Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Old Rioja, Old School

A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers paged me overhead. I picked up the phone, returned the call, and was told, “Joe, we’ve got some wines to taste. Trust me, it’ll be worth your time.” Having tasted plenty of super slick, same old, cookie cutter, oaky -fruity wines with this particular co-worker, I am confident that he has a pretty good sense of my palate and what I like. So on this particular day, we were to taste older vintages of Rioja and even a few middle age Ribera del Dueros. Nothing too fancy, no big names, but that in and of itself was exciting. After all, as many Spanish wines are now exported to the US, most of these are made with the US consumer in mind, and in fact many of the most popular are essentially wines sold exclusively outside of Spain. So whenever I have the opportunity to taste something of the old guard, or a winery’s library wines which were made in the older style (lighter in mouth, higher in acidity, subtler and more layered in its flavors), I jump.

It’s also always exciting to discover traditional Rioja which is not made by La Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia, or one of the much larger, more venerable bodegas.

Don’t know too much about these bodegas, but here are some tasting notes.

1982 Suso Rioja Gran Reserva

Tobacco and sweet red cherries on the nose. A touch of marzipan as well. Nice, ripe, red fruit, with a bloody iron element as well. Fully mature. Not bad.

1985 Izadi Gran Reserva

OK, so all of these are not no names. Izadi is a well regarded bodega in Rioja, nowadays leaning new school, but still making wines that sometimes show decent balance and deep, intense, pure fruit. This particular bottle, from the excellent ’85 vintage, shows truffle, sweet cocoa powder and braised brisket on the nose. Lots of bass tones on the palate, darker fruits that really build up and expand on the palate. More cocoa. Very tasty mature Rioja here.

1991 Señorio de Ulia Rioja Gran Rerserva

My co-worker thought this a bit tired, but I heartily disagree. Very savory, spicy and meaty aromas led to a similarly savory, spicy and meaty palate. Good acidity and terrific balance.

1995 Señorio de Ulia Reserva

Another winner from this bodega. Similar sense of balance, spicy savor, and strong acid backbone. Persistent as well.

1999 Abadia de San Quince Ribera del Duero Crianza
Shy dark fruit on the nose, but a lot more interesting on the palate. Black currants, minerals, very tasty. I’m a firm believer that1999 is an underrated vintage in Rioja, could it be the same in Ribera as well?

1999 Penalosa Ribera del Duero Crianza

Not as tasty as the wine above. More baked, not so fresh, even a touch lactic, aromas. Clearly dying on the palate.

It's always an education tasting more mature vintages. Old wines, bring 'em on, that's what I say....


Steve L. said...

What I know about Rioja isn't very much. At all. So I'm in no position to proclaim an example as typical, but I am qualified to accord one my personal seal of tastiness. This one, $16 at Terroir, merits that seal: 2007 Senorio de P. Pecina Rioja Cosecha.

Joe Manekin said...

Steve -

Funny you mention that. This will be one of my Thanksgiving reds, along with a '99 Campillo Rioja Reserva, '06 Descombes Brouilly and '06 Jean Tardy Bourgogne Passetoutgrain. Pecina's wines are very solid across the board, more classical (and typical) in style for their crianzas, reservas and gran reservas, though their cosecha wine you enjoyed at Terroir is very unusual for a Rioja 'joven' wine. Not typical in that it's not boring and tastes great.