals of, say, CVNE’s Imperial going back to the 50s? Or is it capable of effacing my memories of (incredibly cheap, approx Pesetas 250) Rioja during my frequent visits to Spain during the 70s, when Marques de Riscal itself and Marques de Murrieta, in particular, opened up new vistas to my then Médoc orientated palate? I doubt it.

(I gave no ratings at that time but it reads and remembers like barely 15/20.)

Traditional

Rioja Señorío de P. Peciña Reserva 1999 – Bodegas Hnos. Peciña – Alc. 13.5% - (€14)

At a tasting in the Spring, I was very impressed by the range of elegantly traditional Riojas from this bodega. Here is the gist what I wrote then.
It had a clear family resemblance with the 03 Crianza, which showed quite pale colour, attractive freshness and fruit dominated by sour cherry with good acidity and fine elegance, but was richer, more complex and showed more tang and grip at the same time as elegance; 16.5/20.

Succulent lamb was the ideal occasion to test again this wine where it really matters, i.e. at a meal, and this time I was even more impressed by the wine’s harmony, velvety feel, linear shape on the palate with a gently increasing crescendo towards the finish followed a fading but quite long fragrance. Oak (none new here, I believe) was beautifully managed, its use being suggested rather than tasted except for an almost imperceptible whiff of vanilla; to refer to another thread I cannot visualise a similar effect being achieved by micro-oxygenation and chips in the present state of their art. Finally the wine passed the moreish test; Germaine’s diet only allowed her one glass but, in spite of all the warnings we hear from the guardians of public health, I could not keep my hands off the bottle until it was finished; 16.5/20+++. (Aug 4, 2009)

At the Spring tasting, the 1998 Gran Reserva was even better. I’ll take a look at one of those with dinner quite soon.

Rioja Gran Reserva 1987 – Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta, Ygay – Alc. 12.5%. (Jan 11, 2009)

After my sublime experience with CVNE’s Imperial GR 87 a couple of years ago, this was something of a disappointment. In the 70s when I paid frequent business visits to Spain, Murrieta was one of the most reliably fine Rioja producers, whites as well as reds; I regret not having brought back more with me at that time. Since then, the estate has “modernised” and I am not sure about its present standing.

This note is subject to the reservation that the accompanying lamb dish did the wine little favours because it was highly salted. I should have paid attention to the creator chef’s recommendation of the much more acidic, savoury and tannic Saumur-Champigny.
C: Garnet/brick of medium depth.
N: Well developed rich round red and dark fruit with some sweet cherry and hints of vanilla.
P: Quite full, harmonious and classically shaped with similar aromas as on the nose and crisper acidity than is common in Rioja (probably helpful with this lamb dish) and gentle tannic structure; closer to Burgundy, perhaps, than the more Bordeaux like Imperial. However, it did not sing as well as the nose encouraged me to hope nor in the manner of the Imperial; just 16/20.

By way of comparison, here is a repeat of my note of 8th April 2007 on the Imperial.

IMPERIAL GRAN RESERVA Rioja 1987 – Compañia Vinicola del Norte de España. (Tempranillo 85%, Graciano 10%, Mazuelo 5% for the 1998 GR). Alcohol 12.5% vol.

For me, wines like this represent a reference point towards which Tempranillo based Riojas should aspire.

C: A beautifully transparent light/medium red with some bricking at the rim. N: Elegant, deep and complex with kirsch hints. P: Very linear, harmonious and “sweet” with a gentle crescendo to the rear of the palate followed by a long diminuendo. Complex aromas with velvety mouth-feel encased in a gently firm structure. (All traces of the prolonged wood ageing are perfectly integrated.)

This shows the same sort of elegance and harmony as many fine mature Médocs but darker and sweeter. Perhaps a ‘cello compared to the violins and violas of a Médoc. It was a perfect accompaniment for the traditional Easter lamb. However, I suspect that this style is despised by the “modernists”.

Postscript: I did not give scores at that time but it reads and remembers like 17.5/20 at least.
Tim York
Tim York
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