Most of us don’t get the opportunity of tasting and enjoying a wide range of wines all the time. My diet and that of SWMBO is focussed on local fare, and that’s pretty good and exciting in itself. What we’d like to try more often are the classics and the greats of the world, but the cost is prohibitive and the availability is lacking. Whenever we’re grace by the presence of The Chairman, we make an effort to source something classical, but often with a difference. We don’t mind spending a bit of dosh, as he’s a man who is worth it! But if there are wines that happen to be more accessible, then all the better.
I do come across Rioja every now and then, and I wish I could do more. The historical connection with Bordeaux is still evident in the elegantly proportioned, well-structured top-end Reservas and Gran Reservas, but the wines are unique in richness, warmth and sweet ‘n savoury fruit and oak. And across the board, and up and down the tiers, they still offer great value. Of course there are the super-premium ‘look-at-me’ wines that are exorbitant in price, but you can miss them out and not lose anything in the appreciation of the genre. Tasting two rather good examples, I know I should be revelling in Rioja.
Coming up first was the 2005 Marques de Murietta ‘Castillo Ygay’ Rioja Gran Reserva, a vigorous and robust wine with up-front flavours, still with plenty of black fruits, the sweetness appealing, and working with the oak. The extraction is serious here, but in an open way. This had grunt and power, and modern in its approach, while retaining all that Rioja stands for. I felt that anyone from around the world would instantly recognise it for what it was. It’s a Gran Reserva for its fruit richness that has enabled plenty of extract, as well as lavish oaking, and it has captured power. Delicious stuff that will drink well over a decade.
Then the 2004 CVNE ‘Imperial’ Rioja Gran Reserva. Highly touted as a ‘Wine of the Year’ for an influential American wine magazine, and seemingly more evolved in character with earth and dried herb flavours. Remarkably elegant too, being more slender than the Murietta. But then, the tannin extraction kicks in and builds and builds, becoming more refined in time. As one sipped on this, the concentration and detail grew. This is your classic claret structure and style. The Rioja with its red Tempranillo fruits and, sweet and savoury oak still there, but tightly bound within its grip. Still with fruit balance, this will go the decade plus.I must go out and buy some more…