Wine Experience of the Week – In the Rioja

I ventured across the border into Spain recently. I visited the Rioja region on the way back to Portugal. I was not sure what to expect of the region. I hoped it would not have turned into the same vibe as other great wine regions I have visited – that have invested more in tourist ventures than their wine making. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised! Some of the wineries are geared up for tourism, which is fine as long as it isn’t over the top. However, the small towns dotted around the stunning valley are still the same sleepy villages they have been for centuries.

So this week’s Wine Experience of the Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial. As with many places in the world 2001 was an exceptional year for wine making. This allowed the winery to make a Reserva. Wines classified as Reserva’s are not made every year, it is only in exceptional years when it is possible for wineries to produce them. When you see that
wineries must age the wine in oak for at least 1 year and another year bottle aging at the cellar – or bodega – to have the word Reserva on the label, you can see why it is only in exceptional years this time and effort is worth it. This wine has been aged 36 months in American oak and bottle aged for a minimum of another 3 years.

It is made of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Granacha, the 2 traditional grapes of the region. It has aromas of spice, vanilla and dried fruits and a lovely cherry red colour. The taste is very well balanced. The tannins are very refined and finish leaves you with a touch of spice, which makes it great to match with food. The local pintxos (tapas) are always a great companion to this wine, but also a light lamb dish would also match this wine perfectly. At €15 from the winery, it was very good value too! If you see it at your local wine shop, give it a try.

All in all, I was quite impressed by the region in my very short time there. It was harvest time and many of the wineries had limited visiting times, so I was not able to visit as many places as I would have liked. It gives me a good reason to go back and visit again though! Next time I will schedule a few days and plan out the wineries I wish to visit before I set off. This is highly recommended in any region you visit, I have often been lucky when visiting many wine regions un-prepared, but it is always good to make a few calls or at least a bit of web surfing beforehand.

By Chris Metcalfe

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