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Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rioja. Show all posts

24 April 2023

Rioja: 10 to 20 year-old reds.

This selection of eight gracefully maturing reds in some ways epitomises what many people would consider 'old' cask-aged Rioja to be all about. Although, as seen in three previous posts (Rioja 5 to 10 year-old red wines, Rioja reds less than 5 years old, Rioja 15 white wines), with a new generation of winemakers challenging the narrow perception that barrel age equals quality, there are plenty of great wines to be enjoyed from younger red (and white) Rioja too. This snapshot spans vintages 2012 and 2011 to 2004, 2003 and one delicious wine exceeding twenty years of age, 2001 (a Rioja odyssey?).

20 January 2023

Rioja: reds less than 5 years old.

Part two of this WineWriting.com Rioja feature moves on to red wines - the first instalment highlighted 15 delicious white wines (all tasted in Dublin last month: click/tap to read more). As an appetising entrée, 15 varied red Riojas have been chosen here which are 'less than five years old', to coin a cunning theme that will be developed in two further posts ('5 to 10 years' and '10 to 20 years' old).

29 December 2022

Rioja: 15 white wines.

The first of a few tasting reports gleaned from a right royal Rioja tasting in Dublin (by coincidence, Rioja resembles a word in Irish meaning majestic) focuses on white wines. Rioja Blanco was traditionally once as well known as the region's red wine, usually well-oaked in style, which over the years declined in fashion while reds became more and more in demand; but their white wines are definitely now making a welcome comeback.

26 December 2016

Spain: Cava and Rioja 'of the moment'

Arestel Cava Brut (11.5% abv) - Such a bargain considering this is surprisingly good for the money: there can only be about £1 in it to cover production and everybody's profit, once you take off UK VAT and excise duty! (Who would want to supply Lidl and try actually making money...) Nicely floral and almond-nutty with refreshing aftertaste. £4.49 Lidl.

Heretat El Padruell Cava Brut, Jaume Serra (Macabeu, Parellada, Xarel-lo; 11.5% abv) - A touch yeastier/toastier and 'oilier' yet similarly light and easy-going; nice start and end to Christmas day quaffing. £6 M&S (usually £8).

Marqués del Romeral Rioja Reserva 2010, Bodegas Age (Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo; 13.5% abv) - Lovely 'traditional' style with deft mix of smoky vanilla oak (American and French, for two years) and sweet red berry fruit, turning savoury and more complex on its soft stylish finish. Great pre-Christmas offer price too at £8.50 (usually £13.50 apparently), although it's probably already gone back up to full price. Went well with Guinea fowl for Xmas lunch. Image copied from Marks & Spencer's site.

24 April 2016

Spain: 'wines of the moment'

Vintage Cava 2011 Brut Nature Jaume Serra (Xarel.lo, Parellada, Macabeu, Chardonnay, 11.5% abv) - Attractive drink-now and dry version ('nature' here means zero added dosage) of the popular favourite, with oily roundness and a touch of style. Tesco 'finest' £7.
Marqués del Norte Vintage Cava Brut 2013 (11.5% abv) - Asda has been knocking out this own-label fizz at a ludicrous bargain £4! Also made by the Jaume Serra winery, less developed and fresher than above although more off-dry.
Frares Priorat 2014 (Garnacha, Carinena, 15% abv) - Tasty example of this often very expensive Catalan red from the hills behind Tarragona, full-on spicy liquorice with oomph and plenty of lush fruit. Marks & Spencer £13

Montilla – Moriles
Fresquito PX 2014 Perez Barquero (Pedro Ximenez, 14% abv) - Deliciously different dry white with the lively yeasty almond edges reminiscent of Fino Sherry, but a touch 'lighter' in style (despite that quite high alcohol). Marks & Spencer £9, on offer at £42 for 6 bottles online (late April).

Marqués de Valido Reserva 2010 Bodegas Muriel (Tempranillo, 13% abv) - Always reliable Co-Op own-brand Rioja, not the greatest Reserva style around but has plenty of maturing charm and smoky smoothness for the price. £8.99
Perez Burton Tempranillo 2013 Telmo Rodriguez (14%) - A touch classier and more concentrated version from this well-known consultant winemaker. M & S £11.50.

Yecla - Murcia
Tapa Roja old vines Monastrell 2014 Bodegas del Mediterraneo (14.5% abv) - Same delicious unoaked style as the previous vintage featured on this blog a year ago (click there), layered with earthy dark fruit and black olive flavours. M & S £9/£7 on offer (late April).

Jerez/Sanlúcar de Barrameda - Andalusia
12 Year Old Oloroso Sherry Emilio Lustau (Palomino Fino, 20% abv) - Labelled as 'medium dry', but I think its inherent characteristic richness makes it taste less dry than it actually probably is. Towards stunning aged sherry for a bargain price, rich and baked walnut-y with complex lingering flavours. Sainsbury's 'taste the difference' £8 50cl.
La Gitana Manzanilla Bodegas Hidalgo (Palomino Fino, 15% abv) - Classic style dry and lively sherry with roasted salted almond notes and tangy finish. 50cl £8 Sainsbury's/widely available.

23 January 2015

Spain: Bodegas Larraz, Rioja

Just in case you were wondering (yeah, right), I first tasted one of these Caudum Larraz wines last year, which is featured in a Rioja mini-focus looking at the 2007 and 2009 vintages: Spain: Rioja 2007 and 2009.
The 'Caudum' wines were launched over ten years ago as a limited edition range sourced from a half-hectare vineyard called Finca La Cuesta in the Cenicero area, which is still planted with very old un-grafted vines apparently (they're keeping a bit hush-hush on which varieties though). These reds are aged for at least a year in French and American oak barrels and aren't fined or filtered. Winemaking wise, I'd say they perhaps represent the more "modern" face of Rioja, using more new oak and building a denser, more structured and maybe more export-focused style (only available in Canada as far as I can tell...). There's nothing necessarily wrong with that at all, although I found their 2010 tasting-noted below a little oak heavy when I tried it. However, if the probably finer 2008 is anything to go by, it shows these wines do need a few years before they come together and start to develop. Same goes for their 2009 "Special Selection" red, also reviewed below, which is serious wine: denser and more concentrated still and has coped with the oak treatment better. € prices quoted are in Spain.
More info (although not much in English) @ www.bodegaslarraz.com, or try their Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Caudum-Bodegas-Larraz where I pinched the photo from.

2008 Caudum (14% abv) - deep and dense and still pretty purpley black in colour for its age, same goes for the initial oak notes on the nose (purple oak haze man?) - coconut, cedar and vanilla - blended with smoky cassis fruit and liquorice undertones, lightly floral even as well with intricate savoury meaty edges; fairly firm and dry in the mouth with more subtle coconut texture/flavour than on the nose, quite fine tannins though and powerful finish although balanced in the end; tangy vs lush berry fruit with lingering oak too, beginning to develop attractive mature savoury flavours. 2nd day - still quite oaky but has lovely richer sweet berry, cherry and blackcurrant fruit, nice texture with coconut hints and 'chalky' tannins, firm but not over-extracted vs good concentration, powerful finish with sweet vs savoury flavour mix, lightly grainy yet the oak has diminished leading to a fairly fine finish. 4th day open - yes, it did last that long! Still surprisingly alive, more sweet fruit and oak coming through layered with complex 'cheesy' and savoury notes, dark cherry/berry and black olive vs that fair grip, nice dry texture and oomph vs a hint of freshness too. Quite serious wine, was obviously still too young when first opened. Now, that was an essay almost! €11-€12
2010 Caudum (14% abv) - coconut oak dominates the nose, rich colour and lush fruit vs pretty extracted and solid mouth-feel, oaky finish bolstered by ripe berry fruit. One day open: still showing as rich and extracted, has good substance underneath although the oak hasn't yet blended into the wine... Mind you, I thought that about the 08 which did develop nicely through the oak, so just "let it lie" for the time-being. €11-€12
2009 Caudum Selección Especial (14% abv) - seems less oaky than the other two (although...), or has absorbed it better probably, with a lush and punchy palate, more blackberry/cherry with liquorice and prune edges even, grippy and extracted layered with lots of fruit vs coconut grain, dry yet fine tannins, powerful and concentrated. Showing some savoury development yet solid and quite closed up, although turned softer and rounder after a while despite its grip, bite and punch. Good stuff, should continue to improve in bottle for a few years. Left open for a couple of days or so: not oxidised, a tad smoother and less oaky yet still has that nice thick texture and concentration. €15-€17

24 December 2014

Spain: "wines of the mo"

Simply Garnacha Rosado Borsao (13.5% abv) - very reliable and fairly classic style of full-bodied dry Spanish rosé made by Bodegas Borsao in the Campo de Borja region in Aragón. Great value too: £4.69 Tesco.
Mas Miralda Cava Brut Vintage 2011 (11.5% abv) - another reliable favourite fizz with attractive mix of refreshingly frothy and light underlined by subtle yeasty / biscuity flavours, off-dry and easy-going. Asda £6
Finca Manzanos 'Coleccion Privada' 2005 Reserva Rioja (13.5% abv) - lovely mature Rioja style - although still on fine form for its age - with smoky sweet vs savoury fruit, maturing 'cheesy' notes and silky mouth-feel. M & S £13.99 - looks like the 05 is gone, although the current 2007 vintage on their site should be good too.
Special Reserve Dry Oloroso Sherry, Barbadillo (Palomino fino, 19% abv) - classic slightly oddball dark and lush sherry yet dry and tangy with layers of complex roast nut flavours from mellow ageing. Bargain: Tesco £6 50cl.

22 May 2014

Spain: Rioja 2007 and 2009

According to the 'official' (seemingly rather biased) Rioja vintage ranking chart (goes to the Rioja UK site) - difficult to believe they've had nothing but "good", "very good" or "excellent" vintages since 1985, and 1972 was the last "average" year - 2007 and 2009 were both judged as "muy buena" (very good) and, generally speaking, are drinking well now. Here's my top twenty Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva (= shorter to longer barrel and bottle ageing: the site linked above clarifies this... yawn) and otherwise aged / labelled 2007 and 2009 reds picked from a more-Rioja-than-anyone-could-ever-taste tasting. The former traditional terms for maturation time / 'quality' are best taken as style guidelines, since some producers choose not to follow the 'rules' and don't use this terminology. All of these Riojas are made from mostly Tempranillo (sometimes 100%) with Garnacha (Grenache) and/or Mazuelo (Carignan/Cariñena) and/or Graciano; any variation on this theme has been specified after the wine's name. The vague ££-£££ bands quoted give you an idea of UK price at least.

Álvarez Alfaro 2009 Crianza (14% abv) - still quite tightly structured with cedary notes/texture vs developing savoury/sweet fruit, a touch of firm tannin vs nice maturing and warming dried fruit finish. £5-£10. Profile on AA and previous vintages HERE (May 2011).
Berberana 2007 Reserva d'Avalos Etiqueta Negra (13.5%) - 'volatile' savoury notes vs ripe and smoky; smooth and warm with nice dried berry fruits, light grip and vanilla spice on the finish. £10-£15 United Wineries
Campo Viejo 2007 Gran Reserva - considering CV is now a massive international brand, they still manage to produce good quality, classic-style Reserva and Gran Reserva barrel-aged Rioja; this one delivers very nicely with smooth maturing fruit and light vanilla edges. Sainsbury's £15.99, £11.99 on offer (one of my Feb. "wines of the mo").
Cantauri 2007 Reserva, Alonso González (13.5%) - ageing meaty nose, quite concentrated and rich sweet/savoury fruit vs fair grip still and a touch of sweet oak; nice depth of character, drinking well now. £10-£15
Castroviejo 2009 Reserva, Pastor Díaz (13.5%) - turning 'volatile' / 'cheesy' with attractive ripe juicy fruit and sweet/savoury edges, quite soft tannins with a little dry bite; nice warm finish with some structure still vs liquorice and damson fruit. £5-£10 (?)
Caudum 2009 Selección Especial, Larraz (14%) - fairly rich and smooth dark cherry and berry fruit vs big and structured yet with soft tannins, nice warm savoury finish; good foodie style, drinking well now but still has a future ahead of it. £10-£15
Finca Egomei 2009 (14 months ageing, 14.5%) - enticing ripe dried fruit with savoury edges, big lush and warming palate with soft tannins and integrated oak texture; nice more 'modern' style. £5-£10
Federico Paternina 2009 Crianza Selección Especial (13%) - smoky, rustic, 'volatile', earthy edges with cedar/coconut tones; nice dark black cherry fruit with a bit of punch and dry bite/grip, rounded though and fairly elegant and balanced style, tasty and drinking well now.
Finca Valpiedra 2007 Reserva (also contains a splash of the Maturana tinta variety, 14% abv) - seductive smoky nose, dark ripe fruit vs sweet spiced oak vs 'volatile' savoury 'cheesy' edges; concentrated and lush with good bite and grip still, a big wine yet nicely layered/textured with lovely rich fruit. £21 Laithwaite's
Hacienda de Susar 2007, Marqués de la Concordia (15% Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah; aged 15 months in French oak; 14.5% abv) - leafier / more cedary on the nose, rich and dark vs light coconut grain; the wood's a little forced and awkward, but the wine's concentrated with nice warm fruit finish. +£15 United Wineries
Marqués de Campo Nuble 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - coconut grain edges vs seductive warm dried fruits and developing meaty edges, attractive sweet/savoury finish still with a bit of grip and oomph, nice dry vs sweet texture.
Marqués de la Concordia 2007 Reserva (13.5%) - complex and spicy with savoury vs sweet fruit and oak on the nose and palate, attractive dry vs ripe texture again, seductive and long. Pretty text book trad Reserva style. £10-£15 United Wineries
Navajas 2007 Reserva (14%) - similar to above, a bit fuller perhaps and less developed to start; turning warm and seductive, quite punchy on the finish still with cloves and sweet dried berry fruits, fairly structured for its age as well; nice commercial Reserva style and good value: £5-£10.
Ortubia 2007 Reserva (14%) - baked sweet black cherry fruit with 'cheesy' savoury edges, still firm and concentrated though with seductive spicy fruit and palate weight. Yum.
Peña Aldera 2007 Reserva, Jalón (organic, 14%) - surprisingly tight still on the palate vs smoky maturing edges, sweet dried plum and spice vs power and grip, opening up on its attractive and long savoury finish. Value: £5-£10.
Rioja Bordón 2007 Reserva, Franco Españolas (13.5%) - smoky maturing nose with light coconut hints, sweet/savoury profile, quite rich ripe and warm with subtle grip; nice balance and style. £5-£10
Señorio de Moraza 2007 Reserva (14%) - meaty slightly baked nose with enticing 'cheesy' tones, sweet/savoury fruit, tannins are a little clunky although has nice lingering warmth and mature sweet fruit. £5-£10
Señorio de Olartia 2007 Reserva (13.8%) - mature baked savoury fruit, sweet berry and plum too with a touch of grip still; nice wine although probably peaked. £5-£10
Solabal 2007 (24 months ageing, 14.5%) - sweet oak/fruit combo with coco edges and attractive berry fruit, still structured and pretty punchy (a bit too alcoholic maybe) vs good sweet/savoury fruit finish. £5-£10
Urbina 2007 Crianza (13.5%) - sweet perfumed vs meaty nose, fairly 'light' mouth-feel with almost Pinot Noir type of delicate sweet/savoury character and fresh bite, a touch of grip and subtle fruit to finish. Nice style.

Much more Rioja on my Spain archive page: www.winewriting.com/spain

20 February 2014

'Wines of the mo' - Germany, S Africa, Spain, France, Portugal, Argentina

My favourites - and many of the enthusiastic attendees - from around the globe tasted on a recent Saturday 'wine workshop' I ran in Belfast, which deserve a little more airing:

Germany, Mosel: Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2006

26 September 2013

Spain: a couple of Riojas of the moment

Further to A trio of Rioja posted a few months ago, and mucho mas outlined on the Spain archive page here, my terminal fascination with one of the world's favourite red wines continues featuring a couple of Riojas available in the UK in Co-op and Lidl stores (the ones equipped with their 'wine cellar' range, so not all of them). By coincidence, they're both 2008 vintage, which is 'officially' rated as 'very good' and with a touch of elegance too by my reckoning...

Soligamar Reserva 2008 Ortega Ezquerro (80% Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo from two 600 metre altitude vineyards, 24 months in new French oak; 14% abv) - smoky vanilla notes with sweet berry and cassis fruits, intricate maturing savoury touches vs still quite solid and firm, concentrated and rich vs nice dry texture, fairly big mouthful vs a certain freshness and elegance. The second day open saw more savoury, balsamic and 'cheesy' notes developing, smoother too with attractive sweet fruit/oak combo, still structured and alive as well. Very nice Rioja. £9.99 Lidl

Marqués de Válido Reserva 2008 Bodegas Muriel (Tempranillo, 13% abv) - similar in some ways to above with its smoked vanilla oak notes (although less oaky) and maturing sweet berry fruits, a touch lighter perhaps (maybe it doesn't have any Garnacha in it...) though has subtle concentration and balance, pretty classic style with mature savoury balsamic finish layered with sweet vs smoky fruit/oak. Surprisingly good with the chilli beef & veg stew thing I made (up as I went along), thanks to those generally soft tannins, smooth texture and sweet/smoky taste combo. Real bargain at the moment at the Co-op - £5.49 instead of 'usual' price of £10.99!

04 May 2013

Spain: a trio of Rioja

Rioja is one of those (fairly) endlessly fascinating wine "topics" yet sometimes a bit of a minefield too, as there are a lot of Rioja wines out there at all sorts of prices and it's not always clear what kind of style you're going get. Fruity but a bit thin or rich fruity and good, lightly oaky or very oaky, young and old (okay, that one should be pretty obvious), cheap and expensive (ditto). What these three different styles and price points of red Rioja below have in common is, well, they're all good as far as I'm concerned; and have all seen some barrel ageing from a few months to a few years, which clearly can shape the style, flavour and texture of the wine. They're also mostly made from the Tempranillo variety, considered Rioja's flagship grape although sometimes a splash of Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano (called Morrastel in southern France, not the same as Monastrell in Spain or Mourvedre, just to confuse matters...) or Mazuelo (= Cariñena or Carignan), for example, can actually improve the blend. Having said that, the second wine here from Cantos de Valpiedra was, I think, 100% Tempranillo and went down very well at a recent tasting I held.

Carlos Rodriguez
Saxa Loquuntur uno 2010 Carmelo Ortega (Tempranillo, Garnacha; 14% abv) - aged 4 to 6 months in American and French oak barrels. And it doesn't really show, just adding a little spice and light dark chocolate texture to its quite lush ripe berry fruit and dry yet fairly rounded tannins. Good value at £6.99 from Lidl (part of their 'Wine Cellar' range, so not all stores).
Cantos de Valpiedra 2008 Tempranillo (13.5%) - showing nice savoury meaty maturing side vs still quite rich and lush blackberry/cherry fruit, hints of spicy vanilla wood in the background vs fairly concentrated and stylish. £8.99 James Nicholson.
Carlos Rodriguez Reserva 2007 - pretty typical traditional style with developing volatile 'cheesy' notes and dried raspberry / cassis fruit, underpinned by smooth vanilla oak notes / texture and gentle 'sweet' fruit, hint of dry tannin to finish with savoury edges. A touch light perhaps and beginning to fade so it's ready to drink now; quite good though on the dear side - £12.99 from Naked Wines, or £9.49 if you're an 'Angel' (what's that all about by the way, paying them money to get the wine for the price it's worth?) Photo of Carlos copied from their site.

Mucho mas Rioja HERE (goes to Spain archive page with links) featuring, among others:
CVNE / Contino rare vintages of top Reservas and Gran Reservas ("If it's the 52, you were expecting me...").
Alvarez AlfaroRioja duet: LagunillaLa Rioja AltaGarnacha rosé...
Y mas!

27 February 2013

Spain: Garnacha / Garnatxa, red white and rosé

Following in the red-stained footsteps of my 'World Grenache Competition' series (part 1, part 2, part 3), this time we're turning the spotlight on Garnacha/Garnatxa from different parts of northeast Spain (Rioja, Aragon, Catalonia) with a little vinous wandering beyond the timeframe of the WGC event, which took place in Perpignan, south of France (Catalan side) recentlyMy favourites from the Garnacha-based rosados tasted in the competition are highlighted below, along with a few reds sampled/enjoyed in the afternoon or evening with food and some background info on this sumptuous variety in the regions of Aragón and Catalunya. I've noted any medals awarded and/or my 100-point style score as appropriate. Some of the other wines crossed my path last year but haven't seen the on-line light of day yet.

Rosé / rosado - Rioja

2012 Castillo de Albai Felix Solis Avantis - full-on cherry nose, fresh lively and lees-y with plenty of aromatic red fruits, zippy long finish with nice lingering fruit. Gold Medal winner. My score 87+
2012 Valcaliente rosado Ruiz Jimenez - fresh lees-y nose with attractive cherry fruit, crisp and zippy mouth-feel with long ripe vs tart finish, nice weight too vs tight and crisp. Silver Medal. 87
2012 Arnegui Felix Solis Avantis - almost red, rich and aromatic with ripe cherry fruit, full-bodied 'sweet' vs crunchy palate, impressive big rosé style even if a little heavy on the winemaking (then again, that is rosé, no?!). 85
2012 Vina Herminia Garnacha - even richer in colour than above, has plenty of extract and fruit, rich and full-on yet fresher and more elegant than above. Gold. 87


2010 Las Rocas Garnacha viñas viejas Calatayud (Bodegas San Alejandro co-op winery, from 80 year-old bush vines) - lovely ripe minty blackberry fruit and spice, concentrated and powerful with 'sweet' vs peppery profile, silky tannins layered with tasty dark lush fruit and savoury-edged finish. Yum: 'modern' style but good with it. Silver Medal. UK/Ireland importer: Liberty Wines (I copied the photo above from libertywines.co.uk).
2009 Aquilon Garnacha Campo de Borja - lots of sweet coconut and chocolate oak vs lush fruit and layered tannins, rounded and ripe vs a touch of firmness; nice but rather oaky.
2010 Coto de Hayas Garnacha Centenaria Campo de Borja - touches of oak grain, lovely tobacco notes vs ripe sweet fruit, powerful yet with some fresh bite and grip too. Nice old-fashioned style. The 2011 vintage won a Gold.

Whereas only 10% of Spain's vineyards overall are planted with Garnacha, there's "much more in Aragón..." (also suggested as the variety's origin), Juan Cacho told us giving an overview of the region (professor of winemaking at Zaragoza University). Looking at the main 'DO's (appellation areas) within this province, Garnacha accounts for at least half of varieties planted in Calatayud and Campo de Borja (both on the western side), and nearly a third of the surface area in Cariñena yet just 5% of Somontano (more mountainous zone to the northeast). "Garnacha was declining but now we're replanting it," Juan explained, "it suits dry climates and low-yields. Old vineyards are now sought after. I think the increased investment in technology and winemaking have had a very positive effect on Garnacha in particular, in quality terms, and especially for the co-ops." There's also a new emphasis on export marketing e.g. joint Grenache promotions in North America. "We're looking for EU funds to work with people in the Roussillon etc. Home wine consumption is falling, so we have to look elsewhere," he concluded logically.
More Garnacha wines from Aragón here ("wines of the mo" Oct 2011) and here (Spain archive page).


2011 Viladellops Garnatxa Penedès - nice 'sweet' aromatic floral minty and spicy blackberry/cherry fruit, firm and peppery vs ripe and soft palate, powerful yet fairly easy going with tasty fruity finish. (The 2009 vintage won a Silver Medal).
Nuria Ruiz from the Catalan Wine Association added that "this vineyard was replanted, or rather grafted 28 years ago so the vines are 'older' than that. The wineries in our association export less than in Spain overall (meaning those thirsty Catalans drink most of it presumably), and a quarter of wine exported is red Garnacha." They promote them in e.g. the US, London, Switzerland, Barcelona and Perpignan (!); the average bottle price is €34, which is pretty high value wine.

2009 Domènech 'Teixar' Montsant (Garnatxa "pelut" = furry Grenache!) - showing a fair dose of coconut and vanilla oak, rich and ripe palate though vs nice firm and peppery finish, enticing tasty savoury fruit with layers of coco/choc oak, but not too much in the end.
2009 Domènech 'Furvus' Montsant (Garnacha & Syrah, 14.5%) - 'sweet' and maturing nose and palate vs grippy and structured, attractive lingering savoury fruit vs solid and tight still; good stuff. Silver medal (I tasted it in the special 'Grenache room' at last year's London International Wine Fair actually).
Josep Ignaci Domènech showed his first wine here representing the 'Terra de Garnatxes' group, which is funded by half a dozen wineries including him. Catalunya has diverse vineyard areas running from the coast right up to 700-1000 m altitude (2300-3300 ft roughly); the Montsant DO region lies inland and not far from the city of Tarragona. Josep told us "there are 5837 ha (approx 14,500 acres) of Garnatxa in Catalunya," splitting down as about 3900 of red, 1780 white "...plus the three other Garnachas..." ('grey', 'furry' and ..?).

El Miracle Cava rosado Vincente Gandia - attractive fruity style with a touch of intense toasty yeast-lees character.
2011 Herencia Altés Benufet Garnatxa Blanca - soft rounded and oily with interesting aniseed flavours, nice food white.

Parés Baltà organic wine and Cava producer based in the Penedès region.
2011 Indigena white Garnatxa (11.5%) - from La Plana Molinera, Finca El Subal at 700m altitude. Juicy lees-y and light, attractive mineral side vs honeyed fruit, crisp and delicate actually.
2009 Hisenda Miret (Finca Cal Miret, 400m) - nice juicy Garnacha style with peppery liquorice notes, full bodied and grippy with a touch of class too.
(Tasted in a special 'Grenache room' at last year's London International Wine Fair).

More Catalan Garnatxa here.

06 November 2012

Rioja: old and rare CVNE and Contino

I recently rediscovered and have just re-posted a rather nice Rioja blast from the past entitled "a tutored tasting of CVNE and Contino old and rare Riojas by winemaker Jesús Madrazo Mateo," (click there to view it) originally scribbled in 2001. Includes (at times slightly surreal) notes on elderly Viña Real and Imperial Gran Reserva reds and Contino Reservas with vintages going back to 1952. But quite a few from the best years of the 70s, 80s and 90s; as well as "an oddball finale" from 1939... Enjoy a little retro Rioja chic! Mind you, one or two of them were towards dodgy though.

21 March 2001

Spain: CVNE and Contino old and rare Rioja

Tutored tasting of CVNE and Contino old and rare Riojas
by winemaker Jesús Madrazo Mateo

St. Stephens Club, London SW1, 21 March 2001

"I was chuffed bordering on surprised at my apparent organisation surrounding three days of events from 20 – 22 March: train ticket from Manchester purchased sufficiently in advance to get the £20 fare, several tastings slotting neatly into place around the big Spanish affair including a tutored Italian on the Wednesday morning, if I/they got my/their skates on. Then the above, last minute-ish invitation landed in my inbox (I’ll resist any facetious speculation about second-tier bums-on-seats). I thought about it for perhaps 1.6 seconds – sorry ICE (Italian trade office) but I guess I’m a tasting-slut. So, time to squeeze in the Swiss first... “I’m afraid, sir, we’re going to have a problem… you can’t wear jeans upstairs,” informs the ‘bouncer’ at the Institute of Directors. Pity they didn’t mention that on the invitation, methinks. Still, there’s nothing like some time to kill in a wet and miserable Westminster to enhance your anticipation (caught a wet and miserable cold afterwards, from memory). On to St. Stephens Club – looks a bit posh. I wonder if you can wear jeans…"

Viña Real Gran Reservas – sourced from their vineyards close to El Ciego in Rioja Alavesa in the north of the region. (E = excellent, VG = very good and G = good, according to official vintage rating by the Rioja Consejo Regulador. Approx retail prices per bottle indicated after notes.)

1952 (E) – still has amazing colour, browning and red brick but good intensity for its age. First bottle was very mushroomy; the cork had fungi on it. The second was totally different with smoky and balsamic tones, a bit oxidised and ‘cheesy’ but delivering nice sweet (dried) red fruits and a touch of earthiness. Silky dried red fruits in the mouth with some dry tannin on the finish coupled with light, mature liquorice flavours. Quite good length but has the fruit gone? In retrospect, not really as it did actually develop and open up after 2 hours! Paradoxically, it doesn’t taste as old as you’d expect. Jesús commented that he believes they used much more Graciano in the varietal blend than they do now (these wines are mostly Tempranillo). (£150+)
1964 (E) – showing greater depth of colour in the middle with brown/orange outside. Beautiful classic mature Rioja nose with plenty of volume of intense ‘cheesy’, leathery dried fruits; concentrated red fruits on the palate give way to liquorice with a bit of alcohol on the finish and moderate tannins still adding grip. Lovely length, the fruit is still rich and lingering. (£80-85)
1970 (VG) – not as deep in appearance as above but perhaps displaying similar age character; pungent and leathery on the nose the fruit is less obvious. Fuller in the mouth with more extract and firmer tannins on the finish, again liquoricey but perhaps it’s more closed (or less concentrated). However the flavours certainly linger with warm alcohol and higher acidity. (£72-78)
1975 (VG) – looks older and thinner with odd herbaceous asparagus aromas; this carries through to the palate but supported by some liquorice and surprisingly cooked fruit. Firm tannins rather contrast and jar with rapidly maturing fruit. (£35-45)
1981 (VG) – appears quite brown and light with some red in the middle; caramelized sweet liquorice aromas but fruit is also a bit reticent (and minty too). Smooth vanilla texture enhanced by red fruits but it’s beginning to oxidise; fading tannins manage to keep it up on the finish for the moment. (£50-60)
1982 (E) – much deeper and less advanced in colour; bit 'dusty' on the nose but rather closed although there are hints of game and spice. Rich and concentrated in the mouth, again liquorice and red fruits, with lovely length and quite firm finish; this still needs time! (£92-98)
1991 (VG) – showing just a hint of browning, the first bottle is a little more farmyard-y than you might like (we conclude it’s brettanomyces.) but full with sweet oak. The second has greater volume on the nose, rich and gamey but lots of sweet fruit too; lush and smooth, big concentrated fruit with liquoricey hints and great intensity and weight. Moderate to firm tannins but silky and good acidity too. The ’91 is made from 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha and Mazuelo, and 5% Graciano. 5 days fermentation in stainless vats controlled at below 33 degrees, followed by malo-lactic fermentation in barrel and 4 years ageing in American and French oak. (£18-25)

Comments – the winemaking is very similar between VR and Imperial; it’s a question of "source material" determining the style, although perhaps they do a slightly longer maceration with VR. Both are racked every 6 months or so. All are fermented with indigenous yeasts and the malo usually starts naturally too. 

Imperial Gran Reservas – made from 50+ year old vines yielding around 4 tonnes/ha; 85-90% Tempranillo, about 10% Graciano and a tad of Mazuelo (all Rioja Alta fruit from their high vineyards around Villalba northwest of Haro.) 

1970 – quite intense big colour but browning a touch; full and gamey nose, attractively pungent but with plenty of dried fruits too. Lively ripe red fruits in the mouth; concentrated, smoky and herby and offering quite firm tannins on its sound length. Lovely. (£65-75)
1975 – looks older than above, very perfumed with a hint of mushroom but also sweet red fruits, which carry through to the palate; rich and velvety with concentrated cherry and liquorice plus a tad earthy too, super length and quite firm but less grip than the ’70; fair acidity and alcohol complement the finish. (£35-45)
1982 – big colour and still fairly youthful, powerful nose delivering lots of wild fruits with floral and spicy nuances; getting gamey but ripe and sweet too, reasonable grip coupled with nice fruit, weight and length. Very good but perhaps lacks the elegance/class of above, then again it might develop better. (£85-95)
1987 (VG) – showing just a hint of age, surprisingly intense colour; full-on ripe fruit with vanilla wood lurking in the background and light ‘cheesiness’ too. Rich and earthy, lots of fruit to counter the oak with gamier finish, firm dry tannins and high-ish acidity. Needs time. (£32-38)
1991 – similar colour to above, perhaps a shade more orange; quite sweet fruit on the nose and oaky with it, but that sweet fruit is quite concentrated in the mouth although actually oxidising a bit too; quite firm and long with some noticeable acidity, but lacks elegance somehow. (£20-25)
1994 (E) – very deep and full, red/purple; quite closed aromas, a tad herby and minty with black cherry fruit. Fiery and rich, very concentrated with monster tannins, oak and acidity too and bold elongated finish. A long way to go yet! (£25-30)
1995 (E) Real de Asúa Reserva – pretty youthful looking but less intense than above, perfumed toasty vanilla oak and up-front black cherry fruit followed by more wood, extracted and fruity. Attractive now but lacks elegance (nearly 14% too). Fermented in barrel and left for 5 weeks in total, then transferred to (more) French oak for malo. (£40-50)

Contino Reservas – the first single-estate Rioja they produced, the grapes come from a 62 ha property near Laserna in the Alavesa, which is owned 50/50 by the family and CVNE. The old (11th Century) farmhouse and cellars were renovated in 1974 and a new winery fitted in situ to re-create a ‘Chateau’ concept. Vintage is usually earlier here than elsewhere in Rioja due to the "special microclimate" formed by proximity to the river and vineyard aspect; combine this with old vines (some 70 years) and low yields and the result is higher fruit extract, acidity and alcohol, we were told. The wines are matured for 2 years in a mix of French and American oak.

1974 (G) – quite orangey/brown in colour; gamey nose, lightly herbaceous too, with mature liquoricey notes; smooth and mature, a little dried out actually but there’s some red fruit there blended with dried herbs, then finishing with overly dry tannins. (n/a)
1982 – deep dark red gives way to a shade of brown/orange; pretty farmy and rustic on the nose, warm and pruney with big fruit concentration balanced by maturing earthy tones; quite high alcohol, firm tannins, fair acidity, great structure and length with lingering liquorice fruit. Fantastic, needs more time as it’s just beginning to open up. (£92-98)
1985 (G) – (1st bottle) similar colour to above but perhaps less intense and appearing a tad ‘older’, rather closed with light leathery aromas. The fruit is resiny followed by chunky tannins and grip with liquorice undertones, not sure if it has the concentration to survive those tannins.
2nd bottle is more open and gamey on the nose, it’s not as hard on the palate with richer fruit to balance those tannins; still attractively resiny and liquorice but perhaps fades quickly in the end compared to the alcohol and firmness of tannins. (£45-55)
1994 – quite youthful complexion with maybe less depth than the Imperial; rich dark cherry fruit reveals itself, quite peppery and leathery too but distinctly fruity (although with baked edge); firm but ripe tannins, hot-ish alcohol and long finish. (£25-30)
1996 (VG) – deep purple (“…smoke on the water”… sorry, couldn’t resist it), chocolatey oak and damsons on the nose; lots of sweet fruit, ripe and concentrated and also juicy with dry but ripe tannins to balance, finishing quite smoothly with reasonable length. Very nice now, maybe lacks finesse to go long term. (£18-25)
1996 Viña del Olivo Reserva (a ‘special project’ experiment using 60% French oak, 39% American and 1% Hungarian, medium-toast) – purpley black colour, pretty toasty aromas but fruit is rich underneath. Ripe and sweet, the spicy oak is softened by attractive fruit; moderate grip with quite high acidity and alcohol but good length. Lacks subtlety perhaps but style is towards in-your-face ‘modern’; some bitterness from the oak (?) on the finish (must be the 1% Hungarian!) (£40-50)

Oddball finale – 1939 (a ‘standard’ vintage apparently) white Rioja (made from Malvasia and Viura late harvested in December, re-corked in 1970 with 15% of wine from that vintage added): It’s mushroom-y, lightly oxidised, showing coconut oak and alcohol / volatile notes on the nose, quite intense with a touch of botrytis rot character too! Oxidised undertones in the mouth but also plenty of citrus fruits and dried apricots, just a bit of sweetness with quite high acidity giving back some freshness, plus actually a little wood tannin too! Weird but wonderful.

Further tit-bits of info:
CVNE farms 530 ha of vineyards making it one of the biggest vineyard owners in Rioja; the highest yields are around 6 tonnes/ha (so what? Yields huh...). A new winery was finished for the ’91 harvest at the original bodega in Haro, extending capacity to enable them to vinify separately by grape variety, vineyard and quality. Just to show off, they’re building another one at Assa close to the Ebro not far from Logroño, where production will start from this year’s vintage. Fruit from the river vineyards close to Torremontalbo are used for CVNE Reservas. Jesús Madrazo Mateo is a fifth generation descendant of the Real de Asúa brothers, joint founders of CVNE in 1879.
UK stockists include La Vigneronne (London SW7), Lay & Wheeler (Colchester), Berry Bros & Rudd, selected branches of Bottoms Up, William Morton (Glasgow), SWIG (NW3) and Nickolls & Perks (Stourbridge).


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.