Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rioja: An Untapped Resource

So you want aged wine, direct from a winery’s cellar, without paying an arm and a leg? The answer is easy--it’s Rioja. Don’t get me wrong; some of this depends on your idea of relative value, but I assure you that buying a bottle of 20 year-old Rioja for $75 - $100 is one of the best values in the world of wine. And it doesn’t end there. Great bottles of aged Rioja can be had for a pittance around the country.

Rioja is a Spanish wine made from the Tempranillo grape and aged in American oak, giving it a healthy dose of wood tannin and vanilla character in its youth. It can take decades for this character to integrate and result into a perfectly aged bottle of wine. However, when it does emerge from that overly oaked and tannic state, the results are marvelous. These are gorgeous wines with layers of intense aromas and depth of flavor that most of us wait decades for while aging wines in our cellars. Yet you can find them upon release, perfectly stored and ready for a short decant, and an evening of enjoyment.

Below are just a few wines tasted at a recent event; but the fact is, I’ve loved aged Rioja for years now. All are worth searching for.

On to the tasting notes:

1994 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Reserva Ygay – The nose showed intense ripe cherry with leather, dark wood tones and earth. On the palate, it was still youthful with structure partly masking its red berry fruit. The finish showed dried flowers and strawberry, yet remained tight, showing that this wine still needs time. (89 points)

1994 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva – The nose showed dark tones of red fruits, wood, tobacco, undergrowth and earth. On the palate, it was soft and ripe with lush red fruits and mulled spices. The finish was long with red berry fruit dancing on the palate. (91 points)

1994 Bodegas y Viñedos Labastida Rioja Manuel Quintano Reserva – The nose was woodsy, with berries, herbs and dark wood tones. On the palate, it was open and plush, showing red fruits, leather, citrus and plum. The finish was long and as smooth as silk with earthy red berries and dried spices. This ’94 Reserva gave me a lot of hope for the ’04 I had tasted earlier. (92 points)

1994 Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea – The nose was enticing with vibrant dark berries and cherry notes, spice and moist wood. On the palate, it showed soothing textures with soft red fruits, herbal tea, dried inner floral tones and earth. The finish was long and satisfying as its bouquet of dried flowers wafted up to through the senses and dark berry notes coated the palate. (93 points)

1985 Bodegas Valdemar (Martinez Bujanda) Rioja Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva –- The nose was rich and dark, rooted in the earth yet sweet and spicy with notes of brown sugar, vibrant cherry, leather and floral tones. On the palate, it was soft like silk, drawing you in to reveal ripe red fruits, earth and hints of citrus and spice, all while seeming impossibly young. The finish was long and fresh, showing tobacco and wood with sweet cherry and milk chocolate. (95 points)

** The best part about this tasting were the people I enjoyed it with. This Rioja tasting was hosted by Snooth for their "People's Voice Wine Awards". My tasting companions were made up of some of the best wine bloggers from around the country. Below are links to their impressions from this exciting lineup of wines. Enjoy!

Benito's Wine Reviews: Snooth PVA: Wines of Rioja

Vinesleuth "Uncorked": What is Rioja Wine?

Vindulge: Cellar Worthy Rioja


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