This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Jan. 26, 2009 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20090126.php.
Historic Rioja Reserva
Coming back from a winter week off from publication and finding snow, sleet and maybe a little ice in the forecast, I'm thinking that it was a good choice for us to name Rioja the topic for our Wine Focus for January.
Rioja is a stylish but warming red, and it goes well with the kind of roasts, steaks and chops that make a warming feast on the winter table. As we move into the last week of January, we'll take a look at a couple more Riojas before moving on to next month's topic.
Later in the week, we'll uncork a relatively low-priced Rioja from a major producer. Today, let's go a little more upscale for a Reserva from a historic producer. As noted below, its price point (just under $30 for me locally, a bit less in some parts of the world) is a bit spendy for everyday drinking, especially in recessionary times. But it's a mighty fine wine with a classy pedigree.
We're tasting Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva, the latter term meaning that it must spend at least a year in oak bottles followed by additional aging time in bottles. This 2004 vintage, in fact, was bottled only last year, based on a "Julian date" code on the back label.
Riscal, according to the British wine scribe Hugh Johnson, is the oldest Rioja producer still in business, dating back to 1860. It boasts a touch of French in its heritage and remains one of the few Rioja wineries permitted to use Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend along with Rioja's Tempranillo and secondary Spanish grapes. Johnson says Riscal has 49 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in its vineyards and uses an average of 15 percent of the French grape in its Reservas, although this proportion can vary widely from year to year.
It's no Bordeaux clone, nor would I expect it to be. But it's a classic, characteristic Rioja of depth and elegance, showing bright cherry fruit, tart acidity and a touch of earth in its currently youthful state. You'll find my notes below.
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Marqués de Riscal 2004 Rioja Reserva ($28.99)
Clear, dark ruby, with crimson glints against the light. Cherries, almost a maraschino character in the aroma, backed by subtle spice with an earthy whiff of older oak barrels. Bright and ripe on the palate, red-cherry fruit laced up with an acidic zing; tannins aren't overly evident, but show up as a soft astringency in the tart, long finish. A Rioja meant for aging, it will surely gain complexity with years in the cellar; but its bright fruit and easy tannins make it quite accessible now, particularly with rare red meat on the table. U.S. importer: Shaw-Ross International Importers, Miramar, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2009)
FOOD MATCH: Pan-seared, medium-rare local natural grass-fed rib eye from Indiana's Fiedler Farm.
VALUE: Although its price near $30 will strike some on the high side during difficult economic times, quality more than justifies the price at least for special occasions. You may also find it for several dollars less in some market areas.
WHEN TO DRINK: As noted, this is a wine meant for aging - Wine-Searcher.com offers bottles back to the 1930s! - but fruit and balance make it drinkable now, especially with aeration and an appropriate food match.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but publication may vary from week to week. Last week we took a winter break; here's a link to the last published edition.
Big brand Rioja (Jan. 16, 2009)
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