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  • Rioja 10 x 10 tasting: a snapshot of Spain’s fine wine region

    Diversity was the watchword as unoaked whites, Rosados, Crianzas, some value Gran Reservas and fascinating rediscovered varieties made Rioja 10 x 10 an unmissable tasting in London yesterday. If you didn’t manage to get there The Buyer did and has the lowdown on which wines to keep your eye on and consider for your list.

    Diversity was the watchword as unoaked whites, Rosados, Crianzas, some value Gran Reservas and fascinating rediscovered varieties made Rioja 10 x 10 an unmissable tasting in London yesterday. If you didn’t manage to get there The Buyer did and has the lowdown on which wines to keep your eye on and consider for your list.

    mm By October 12, 2016
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    Rioja 10 x 10, the annual generics tasting held this year at Banking Hall in central London, delivered another impressive range of reds, whites and rosados from Spain’s largest fine wine region.

    Rioja 10 x 10
    Banking Hall, London at the start of the Rioja 10 x 10 tasting

    Unoaked whites and rosados really shone at Rioja 10 x 10, along with a good bunch of value-drive Crianzas. The brilliant 2010 has cast a halo over vintages that followed, with some finding the shadow a difficult contrast.

    Also interesting was the number of new and rediscovered varieties that shows diversification is alive and well in the region.

    The one puzzling thing, which wine buyers talked about, was the pricing. There were wines priced £50-80 alongside ones £15-20 in the same category that didn’t seem to justify the difference in price.

    Unoaked Whites

    This category has become far more interesting in recent years thanks to the relaxation of the DOC in allowing six new varieties into the region. Where unoaked whites usually meant Viura and Malvasia (nothing wrong with them as the tangerine-flavoured Beronia Viura 2015 proved), now they can include Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Blanca amongst others.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    Apart from the Beronia, I liked two Tempranillo Blancos – Tuercebotas 2015 from Bodegas Del Medievo which had savoury, grassy notes, a lot of texture and an interesting slightly sour palate. Also Tempranillo Blanco 2015 from Fincas de Azabache which had similar texture and grip and a grassy, floral nose.

    Viura blended with Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Blanca made Vivanco Blanco 2015 from Bodegas Vivanco a little star and with an RRP of £7, a value one at that

    Oaked Whites

    I am not a fan of heavily-oaked white Rioja and here I felt price point really did make a difference. A couple of sommeliers I talked with had picked out Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2015 from Bodegas Luis Canas as a value wine in this category (in fact Canas’ range was reliable and well priced throughout).

    Rioja 10 x 10

    For me I would pay the extra and go for Allende Blanco 2012 from Finca Allende which was a Viura/ Malvasia blend (5% of the latter) that had oak but much better integrated and not smelling like disinfectant. Great texture, balance, rounded flavours but it is three times the price of the Canas.

    I also liked Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2014 from Finca Nueva that was 100% Viura – also with more refined use of oak and better balance (RRP £15.99)

    Rioja 10 x 10

    Rosado

    There were many acceptable Rosados on show this year using Garnacha and Tempranillo. Best of the lower priced was Faustino V Rosado 2015 from Bodegas Faustino. I do think though that Rioja has got a lot to do to compete against Navarre in the lower end of the spectrum.

    The wines that really shone were stunning BUT and it’s a big but, they were all priced very high. If you think you can elevate Rosé to a new price point then read on otherwise skip this next bit.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    Three Rosados that were superb were:

    Livius Roasado 2014 from Bodegas Alvia that was a punchy £14% 100% Garnacha that had the most inviting nose imagineable. Wonderfully complex, real structure to the wine and heat coming through the freshness. (RRP £23).

    Lalomba Rosé 2015 from Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, also a 100% Garnacha was delicious with real depth of flavour and great structure.

    Primer Rosé 2015 from Marqués du Murrieta that was a 100% Mazuelo that was one of the best Rosés I have tried all year. It had a nose of watermelon and rose and was complex and textured on the tongue. RRP £30 though. I said it was a big but!

    Crianza

    An important category for the on-trade with so much value to be found here.

    Two of the best value were Luis Canas Crianza 2013 from Bodegas Luis Canas and Taron Crianza 2012 from Bodegas Taron that were attractive on the nose but with a grip that demands sauce or sinew (£8-9.50 RRP).

    Rioja 10 x 10

    Two crowd pleaser blends were Beronia Crianza 2103 from Bodegas Beronia and Lacriums 2012 from Bodegas Sendero Royal that used three and four grapes in their respective blends and both had attractive fruity noses, lots of flavour and a well-rounded unchallenging mouthfeel and palate.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    My favourite was the La Montesa 2013 from Bodegas Palacios Remondo that was a Garnacha dominant blend with a beautifully rich camphor-edged nose, generous amounts of red fruit and a great grip on the finish.

    Many sommeliers were going for the funky-nosed Crianza 1999 from Bodegas Urbina that was Tempranillo and splashes of Graciano and Mazuelo and was amazing value for such an old wine (£16.50).

    This year the Reserva category was split between 2009 and earlier and 2010 and later.

    Reserva 2009 and earlier

    Rioja is changing as a region and nowhere was this more apparent than between the lush modern styles with red fruit and citrus notes and the traditional styles of wood and truffle.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    Two wines jumped out and it was here that the price really changed a lot!

    Don Jacobo 2009 from Bodegas Corral was a classic blend with a good concentration of wood and tannin and enough fruit to cope (£12.53 RRP) and Reserva from Bodegas Remirez de Ganuza 2008 that was clearly the best wine on the table with many layers of complexity, but at £85? It wasn’t just me left scratching my head.

     Reserva 2010 and Later

     2010 dominated this table with half of the wines on show from this landmark vintage, the rest from 2012 which was better than 2011.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    For me one wine stood out neck and shoulder above the rest was the more modern style blended Contino Reserva 2010 from Vinedos del Contino that had the lot – nose, depth of fruit, structure. Delicious.

    Also from 2011 was Reserva from Bodegas Altanza that was 100% Tempranillo and had the most inviting nose.

    I admired, rather than liked, the Marques de Caceres Gaudium 2012 from Marques de Caceres which was in the Tyson Fury category, preferring the middleweight Finca de Los Arandinos Reserva from Finca de Los Arandinos at half the price.

    Gran Reserva

    A sign of how times are changing in Rioja was that only two of the wines in this category contained Garnacha – there were six of the 10 in the (more modern) Crianza category.

    Lots to enjoy you can imagine from a vintage span of 1996-2010.

    Rioja 10 x 10

    My pick of the table was the Marqués de Caceres Gran Reserva 2010 from Marqués de Caceres that was a slightly more modern style but was just layers of juicy fruit and the most amazing nose.

    I also really enjoyed the more traditional 100% Tempranillo Lealtanza Gran Reserva 2008 from Bodegas Altanza and the Valserrano Gran Reserva 2010 from Vinedos Y Bodegas de la Marquesa.

    It wasn’t the best wine on the table but spare a thought for the Vina Olagosa 2005 from Bodegas Perica that was all chocolate, black fruit and tar on the palate, an attractive nose and dig this – an RRP of £6.80!

    The rest of the tasting was made up of wines that the critics had selected as their favourites, Non-Tempranillo reds that included an interesting mix of Gracianos, Maturana Tintas, Mazuelos and Garnachas. There was a mix of real curates eggs here as you can imagine and hard to do justice within the context of this article. Suffice to say that The Buyer will be feeding the good ones out in future pieces as and when when.

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