Explorer Pack #10: Rioja
Beneath the Sierra Cantabria mountain range 165,000 acres of vineyard land is dedicated to the production of Rioja Blanco, Tinto and Rosado. For the red wines the noble Tempranillo varietal is augmented by Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) while for whites, Viura is the most important cultivar. In the case of Rioja Rosado, all of the above grapes find their way into the discussion. The subregions of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are known best for their age worthy renditions of Tempranillo, while Rioja Baja is well regarded for the Garnacha varietal. Historically, barrel ageing has been very important in the zone, with many wines settling into the various ageing categories of Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva. As the names imply, each designation requires additional refinement in bottle and/or barrel.
Explorer pack #10 offers an informative introduction to the wines of Rioja. The wines are in stock and your 6pk awaits at $150 per set.
The Saenz de Samaniego family has been producing wine in the Rioja Alavesa region since the 16th century. In 2002 the current generation renovated and modernized the Ostatu winery and began to explore the potential of their very old vineyards. Ostatu Blanco is made in a very contemporary style, the Viura (85%) and Malvasia (15%) are fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel. The wine is released as soon as possible and retains a freshness and vibrancy that set it apart from many of its peers.
Rioja Blanco Monopole Clasico
Sourced from a single vineyard site planted mostly to Viura, CVNE Monopole Clasico is a very traditional style of Rioja Blanco, with the newly fermented wine left to rest on the lees for 8 months or more. Rich and with a slightly waxy texture, this is a complex white that offers ripe orchard fruit aromas and flavors. A wine for the table, it matches well with white fish dishes and partners well with appetizer plates that feature hard cheeses and nuts.
Composed of 70% Tempranillo, 27% Garnacha and 3% Viura, Ostatu Rosado is sourced from high elevation, old-vine vineyards in Rioja Alavesa. Ostatu Rosado is fermented in stainless steel using only native yeasts. This is a modern style of Rioja Rosado with an emphasis on bright fruit and refreshing acid.
Youthful and fruity, the 2019 Bhilar Joven is created from 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and 5% Viura. Bhilar Tinto is a single vineyard wine aged for 18 months in a combination of 225L and 500L barrels. Well integrated oak spice mingles with pleasingly ripe berry aromas before revealing a rich, generous palate. A modern style of Rioja, though not in the sense of being heavy on new oak, the Bhilar is fruit focused and expressive.
2016 La Rioja Alta
Vina Alberdi Reserva
One of the most recognized and acclaimed producers in Rioja, La Rioja Alta’s largest production is their Vina Alberdi Reserva. 100% Tempranillo vines planted in chalk and clay are harvested by hand before being aged for one year in new American oak and an additional year in four year-old barrels. This is a savory, resolved style of Rioja, ready to drink today and destined to hold and evolve subtly over the next 5 – 7 years..
2008 Lopez de Heredia
Vina Tondonia Tinto Reserva
Lopez de Heredia produces some of the most traditional and unique examples of Rioja one can find. The Vina Tondonia Tinto is sourced from 100% estate vineyards and is composed of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo. Aromas of cedar and spice are reminiscent of a fine older Bordeaux, while the elegant palate shows a bit like a mature red Burgundy. Always released ready to drink, there is no doubt bottles like this 2008 will live and provide pleasure for many more years.