One of London's oldest and most famous wine merchants held a tasting on Spanish wines this week.
I went along to try some of the wines.
La Rioja Alta
Ardanza Reserva Especial 2001 so that was my first stop.
First sniff was very reassuring. Classic old school Rioja nose, old wood and aged sweet fruit. This was a great indicator of what it would deliver on the palate. Very drinkable and rounded, no tart acidity or rough edges. A completely ready to drink classic Rioja. Really delicious. Much more evolved than my previous taste of this but much more to my liking. (92)
La Rioja Alta 904 1998
Not the greatest vintage but my this is a stonking good wine. Traditional nose of old oak, wood, sweet fruit, spice, hint of citrus peel.
In the mouth it's very smooth, some of that traditional LRA acidity that keeps it fresh. Lovely. Buy. (93)
La Rioja Alta 890 1995
A much better vintage than the 904 above but somehow not as pleasant right now.
I had this two years ago and it was delicious, lacking the acidity I sometimes find offputting in LRA. Tonight I thought it was just a touch too woody and lacking a bit of verve. It lacked the richness and spicy notes of the 904. Still a good wine but not as impressive on this showing (91+)
The winery had brought along some older vintages.
La Rioja Alta 904 1982
I think this was one of the first old Riojas I ever drank.
Lovely tawny colour with some orange in the core. Orange peel and caramel on the nose. Lovely pure and elegant on the palate. Really light and fine. Excellent . (96)
La Rioja Alta 890 1981
The battle between 81 and 82. Most people seem to have come to the conclusion that 81 has overtaken 82 as the better vintage. That may well be so but for the second time this evening the 904 has the beating of its big brother. Just. I think what I prefer is the wine rather than the vintage. The 890 is a lovely wine with a very similar profile to the 904. The same lovely elegant and fine palate with camphor, spice and orange peel on the nose. The kind of wine you want to drink a bottle of not just a glass. (94)
Next table was Muga and also on the must try list. First up
Muga Reserva 2008 This was a sudden gear change and to be fair suffered having to follow some truly classic wines.
Normally quite a traditional profile on this but, perhaps following the LRA's, this seems a lot more brash than usual. Lots of black fruit and oak burst from the glass. On the palate its still quite young and with some fairly tough tannins. A challenging vintage and a wine in a tough place right now. (88+)
Muga Prado Enea 2004
Following on from the excellent 2001 I have found this on previous occasions to be less charming than the 01. However this is really hitting its stride. Lovely complex nose, spice and mineral. Black fruit and old oak. On tha palate it is smooth and rounded and none of the heat I felt before. Lovely wine.
Muga Torre Muga 2006
This is a big wine. Intense fruity nose, black fruit, almost jammy in its intensity. Some caramel on the nose also. Drying tannins on the finish. Needs time. Come back in 5 and 10 years. Previous vintages show this will change its profile and develop nicely. (91+)
Muga raided the cellar as well.
Prado Enea 1995
Typical traditional aged Rioja nose (but with a slight whiff of musty cork- not long opened) All the usual olfactory suspects. Nice aged sweet fruit behind asian spice and orange peel. Fine on the palate. Lovely. Has 10% white Viura. (93)
On the next table another favourite....
I had tried the Contino reserva 2007 last weekend and was impressed that it was drinking so well already. On the table was
Contino reserva 2005 At a winemaker dinner I organised a few years ago featuring the Contino range this wine stood out as a very approachable easy drinking wine. I've always preferred it to the 04 (though in the long haul 04 might be the better wine)
This is still showing very well. It hasn't shut down. Very lively fruity nose. A modern wine but not an oak monster. There is nice complexity in the nose and palate, blind I'd have thought Olivo.
Lovely wine with years ahead of it.Wait if you want a more traditional profile. (91-93)
Contino Gran Reserva 2005
This was poured from magnum which is the only format it's bottled in. I always feel that's a mistake as I want to see this wine develop in my lifetime! and because I feel few people get to taste it and write about it, you see very few notes on Contino's GR.
This is a GRAN RESERVA but doesn't taste like the traditional GR's.
It undergoes malolactic in new 225 litre barrels where it spends its first year and is then transferred into progressively older barrels in its second and third years. By year three it ages in wood up to 5 years old.
Right now it is a a very charming wine. Sweet fruit with a hint of caramel and lovely oak treatment. It comes across as smooth and voluptuous. A crowd pleaser.
Very supple, lovely texture in the mouth. It's 70% Tempranillo and equal portions of Graciano and Garnacha which give it its lovely perfumed nose and sexy sweet fruit. (Buy) (93-94)
The Vina del Olivo 2007 is a more modern styled wine.
I have some in my cellar so this was a speed taste to see where it is right now. Unsurprisingly, not ready. Black coloured with a purple robe. Big wine with a lovely menthol spicy lift on the nose.
Lopez de Heredia
They were showing three wnes so quite a reduced range. I had a quick taste of Tondonia Reserva 2001 exactly what you would expect. Lovely traditional profile and more restrained on the palate than previous tastes. (92)
Then on to Tondonia Gran Reserva 1994 I thought this smelled a touch reduced. Garnet coloured with some bricking at rim. Not as expressive on the nose as the LRA or Prado Enea.Palate was much as expected.
This didn't wow me (worringly as I have some in the cellar) but I think it was just opened and might not have been the best bottle. Must re-try.
Tondonai Blanco Reserva 1996
A winery that certainly follows its own path. No 94 or 95 straight from the 93 to the 96.
Wow. This caught me off guard. What an amazing nose. Hints of honey and boiled sweets, citrus fruit. Where's the oxidative tondonia?? Beguiling nose, not what I was expecting. On the palate it's wonderful with the usual lanolin and waxy mouthfeel supported by some, dare I say it, fruit. Really good. (94+)
I was pressed for time so I had a quick taste of some other wines.
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2007
Young and oaky. At this stage just a fruity Ribera. Blind I'd dismiss it. Not very impressive. A tough vintage. Perhaps with time?
Not a patch on the fantastic 2005.
Castillo Ygay Reserva Especial 2004
Thought I wouldn't like this (reports of a change in style) but I thought it was very drinkable. Old oak, aged sweet fruit, pleasant drinking. Perhaps a touch soft.
Artadi El Pison 2011
Bloody hell. This screams 100 points. As I can't afford it I wanted to scoff at its hedonistic vulgarity but I couldn't. Yes it's big, well huge in fact, but this tastes really great. I can still taste it in fact.
I asked the winemaker when he thought this would be drinking at his optimum. To his credit he said 20years, that's what he's aiming at. But it should be approachable from 10 to 15 he said.
Congratulations, very nice taste you have been tasting some of the best wines of Rioja, and yea Im living here only thre months and I realiced London is a fantastic place to taste all kind of wines.
have you tasted Ardanza 2004? If so, and despite the obvious differences among vintages, do you find a change of style?
Regarding the white Tondonia, well, I'm far of being an expert but I don't feel oxidative touches when drank young like this. I use to find them so young, rude; nervous and with a sort of red-wine-texture... and maybe that diverts me of feeling oxidative hints :-?
no I haven't tried the 04 Ardanza but perhaps you have been following our discussion about the variation among bottles of the 2001. I'm quite confused by that situation.
I wasn't aware of rumours of a change of style. I hope that isn't the case.
I have tried earlier white Tondonias on release but this one seemed different.
I'm sure it will evolve like previous vintages but this one surprised me. I liked it a lot and am keen to try another bottle soon.
The 'problem' with these tastings is that you only have a sip to make a decision on. I'd have liked the ability to go back and retaste.
I agree with you! but you will need plenty of time!
Hello RayQ,my name is Manu,from Bodegas D Luis R,in Rioja Alavesa.We are interested in taking part and introducing our wines in UK.Do you have any information about the most important events that take place in UK where we could present our wines?
Thank you very much