More Rioja: Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva #VPIWF

Rioja is one of the well-known wine regions in Spain, divided into 3 sub-regions, Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja, with each region having slightly different climates and producing different styles of wines.

These 3 regions, and other regions in Spain use these designations for certain levels of quality and aging of their wines. I’d like to cover the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva levels/styles.  Wines labeled Crianza must be aged at least two years, one of them in barrel. Reserva wines must be aged for a minimum of three years, one of them in barrel. Gran Reserva wines must be aged at least five years, with two of them spent in barrel. In some cases the wines are left even longer in the barrel before being bottled and sold in your local bottle shop.  Riojas can be aged in either French or American oak barrels.

These classes of wines can also be broken down by style: classical vs modern.  The Classical style is characterised by longer aging in older barrels, often American oak. They are elegant, structured wines and often have a slight oxidized character. Their fruit tends to be subdued, lean and elegant, an effect of the long oak aging.  Modern style Riojas have shorter aging times in newer oak, often in French oak or a mixture of French and American oak. They are fruit driven wines, with support by the oak structure. Though they are fruit driven, they still retain elegance and balanced acidity. Both styles have their place in your cellar.

There are a wide range of Spanish wines at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.  Although I don’t have the list of wines and wineries, I am sure that there will be a mix of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva wines, as well as classical and modern styles. If they are attending, I would say to check out the tables from Bodegas Ysios, Marques de Riscal, Bodegas Muga, Marques de Murrieta, Miquel Merino, Vina Real, Bodegas Baigorri, and Bodegas Martinez Corta.

Enjoy!

Where is Rioja and What Wines Can I Taste?

SPAIN WINE MAP FROM http://picsicio.eu/keyword/spanish%20wine%20region/Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C. Qualified designation of origin) wine region named after La Rioja, in Spain.  The Rioja DOC is inland in the northern part of Spain and has a very warm continental climate.  The area is sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado).  The most common red grape variety for Rioja is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo.  You can get a single varietal Tempranillo wine, or blends with Tempranillo.  Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word, “temprano”, which means early.  This is an early ripening grape and works well in cooler climates. (thanks to Wikipaedia for this background info.)

Tempranillo has flavours and aromas of plum and strawberries to tobacco, cedar, vanilla, leather and herbs.  It also can have a bit of a rustic edge to it.  It produces a medium bodied wine with medium tannins, and pairs well with stews and grilled meat.

Garnacha, in France it is known as Grenache, is another popular red grape.  It has fruity flavours, predominantly strawberry, coupled with a fiery spiciness. Sometimes you get a butterscotch flavour from garnacha.

On the white wine side, Viura is the prominent grape (aka Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca.

It has been common for some bodegas to age their red wines for more years than other countries (e.g. 15-20) years or even more before their release.  There are different levels of aging/quality for Rioja wines:

  • Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel.
  • Crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
  • Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
  • Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.

Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.

Doing a quick check at the www.everythingwine.ca website, I located the following Rioja wines:

  • J.G. Carrion Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 2001 750 mL
  • Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Rioja 750 mL
  • Faustino V Reserva Rioja 750ml
  • Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 750 mL
  • Marques de Vitoria Ecco organic Rioja 750ml
  • Muga Rioja Reserva Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Montebuena Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Muga Torre Rioja 2004 750ml
  • Roda Rioja Red Blend 750 mL
  • Marques de Caceres Rose Rioja (maybe the most popular winery)
  • Ostatu Crianza Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
  • Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja 750 mL
  • Ramon Bilbao Crianza Cruz de Alba Tempranillo 750ml
  • Artadi Pagos Viejos Tempranillo 750 mL

and many more.  There were 29 in total.  The above wines range in price from $13 to $113 (the first wine in the list is the least expensive and the last in the list is the most expensive. Increasing price as you go down the list).

I really enjoy Spanish wines and I can find them at quite good price points.  Try a tempranillo if you have not enjoyed wine from this grape before.  Also, Muga makes an excellent Rose if you can find it.

There are other wine regions to discover in Spain.  In future blog articles I will be covering Jerez (sherry region), Ribera del Duero and other areas in Spain.  Salud!

Chile Day 10 – Casa Lapostolle and Viu Manent

Chile day 10 – Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta and Viu Manent. My first stop this morning was with Casa Lapostolle in their Clos Apalta winery. This winery was specially designed for their flagship wine “Clos Apalta”. This is a Bordeaux blend with Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. The winery is dedicated to organic and biodynamic vineyard practices (which I enjoy and can note that it really does make a difference in your glass), and produces some very nice wines. The Apalta region is the premium red region in Colchagua and I believe in all of Chile. In keeping with my brevity in my blog while I am on the road, I will review one white and one red wine for Casa Lapostolle, with full tasting notes when I am back in Vancouver. For the white, I enjoyed the Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from the Rapel Valley. It had varied aromas of citrus, pineapple and apple. On the palate there was good acidity with pineapple flavour and medium length. This is the FIRST year that Casa Lapostolle has used a screw cap on this wine or any of their other wines. An elegant wine which would pair nicely with seafood. For the reds, I must talk about their Clos Apalta Limited Release 2007. I am the FIRST person in media for North America to try this vintage of Clos Apalta and feel very privileged. This wine spends it’s first year aging in all new French oak barrels with each varietal in it’s own barrel. In year 2, the varietals (Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot) are blended and put back in the same barrels and aged for another year. After 2 years in barrel, the wine is bottled and then the bottle is kept in storage for a year before release. The 2007 vintage was very deep purple coloured in the glass. It had vanilla and sweet black fruit on the nose. On the palate there was vanilla, sweet black fruit, red cherries, cloves, and cinnamon flavours. The flavours came out more as I swirled the wine in my glass exposing the wine to oxygen. It would be interesting if time permitted to try this wine after one hour, four hours and 24 hours to see how the wine’s aromas and flavours change. To get the full effect of the wine please decant it. The wine had a nice round mouth feel with a balance of medium tannins. It finished dry with cherry and vanilla flavours lingering on the palate for a long time.

After visiting Casa Lapostolle, my next stop for the day was the Viu Manent winery, just a short drive away. I was given a short tour of the winery, with an opportunity for a barrel sample of a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by a horse drawn carriage ride through the vineyard. Malbec plays a very big part of the wines at Viu Manent with more being planted around their winery. I have enjoyed their Reserva Malbec in the past at tastings I have held with the South World Wine Society in Vancouver. It is interesting to see how they are producing Malbec very successfully, while this is the signature grape of Argentina. I sampled their Viu Manent Reserva Chardonnay 2008 from the Casablanca Valley. The wine has been released for almost a year. I was told that through the year in the bottle the wine has changed with the level of acidity decreasing, leaving the wine with an off-dry level of sweetness. This wine spent 6 months in oak barrels and as deep yellow in colour. It had a vanilla, apple, sweet and creamy nose. On the palate there was more of the vanilla, apple and creaminess. It was very soft and round in my mouth but also had a slight spiciness. For the red wine, I enjoyed the Reserva Carmenere 2008 from the Colchagua Valley. Deep purple colour in the glass. Vanilla, black fruits and a slight hint of capsicum on the nose. It was quite round in the mouth, with vanilla and ripe black fruit flavours, and a peppery finish.

I have found through discussions with various Chilean winemakers on this trip that Carmenere does tend to have a peppery finish, which is quite nice. The wine makers also suggest paring a Carmenere with spicy asian foods (e.g. Thai, Indian) as well as Mexican food.

That is all from the Colchagua Valley, Tomorrow is back to Santiago. Saludos!

Chile Day 4 – Casas del Bosque

Chile day 4. Today was my first day of official wine tasting at a winery here in Chile. My visit was to the Casas del Bosque winery. It is about a 1.5 hr ride from Santiago to Casas del Bosque. We left with semi-sunny skies around Santiago until we passed through a tunnel that on the other side was the start of the Casablanca Valley. We immediately hit the coastal fog which is famous for the valley. I met with a very informative lady named Judith Ramirez Aquirre. Judith took me through some of the vines surrounding the winery. As it is spring here in Chile, there are no berries yet. The vines have started to sprout leaves and some have the buds for the grapes which have yet to bloom. Grape vines i am told bloom in November in Chile. That there are buds now is surprising to the people at the winery. They mentioned that it was the Pinot Noir vines that were 3 weeks advanced. There was also chardonnay and sauvignon blanc vines around which were still with very small leaves forming. After walking through the vines, we viewed the crushing area, the stainless steel fermentation vats, the oak barrel aging room, and the bottling line, before we moved to the Tasting Room. Judith led me through a tasting of 8 wines. We started with Sauvignon Blanc, then to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend. All the grapes are from the Casablanca Valley, except for the Cab, which was from the Rapel Valley. Although I do not have time to go through all the wines today, I’ll point out a few, and then when i’m back in Canada, i’ll provide all my tasting notes on www.mywinepal.com. One wine of note was the 2009 Casas del Bosque Sauvignon Blanc Reserva (unbelievable being a 2009 vintage, while the Okanagan is still harvesting grapes). This is made very much in a New World (New Zealand) style. This one was pale lemon with a green tint. Lots of gooseberry and herbal on the nose, and a bit of celery. Good acidity, with gooseberry, herbal, celery and green apple flavours. Pair with some oysters on the half shell or lightly cooked fish for a nice complement. On the red wine side, I will make note of the 2008 Casas del Bosque Pinot Noir Gran Reserva. This wine spent 9 months in french oak. They like to use 2-3 year French oak barrels as much as possible for all their barrel aged wines so the oak is there, but not in your face. This one had a wide range of aromas. Strawberry, oak, red cherry, dill and mushroom at first, but then some vanilla on the nose. The wine was quite fruity. Lots of red cherry, but also some dill and vanilla. Quite smooth, medium length, and a dry finish. I’d try this with grilled salmon, or pan fried chicken breast with vegetables and herbs. That is all for now. I’m in Valparaiso enjoying the views of this UNESCO World heritage site. Saludos.