It’s been a while since I’ve posted… We’ve been tasting a lot, just bogged down with a whole host of other stuff… Well, we’re back, so here goes…

Spain is one of my favorite wine producing countries – great diversity of style and flavor, very high quality standards and fantastic values abound! For the last 20 years I have sung the song of praise for Spain and many of my friends have appreciated that.

I recently picked-up two wonderful little wines from arguably the most well-known region in Spain – Rioja. Located in the Ebro valley in northern Spain, the region is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa, each with its own terrior that lends diversity of character to the blend. Rioja is one of the oldest wine making regions in Spain, officially recognized by the King of Navarre in 1102 AD.

The region is known primarily for its red wines, which make up approximately 85% of production and are largely produced from the Tempranillo grape. Other red grapes can be found in the blend, such as Graciano and Mazuelo. Rosado wines are also produced, as well as whites, the latter being a product of the Viura grape, known elsewhere in Spain as Macabeo. The style of classic, or traditional Rioja is very distinctive, often times possessing a rustic, yet elegant flavor profile, tinged with vanilla and cedar notes. The vanilla and cedar notes come from the American oak cooperage winemakers use in the aging process of the wine.

Rioja is one of two regions that holds the highest honor in the Spanish wine hierarchy – Denominación de Origen Calificada, the other being Priorato. Within this hierarchy, Rioja is categorized as thus:

 

Time in Cask

Total Time Aged

 

Red

White

Red

White

Vino Joven

None

None

1-year after vintage date

Crianza

6 months

6 months

24 months

12 months

Reserva

12 months

6 months

36 months

24 months

Gran Reserva

24 months

6 months

60 months

48 months

 The first wine is a Rioja Blanco from a very well-known, high-quality producer – Bodegas Muga. The Muga wine is barrel fermented and aged in oak to produce a smooth, creamy wine with elegant structure, but the application of wood is light-handed so the lively fruit persists on the palate. According to their web site: “Bodegas Muga is located in the historical Barrio de La Estación (railway station district) in Haro. The facilities (270,000 square foot) are two centuries old, built mainly of stone and oak. In fact, oak is paramount in the winery. There are 200 oak deposits as well as 14,000 barrels, made out of different types of oak ranging from French oak (Allier, Tronçais or Jupilles), American, Hungarian, Russian and even the small consignment of Spanish oak.”

The second wine is a Rioja Crianza from Rio Madre with the distinction of being made from 100% Graciano grapes. The wine is powerful with great structure and wonderful complexity. Rio Madre is a relatively young winery located in the Rioja Baja and growing Graciano on 60+ year-old vines. Jorge Ordonez, the world renowned wine maker is a consultant to the operation, which could account for the unbelievable intensity of the wine.

My tasting notes for the wines:

2009 Bodegas Muga Rioja Blanco Barrel Fermented – $11.99 per bottle

Lively, creamy nose with vanilla, apple and tropical hints – very pretty. Medium-bodied with firm acidity – refreshing and crisp – good balance. Tart apple and lemon palate with oak and caramel notes. Moderate length – smooth with a pretty honeyed aftertaste. Drinking well – not for aging. Great value!

 

2010 Rio Madre Rioja – $11.99 per bottle

Earthy nose with deep plum, lavender and briarwood hints. Full-bodied with firm acidity and firm, dry tannin – good balance. Dense, chewy palate with blackberry jam and stewed  fruit notes – Wow! Long finish with a smooth but tight aftertaste. Some spice, cedar and vanilla – very nice. Drinking well and should benefit from another 5 to 7 years in the bottle. Great value!

Cheers!

 

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