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25 October 2011

Spain: La Rioja Alta

There’s something sublimely seductive, enticingly delicate and just pure pleasure to taste and drink about this absolutely classic style of wonderful old-fashioned Rioja, which really blossoms and shines after 10+ years of age and quietly puts to shame some of those new-fangled, over-extracted, heavy-handed, monster reds coming out of other regions of Spain; or even Rioja too nowadays. La Rioja Alta winery is an undisputed master, whose cask-aged Reserva and Gran Reserva reds show a lightness of touch, sometimes only 12.5% alcohol yet bags of character and complex developing aromas/flavours. And, considering the quality and charming maturity you get for your money, they’re relatively good value as well compared to, say, expensive young Priorat, Bordeaux or California.
Mind you, La Rioja Alta isn’t just a perfectionist in this enduring and hopefully not disappearing style. With their Torre de Oña Reserva, they’ve succeeded in creating a more ‘modern’ Rioja with all the class of their better-known names such as 904 or Ardanza. These lovely reds are based on Tempranillo with a splash of other varieties (see below for details) sourced from different vineyards and districts of Rioja Alta - it's a subzone, the upper or higher bit, as well as the winery's name (they probably had it first otherwise I don't imagine they'd be allowed to use the term). Thank you for sharing these bottles, wise folk at Armit Wines, London, which are sold by numerous other wine shops and restaurants.

2007 Torre de Oña Reserva (Tempranillo, Mazuelo; 13.5% alc.) - oakier and chunkier than the others but with seductive smoky and lush mouth-feel / flavours, lots of black and red fruits with a splash of vanilla set on solid backdrop with fresh vs punchy finish, tasty and stylish too. £19
2004 Viña Arana Reserva (Tempranillo, Mazuelo; 13%) - ‘cheesy’ developing notes vs lovely sweet berry fruit, has a bit of grip and freshness with firmer tighter finish than the older wines; still a relative baby and very promising. £20
2001 Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial (Tempranillo, Garnacha; 13.5%) - the grapes are mostly sourced from their Ardanza estate in Fuenmayor. Beautiful classy nose, smoky maturing and ‘volatile’ with enticing sweet fruit, has a bit more oomph vs fresh bite and elegant savoury finish; the alcohol’s more obvious than on the others, but it adds to its more structured make-up and this is definitely still very good wine. £25
1998 Gran Reserva 904 (Tempranillo, Graciano; 12.5%) - browny red colour, delicious ‘cheesy’ vs sweet-fruit nose with dried berries and light touch of vanilla, complex maturing savoury flavours yet it’s still alive and fresh; brilliant classic trad style. £35
1997 Gran Reserva 904 (13%) - ‘cheesier’ still with dried fruit vs savoury silky palate, meaty vs sweet profile, elegant and tasty, ageing yet still alive with a hint of lingering acidity and long cheesy/meaty flavours. Superb. £35
More info @ riojalta.com

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