Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

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NoahR
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Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#1 Post by NoahR » June 24th, 2019, 8:13 pm

His would you characterize the differences between the Tempranillo based wines in Rioja vs Ribera Del Duero?

If You’re teaching a basic class on Spanish Wine, how would you contrast terroir and winemaking?
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#2 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 24th, 2019, 10:25 pm

Very briefly the main differences:

Rioja wines more acid-driven, less tannic, more from the spectrum of red fruits and dark berries. Stylistically more complex and savory due to the longer barrel-aging regimes. Ribera del Duero noticeably riper, lower in acidity, more tannic and extracted wines. Heavily in the concentrated, dark-fruited spectrum - partly thanks to the copious amounts of very old Tempranillo vines found there. Stylistically more powerful and fruit-driven, but often showing also more obvious oak character.

Terroir in Rioja more varied: Rioja Alta and Alavesa higher and cooler, making fresher style of wines, while Rioja Oriental / Rioja Baja is lower, hotter and drier making heavier wines and, as a whole, better suited to Garnacha cultivation. The nearby Atlantic Ocean keeps the things a bit cooler, but the Cantabrian mountains protect the region from the most obvious Atlantic influence that would make the region too cool. Ribera del Duero has no such controlling element to the temperature, so the climate is very continental with hot summers and cold winters. Only the high altitude of the region keeps the temperature from climbing too high.

Traditionally Rioja has been heavily in the American oak barrel territory, but currently it seems to be quite 50/50 between French and American, of course depending on the producer. Less emphasis on the new oak barrels, more emphasis on long barrel-aging regimes and finesse over power. However, there are some modernist examples made there that feel more like Ribera than Rioja. Ribera del Duero has bees quite consistently using French oak barrels. Winemaking-wise more emphasis on new oak, heavy extraction of concentrated fruit and power over finesse. Wines tend to be aged for much shorter periods of time than in Rioja.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#3 Post by Jeff Vaughan » June 25th, 2019, 5:35 am

Otto, thanks for that summary. Can you recommend Rioja made with french oak barrels? I like some LdH, and feel like I would like more Tempranillo based wines if there was less oak, especially American oak.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#4 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 25th, 2019, 6:10 am

Jeff Vaughan wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 5:35 am
Otto, thanks for that summary. Can you recommend Rioja made with french oak barrels? I like some LdH, and feel like I would like more Tempranillo based wines if their was less oak, especially American oak.
If you don't like oak, RLdH is the best alternative. They replace less than 10% of their old barrels with new ones and even the new ones are seasoned in before put to use with the real wines. Basically any Rioja wine will have more obvious oak influence than RLdH.

I really can't come up with much producers using French oak to recommend, since normally those producers prefer to use new French oak barrels. Most of the Rioja wines made aged in French oak are normally made in a noticeably more modern "Ribera del Duero" style with more emphasis on ripe fruit and pronounced oak character.

I'm not entirely sure but I think Remelluri has dropped their use of American oak and some sources claim the new releases are aged entirely in French oak. Furthermore, most of the recent releases of Remelluri have been very well made with very little emphasis on the oak, highlighting the fruit department. I guess Remelluri would be among the good ones (if it's true that the wines are aged in French oak) if you want something not too modern and oaky but also without those vanilla and coconut aspects of American oak.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#5 Post by John Morris » June 25th, 2019, 8:52 am

I think Otto has summarized things perfectly.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#6 Post by John Morris » June 25th, 2019, 8:54 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 6:10 am
Jeff Vaughan wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 5:35 am
Otto, thanks for that summary. Can you recommend Rioja made with french oak barrels? I like some LdH, and feel like I would like more Tempranillo based wines if their was less oak, especially American oak.
If you don't like oak, RLdH is the best alternative. They replace less than 10% of their old barrels with new ones and even the new ones are seasoned in before put to use with the real wines. Basically any Rioja wine will have more obvious oak influence than RLdH.
Just one bit of clarification, Otto. You're saying that if Jeff doesn't like a lot of oak, Lopez de Heredia is the best bet (i.e., LdH = RLdH). I was thrown off by the R because most people here use LdH as the shorthand.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#7 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 25th, 2019, 9:00 am

John Morris wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 8:54 am
Otto Forsberg wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 6:10 am
Jeff Vaughan wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 5:35 am
Otto, thanks for that summary. Can you recommend Rioja made with french oak barrels? I like some LdH, and feel like I would like more Tempranillo based wines if their was less oak, especially American oak.
If you don't like oak, RLdH is the best alternative. They replace less than 10% of their old barrels with new ones and even the new ones are seasoned in before put to use with the real wines. Basically any Rioja wine will have more obvious oak influence than RLdH.
Just one bit of clarification, Otto. You're saying that if Jeff doesn't like a lot of oak, Lopez de Heredia is the best bet (i.e., LdH = RLdH). I was thrown off by the R because most people here use LdH as the shorthand.
Sorry, yes. I see both of them used quite often and the R has just stuck with me.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#8 Post by Keith Levenberg » June 25th, 2019, 11:12 am

In general there's no need to pay much attention to the oak in classic Rioja. It's made for long aging, and also given a long elevage. So the American oak signatures often stick out when they're newly released, but they're seldom an issue later on, except in years that are on the seriously underfruited side. Heredia releases their wines on a very late timetable of course, so in addition to what they do in the winery you are getting the benefit of the extra integration from age there.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#9 Post by lleichtman » June 25th, 2019, 11:29 am

I never notice oak in Rioja wines but do in Ribera. I also tend to drink Rioja at least 20 years or more old so any oak influence will be long gone. If I drink younger Muga, I do notice some oak in there but that is usually not Muga I have but from others who tend to drink them very young.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#10 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 25th, 2019, 12:00 pm

On the contrary, I've had several older La Rioja Alta wines that retain their distinctive vanilla note of American oak, no matter the age. Everything from 1980's Gran Reserva 890's to 1970's Ardanzas. French oak tends to integrate with enough age, but I doubt the LRA wines will ever lose the vanilla character - at least not before the fruit fades away.

And I often notice oak in both Rioja and RdD. As long as it is American oak in Rioja and French in Ribera. Wines like Heredia and Remelluri are an exception, since they show barely any oak character even upon release.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#11 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » June 25th, 2019, 12:17 pm

I do not have the Rioja expertise as you stalwarts do, but have had a fair amount of mature LRAs, and the American oak is always apparent to me. I can say the same thing about Ridge.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#12 Post by Vince T » June 25th, 2019, 1:23 pm

Jeff Vaughan wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 5:35 am
Otto, thanks for that summary. Can you recommend Rioja made with french oak barrels? I like some LdH, and feel like I would like more Tempranillo based wines if there was less oak, especially American oak.
Artadi El Pison is one of the big Rioja names made with 100% French Oak, and while the oak treatment is tasteful and in balance, the wine is quite glossy and without a ton of Rioja typicity. Not what I'd drink if I wanted to spend this kind of money.

The Beronia Gran Reserva is a more traditional Rioja made with 100% french oak. Kinda hard to find in the US, but it's a great value at $30 and I'd look for it. (Their regular Reserva is aged in a mix of American and French oak, and is also a good house wine at $15.)

It's also worth noting that there are some Riojas that don't have any Tempranillo... I recently had a Olivier Riviere Ganko that is all Garnacha/Mazuelo and aged in large format French oak. It's not Tempranillo, but it sure was tasty.
  • 2014 Olivier Rivière Rioja Ganko - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja (5/31/2019)
    Wonderful nose, concentrated red cherry, violets, a bit of mint, and a bit of dusty earth - blind it would have me thinking Sangiovese and not Garnacha/Mazuelo. Palate has lovely focus, good concentration, ripe but not over-extracted red fruit, medium+ acid, bay leaf, slate-y minerals,mild tannins, no American oak (actually raised in French oak foudre and Demi-muids). Cleanly made, with a vibrant, tangy finish. 13.5% alc, which seems low for Garnacha. Not traditional Rioja but quite delicious. 90

    Day 2: perhaps a bit more exuberant, and now the Grenache red berry fruit with a bit of funk and spicy cinnamon comes to the fore. 91

    Day 3: wow, this is really firing on all cylinders now - purity of strawberry-cranberry fruit, chalky saline minerals, a bit of ripe tobacco and spice. Tension, poise and balance. Grenache at its best - no overripeness or heat like most out there these days. I think this is a sign these should be held many years for optimum drinking. 93+ (93 pts.)
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#13 Post by lleichtman » June 25th, 2019, 4:07 pm

Otto Forsberg wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 12:00 pm
On the contrary, I've had several older La Rioja Alta wines that retain their distinctive vanilla note of American oak, no matter the age. Everything from 1980's Gran Reserva 890's to 1970's Ardanzas. French oak tends to integrate with enough age, but I doubt the LRA wines will ever lose the vanilla character - at least not before the fruit fades away.

And I often notice oak in both Rioja and RdD. As long as it is American oak in Rioja and French in Ribera. Wines like Heredia and Remelluri are an exception, since they show barely any oak character even upon release.
Wow, had a 2005 La Rioja Alta last night that I didn't get oak from. How old was the one you drank. They may have altered their oak regimen in the past. I've only had 3 bottles of La Rioja Alta.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#14 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 25th, 2019, 10:22 pm

lleichtman wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 4:07 pm
Otto Forsberg wrote:
June 25th, 2019, 12:00 pm
On the contrary, I've had several older La Rioja Alta wines that retain their distinctive vanilla note of American oak, no matter the age. Everything from 1980's Gran Reserva 890's to 1970's Ardanzas. French oak tends to integrate with enough age, but I doubt the LRA wines will ever lose the vanilla character - at least not before the fruit fades away.

And I often notice oak in both Rioja and RdD. As long as it is American oak in Rioja and French in Ribera. Wines like Heredia and Remelluri are an exception, since they show barely any oak character even upon release.
Wow, had a 2005 La Rioja Alta last night that I didn't get oak from. How old was the one you drank. They may have altered their oak regimen in the past. I've only had 3 bottles of La Rioja Alta.
Which LRA? They make several wines. I've had 2005 Ardanza Reserva (and I still have one bottle of it in my cellar) and it was definitely heavy on vanilla. So was 2008. And the 1970 Ardanza Reserva, that was tasted alongside 2004 Reserva and 2001 Reserva Especial. All heavy on the vanilla, except for the 1970 that had noticeably lighter but still quite distinctive streak of vanilla. To my understanding they haven't changed their oak regimen much or at all.

Then I've had also several 890's and 904's from vintages 1985-2007 and from my experience only in the 890's the vanilla character starts to integrate so well that it might disappear with enough age, but at least that 1985 wasn't old enough, since the vanilla was still somewhat noticeable. To me, 904 and Ardanza seem to show heavier vanilla character than 890, at least on average.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#15 Post by Ramon C » June 26th, 2019, 5:10 am

Going back to the question of differentiating winemaking between the regions, it should also be pointed out that some big-name wines from RdD, while predominantly tempranillo, have cabernet sauvignon blended in.
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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#16 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 26th, 2019, 5:22 am

Ramon C wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 5:10 am
Going back to the question of differentiating winemaking between the regions, it should also be pointed out that some big-name wines from RdD, while predominantly tempranillo, have cabernet sauvignon blended in.
True, but I think RdD wines are more often 100% Tempranillo than Rioja wines. After all, most Rioja reds tend to be in the ballpark of 80-95% Tempranillo with varying amounts of Grenache to soften / flesh things up, Mazuelo (Carignan) to bring up some grip and structure, Maturana (Bastardo/Trousseau) to add concentration and acidity and/or Graciano to add acidity, tone down alcohol levels and add dry, crunchy edge to the fruit. Although there are some 100% Tempranillos in Rioja as well, my hunch is that they are in minority.

I have been wondering that if a winery is using concentrated old-vine fruit in RdD wines, what is the function of Cabernet Sauvignon there? To lighten up the mouthfeel and tone down the concentration? :D

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#17 Post by Jayson Cohen » June 26th, 2019, 5:43 pm

I had a remarkably eye-opening experience in Haro last week with Torre Muga, which I had never had with age. 1998 tasted like a ripe but traditional Rioja, more akin to the older Prado Enea on the table (the much leaner 78) than the young Torre Muga (2015) and Prado Enea (2011). They use 100% French oak.

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Re: Expressions of Tempranillo - Ribera vs Rioja

#18 Post by James Billy » June 26th, 2019, 5:49 pm

To make it taste more 'international.'

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