This week we had our final tasting for the year before taking apart the tasting area to make room for silly season shenanigans. The tasting was the last, but also a first for us. For some reason, we’ve never gotten around to putting together a line up of top flight Rioja before and this tasting left us wondering why we hadn’t done it sooner.
It was fascinating to compare the wines from the various producers. There were clear stylistic differences giving a great overview of the state of Rioja wines today, demonstrating the modern, the traditional and everything in between!
First up were a pair of young wines from Artadi. The 2009 Viñas de Gain was a fresh, juicy and modern style. Medium-bodied with nice acidity. The 2009 ‘Valdegines’ is one of Artadi’s three new single-vineyard Rioja bottlings. ’09 is the first vintage of this wine, which was previously blended into the old vine cuvee, Pagos Viejos. A step up in intensity, with a slightly warmer, riper impression, but still possessing nice fresh acidity. Both the Artadi’s demonstrated the clean, modern style they helped to spearhead.
We moved on to three wines from Bodegas Muga who are known for a more traditional style next, starting with their 2006 Rioja Reserva ‘Selección Especial’. This had a more intense nose than the Artadi, with perhaps a bit more oak evident. A weightier and more savoury wine, quite dense and serious with bigger tannins on the finish. Moving on to the 2006 ‘Torre Muga’ was another jump up in ripeness and weight. Big tannins were balanced out by equally big fruit, creating a full-bodied, soft impression. This is Muga’s big, modern, blockbuster and it was indeed a big, hefty wine. Last of the Muga’s was the 2004 Gran Reserva ‘Prado Enea’. A really striking contrast, this was a much more traditional style. Mellower, with a lovely savoury nose with hints of strawberries and floral notes. Subtle oak. This was deliciously silky and drinking just perfectly now.
Next up was the 2005 Rioja Reserva from Remirez de Ganuza. A great balance of old and new styles here, this was full-bodied and ripe but with a great sense of elegance and real complexity. Soft, smooth tannins led to a very long finish. One of the stars of the tasting. Remirez de Ganuza is a real perfectionist estate, going so far as to only use the riper top half or ‘shoulders’) of the grape bunches in their wines – a somewhat costly practice which no doubt goes some way to explain the costs of the wines!
To finish off we tried a pair of wines from one of Rioja’s most established producers, Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE), or Cune, as it’s often called. like the ‘Prado Enea’, these two were again a swing towards a lighter, mellower style. The 2005 CVNE Rioja Gran Reserva ‘Viña Real’ was gentle, smooth and rounded from it’s extended aging in oak cask and bottle. Nicely balanced and drinking really well now. The 1999 CVNE Gran Reserva ‘Imperial’ had a beautiful savoury nose and was equally soft, creamy and smooth. Quite delicious and very easy drinking.
It was a real treat to try such a range of high quality wines from one of Spain’s most established, but also most exciting wine regions. Caro’s imports a number of wines from Rioja so it’s a real wonder we hadn’t done a tasting like this before. Now that we have done the first, it certainly won’t be the last!