30 Second Wine Advisor: Benchmark Rioja Crianza 30 Second Wine Advisor: Benchmark Rioja Crianza

Today's Sponsor

The Aged Cabernet Series
As recommended by Town & Country magazine: "Rarities, which generally can't be obtained any other way, acquaint recipients of The Aged Cabernet Series with the subtler charms of older wine."
The Aged Cabernet Series

Benchmark Rioja Crianza

Catching up a little belatedly with our WineLovers Discussion Group's Wine Focus for January on the Spanish red wines of Rioja, let's take a look at the Spanish wine term "Crianza." For today's example we examine the moderately priced, benchmark-style Rioja Crianza from the large but respected producer Sierra Cantabria.

"Crianza," (pronounced "Cree-ahn-zah,") comes from the Spanish word for "nursing" or "bringing up." Its definition is a bit fuzzy, as the specifics change among different Spanish wine regions. But it's safe to say that "Crianza" on the label guarantees that the wine has been aged ("brought up") for a legally defined time before it can be sold; and that a significant part of that aging occurred in oak casks.

Throughout Spain, Crianzas in general may not be released until at least two years after the vintage, of which at least six months must have been spent in 225-liter oak casks ("barricas" in Spanish, a relative of the more familiar "barriques" in French). In Rioja and Ribera del Duero, the rule is 12 full months in oak, plus at least 12 more in bottles.

This may seem like a long time in barrels, but in Spain, where oak aging is traditional, Crianzas are actually in the least-oaked category - you'll need to look for "Riserva" or "Gran Riserva" if you want still more.

The Crianza process can result in a rather "woody," oak dominated wine if you drink it young, but today's Sierra Cantabria, five years after the vintage and approaching three since release, is beginning to integrate its flavors. It's still fiercely astringent with oak tannins, though, a characteristic that can be ameliorated with rare red meat or time in the cellar.

Still, it's a good introduction to Rioja - and to Crianza - at a price that's quite fair.

Wine Focus for February has moved on to the topic Diverse Italy, covering all the regions of Italy outside the widely discussed and often tasted regions Tuscany and Piemonte.

In other words, we invite you this month to bring your tasting reports, comments and questions about your favorite less-known Italian wines and wine regions, from Valle d'Aosta in the north to Sicily in the south.

We've moved Wine Focus from a separate forum section into our main WineLovers Discussion Group. You'll find "Diverse Italy" at this link:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/village/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=29990
The discussions are open for public viewing, but you must register to post. Registration is free and easy; we ask only that you join following our Real Names Real Format system, using your real name in the format "John Doe" or "John D".

Once your registration has been approved, which usually happens quickly, you'll be able to participate in all our online wine, food and travel forums.


Today's Sponsor

Aged Cabernet Series

As recommended by Town & Country magazine, discover The Aged Cabernet Series!


On the heels of a Robb Report recommendation for The California Wine Club's new The Aged Cabernet Series, the February issue of Town & Country Magazine says, "Rarities, which generally can't be obtained any other way, acquaint recipients of The Aged Cabernet Series with the subtler charms of older wine."

If you are not among the lucky few with a cellar stocked with aged Cabernets from Napa's most prestigious wineries, then check out The Aged Cabernet Series from The California Wine Club.

Each month The Aged Cabernet Series features two finely aged Cabernets (10-15 years old) from top producers like Mayacamas, Joseph Phelps, Clos du Val, Chappellet and Burgess.

Every wine featured has been meticulously stored in a temperature-controlled facility and is 100% quality guaranteed. Memberships are limited and you may choose to receive shipments monthly, every other month or quarterly. Deliveries also include a detailed newsletter offering a history on the wine, including tasting notes from its original release ... and now.

Two-bottle deliveries average $150-$235 and are shipped via 3-day air. Treat yourself or someone special to this rare wine experience.

Visit www.theagedcabernetseries.com or call the club at 1-800-777-4443 to learn more.


Today's Tasting Report

Sierra Cantabria 2005 Rioja Crianza ($18.99)Sierra Cantabria

Inky dark purple with a clear garnet edge. Typical fresh red cherry scent of Tempranillo, the primary Rioja grape, blends with aromatic vanilla from oak barrels, adding just a hint of something like fresh green herbs. Mouth-filling, good dry tart-cherry fruit, acidic and tannic with a marked astringency on the tongue that smooths out when it meets the flavors of lamb and pimenton. Good young Rioja, could stand a few years in the cellar to gain complexity and balance but fine now with appropriate food on the table. U.S. importer: Cutting Edge Selections Inc., Fairfax, Ohio. (Jan. 25, 2010)

FOOD MATCH: Splendid with locavore lamb burgers with a quick variation on Spanish Romesco sauce, pureed roasted red peppers, onions and cream.

VALUE: Demand has sent the prices of artisanal Rioja skyrocketing. Although a larger producer, Sierra Cantabria boasts a long record of quality and characteristic Rioja style and maintains a fair price on this Crianza. I overpaid a bit in Louisville; Wine-Searcher.com shows an average price of $15 on the 2005. (As a commentary on wine-price inflation, it's worth noting that the 1996 vintage of this wine, reported in January 2000, cost $9.99.)

WEB LINK: The wineries website of the Eguren family, producers of Sierra Cantabria, is colorful and high-tech, but a bit quirky to navigate, especially with slower 'net connections. This link should take you directly to the Sierra Cantabria page.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Locate vendors and compare prices for Sierra Cantabria Crianza on Wine-Searcher.com.


Talk About Wine Online

If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about today's article or wine in general, you're always welcome to drop by our online WineLovers Discussion Group, the Internet's first and still the most civil online community. To find our forums, click:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/village

Discussions are open for public viewing, but you must register to post. Registration is free and easy; we ask only that you join following our Real Names Real Format system, using your real name in the format "John Doe" or "John D". Anonymous, cryptic or first-name-only registrations are discarded without notice.

Once your registration has been approved, which usually happens quickly, you'll be able to participate in all our online wine, food and travel forums.

To contact me by E-mail, write wine@wineloverspage.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.


Subscriptions and Administrivia

Unsubscribe:
We're sorry if you must leave us, but simply click the "unsubscribe"
link at the bottom of your Email edition to be instantly removed from the mailing list.

Change address:
With our new Email system, the easiest way to change your Email address is simply to register anew, using the link below. If you are keeping your old address, you may unsubscribe; if you are closing it, you needn't take any action, as our system will delete your old address as soon as the mail starts to "bounce."

Subscribe to this Email edition (free):
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor

WineLoversPage.com RSS Feed (free):
http://www.wineloverspage.com/rss

Wine Advisor Archives:
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/archives.php

Sponsorship Opportunities:
For information, E-mail wine@wineloverspage.com