Rioja

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John L Hall
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Rioja

#1 Post by John L Hall »

Has anyone else ever suddenly realized that a nice Rioja reserva fills the bill about 80% of the time? I laugh because I routinely spend far more on California and French wines I end up liking a whole lot less! Cheers. champagne.gif

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Re: Rioja

#2 Post by JonathanG »

Totally. This is exactly why I have 20+ cases of various rioja sitting in the offsite. 10 cases alone of 2008-2010 LRA Ardanza. Tonight enjoying a 2012 Mas La Plana. Rioja looms large on our house winelist
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Re: Rioja

#3 Post by Tom G l a s g o w »

Alfert ruined most Rioja for me viewtopic.php?p=2938310#p2938310
The pickle juice note

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Re: Rioja

#4 Post by John L Hall »

It certainly has a salinity/savory thing going on at the front. I think that’s one of the things I like about it.

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Re: Rioja

#5 Post by Craig G »

I probably need to explore more. I’ve had great experiences with old Rioja (some from 58, 62, 64, 70, 73) but haven’t hit it off with young ones. I don’t mind oak but a lot of young wines I’ve tried have seemed over-extracted.
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Re: Rioja

#6 Post by Jayson Cohen »

If the only red wines were Tondonia and Bosconia Reservas, it would be ok. But I would miss the Gran Reservas.

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Re: Rioja

#7 Post by Matthew King »

I hear you. But sometimes I struggle with the sweet American oak notes, which can be too vanillin and distracting at times.

Don’t want to sound like AFWE snob. It’s all about balance. Ridge wines often push the oak envelope for me but I love them! Many Riojas play in the same danger zone for me.

Great relative value play, especially great producers from 70s etc
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Re: Rioja

#8 Post by john stimson »

Rioja is a great option, but you have to pick your american oak tolerance and your producers, and also pick the era, as I think oak treatment has varied a lot over the years. And some places use french oak rather than american. Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.

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Re: Rioja

#9 Post by Jayson Cohen »

john stimson wrote: February 19th, 2021, 8:36 pm Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.
You’re not the only one! (Alt: Duh.) 😀

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Re: Rioja

#10 Post by Matt Mauldin »

I've enjoyed a couple of 2016 Muja Reserva Unfiltered in the last few months. What a great wine for $25-30 to just buy off the shelf and drink the same night.
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Re: Rioja

#11 Post by Barry L i p t o n »

john stimson wrote: February 19th, 2021, 8:36 pm Rioja is a great option, but you have to pick your american oak tolerance and your producers, and also pick the era, as I think oak treatment has varied a lot over the years. And some places use french oak rather than american. Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.
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Re: Rioja

#12 Post by Tomás Costa »

Barry L i p t o n wrote: February 19th, 2021, 10:51 pm
john stimson wrote: February 19th, 2021, 8:36 pm Rioja is a great option, but you have to pick your american oak tolerance and your producers, and also pick the era, as I think oak treatment has varied a lot over the years. And some places use french oak rather than american. Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.
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Re: Rioja

#13 Post by Jeff Rosenberg »

Matt Mauldin wrote: February 19th, 2021, 10:31 pm I've enjoyed a couple of 2016 Muja Reserva Unfiltered in the last few months. What a great wine for $25-30 to just buy off the shelf and drink the same night.
I concur. This reminds me to purchase a few more.

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Re: Rioja

#14 Post by John L Hall »

Matt Mauldin wrote: February 19th, 2021, 10:31 pm I've enjoyed a couple of 2016 Muja Reserva Unfiltered in the last few months. What a great wine for $25-30 to just buy off the shelf and drink the same night.
Exactly, it’s the perfect cellar defender, but I enjoy drinking it so much sometimes I wonder why I bother with cellaring other (far more expensive) wines!

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Re: Rioja

#15 Post by Ben M a n d l e r »

Rioja was my first wine love. Living in England, there was a lot of it, and the prices were *good*. Now living in the US, the selection seems a little narrower but there is still plenty available and the pricing is still tremendous compared to other wines of similar quality. We drink a lot of La Rioja Alta and lesser amounts of Lopez de Heredia, Muga, CVNE, Marques de Riscal, LAN, Peciña.

I also happen to love American oak, so have none of the problems that some others do.
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Re: Rioja

#16 Post by Armando Basarrate »

Matt Mauldin wrote: February 19th, 2021, 10:31 pm I've enjoyed a couple of 2016 Muja Reserva Unfiltered in the last few months. What a great wine for $25-30 to just buy off the shelf and drink the same night.
This is a spot on rec, IMO.

This wine is one of the very few I buy every year. Very good QPR, consistently delivers pleasure, and has a long drinking window (I recently enjoyed a bottle of the 2004).

I often recommend it to friends and co-workers who are not particularly interested in wine but want something a little bit nicer for an occasion.

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Re: Rioja

#17 Post by John Glas »

Alfert ruined most Rioja for me viewtopic.php?p=2938310#p2938310
The pickle juice note
La Rioja Alta have the most pronounced dill character in Rioja that I have tasted. It has never influenced my enjoyment of the wines and the Alberdi Reserva does have some dill but less pronounced then their other wines.

Muga is a good alternative as I get wood on their wines but dill is not noticeable

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Re: Rioja

#18 Post by John Glas »

I've enjoyed a couple of 2016 Muja Reserva Unfiltered in the last few months. What a great wine for $25-30 to just buy off the shelf and drink the same night.
This is always the wine I recommend to those exploring Rioja wines for the first time. [cheers.gif]

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Re: Rioja

#19 Post by john stimson »

John Glas wrote: February 20th, 2021, 8:52 am
Alfert ruined most Rioja for me viewtopic.php?p=2938310#p2938310
The pickle juice note
La Rioja Alta have the most pronounced dill character in Rioja that I have tasted. It has never influenced my enjoyment of the wines and the Alberdi Reserva does have some dill but less pronounced then their other wines.

Muga is a good alternative as I get wood on their wines but dill is not noticeable
I think Muga uses mostly French oak, so the younger wines don't have the dill issues. I also think it's a go-to wine if you need a readily available younger Rioja. For most Riojas, I don't so much have a problem with the American oak, but for some reason, LRA wines are just over the top for me (in terms of the dill).

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Re: Rioja

#20 Post by Glenn P. »

One of my favorite wines is Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. I really respect the fact that they only produce this in good vintages. They never produced 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2013 to name a few vintages that never happened.
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Re: Rioja

#21 Post by Markus S »

The Riojans know what they're doing. [cheers.gif]
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Re: Rioja

#22 Post by Paul Miller »

I have to go buy a couple of bottles from the Basque region for an upcoming cooking class.

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Re: Rioja

#23 Post by Arv R »

For those who don't like American (or other) wood on their Rioja and have avoided it due to that issue, consider some of their non wood aged wines. For example Pecina just released their 2019 Cosecha, and I think their 2018 is still out in the market too.

Don't expect them to keep the way their higher level wines do, but if one is buying and consuming that day, it should not matter.

=====

I buy Penin's Guide to Spanish Wines (the English translation) which can be found on Amazon and has helpful ratings of most Rioja estates (especially the obscure ones) although no style/color on the producers. But it seems to me that if a wine makes its way here to the US, the odds are pretty good that it will be decent or better. The importer is a pretty real filter.

People here dislike Total Wine - and with plenty of good reason - but they do have a big range of direct imports from Rioja that are generally at least ok to well regarded by Penin. US critics don't seem to discuss them, but if one wants to try something different than the typical Jorge Ordonez imports that tend to populate US retailers shelves, take a look in a nearby TW (ideally with a coupon in hand).

=====

Murrieta's reserva is widely available and darn good too. I enjoyed a half case of the 2001, and even at age 10 it wasn't fading one bit. Not sure why but their gran reserva (not the Castillo Ygay) can be hard to find. WA had a small flash offer the other day, and sold out, well, in a flash.
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Re: Rioja

#24 Post by Jayson Cohen »

John Glas wrote: February 20th, 2021, 8:52 am
Alfert ruined most Rioja for me viewtopic.php?p=2938310#p2938310
The pickle juice note
La Rioja Alta have the most pronounced dill character in Rioja that I have tasted. It has never influenced my enjoyment of the wines and the Alberdi Reserva does have some dill but less pronounced then their other wines.

Muga is a good alternative as I get wood on their wines but dill is not noticeable
Muga has French oak sourcing (explained at the winery with maps of the forest sections to which they have rights) and and cures, toasts, and makes its own barrels.

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Re: Rioja

#25 Post by GregT »

John L Hall wrote: February 19th, 2021, 6:36 pm Has anyone else ever suddenly realized that a nice Rioja reserva fills the bill about 80% of the time? I laugh because I routinely spend far more on California and French wines I end up liking a whole lot less! Cheers. champagne.gif
Suddenly?

No. For about thirty years. And that's why I don't over spend on CA or French wines.

But these days there are some great CA wines that are age-worthy and tasty, and there's plenty in France too. Just stay off mailing lists and taste widely.
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Re: Rioja

#26 Post by john enea »

Glenn P. wrote: February 20th, 2021, 9:16 am One of my favorite wines is Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. I really respect the fact that they only produce this in good vintages. They never produced 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2013 to name a few vintages that never happened.
i bought a case of this wine for my boys for a future special occasion. i try to buy every vintage it comes out. would love to make it my house wine for obvious reasons

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Re: Rioja

#27 Post by Ramon C »

Values are there, but am still apprehensive with the wine land mines in the region.

While it's not that wallet-painful to try out a new bottle from one of many, many producers, in most occasions I don't go back to the store to buy more.
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Re: Rioja

#28 Post by Ramon C »

john enea wrote: February 20th, 2021, 11:16 am
Glenn P. wrote: February 20th, 2021, 9:16 am One of my favorite wines is Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. I really respect the fact that they only produce this in good vintages. They never produced 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2013 to name a few vintages that never happened.
i bought a case of this wine for my boys for a future special occasion. i try to buy every vintage it comes out. would love to make it my house wine for obvious reasons

I've not had Muga Prado Enea vintages after 2007, but every scattered single darn vintage I've had with oldest at 1970, were consistent in the style I like. Patience is a virtue with these for me, as they do take a very long time to get to my pinnacle of peak drinking, i.e. wood had receded sufficiently, but am regretful that my limited storage capability won't allow me to buy every vintage to age. Still holding on to a couple of 1995s.
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Re: Rioja

#29 Post by Markus S »

john enea wrote: February 20th, 2021, 11:16 am
Glenn P. wrote: February 20th, 2021, 9:16 am One of my favorite wines is Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. I really respect the fact that they only produce this in good vintages. They never produced 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2013 to name a few vintages that never happened.
i bought a case of this wine for my boys for a future special occasion. i try to buy every vintage it comes out. would love to make it my house wine for obvious reasons
With a name like that they should make you an honorary owner entitled to your annual case allotment.
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Re: Rioja

#30 Post by Paul Miller »

Between Binny’s and Whole Foods, I found two from the Alva region. Bought a Riscal and a Phincas. Need these for my Basque cooking class.

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Re: Rioja

#31 Post by John L Hall »

GregT wrote: February 20th, 2021, 11:06 am
John L Hall wrote: February 19th, 2021, 6:36 pm Has anyone else ever suddenly realized that a nice Rioja reserva fills the bill about 80% of the time? I laugh because I routinely spend far more on California and French wines I end up liking a whole lot less! Cheers. champagne.gif
Suddenly?

No. For about thirty years. And that's why I don't over spend on CA or French wines.

But these days there are some great CA wines that are age-worthy and tasty, and there's plenty in France too. Just stay off mailing lists and taste widely.

Ok suddenly was probably a bit of hyperbole. More and more though, I’m reaching for Rioja over Rutherford.

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Re: Rioja

#32 Post by john enea »

Markus S wrote: February 20th, 2021, 12:13 pm
john enea wrote: February 20th, 2021, 11:16 am
Glenn P. wrote: February 20th, 2021, 9:16 am One of my favorite wines is Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva. I really respect the fact that they only produce this in good vintages. They never produced 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2013 to name a few vintages that never happened.
i bought a case of this wine for my boys for a future special occasion. i try to buy every vintage it comes out. would love to make it my house wine for obvious reasons
With a name like that they should make you an honorary owner entitled to your annual case allotment.
yeh, well i applied for a job at muga, but as all my wine job apps, got rejected

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Re: Rioja

#33 Post by Carlton McCrindle »

john stimson wrote: February 19th, 2021, 8:36 pm Rioja is a great option, but you have to pick your american oak tolerance and your producers, and also pick the era, as I think oak treatment has varied a lot over the years. And some places use french oak rather than american. Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.
I appreciate there is no red line, but when does the newer stuff begin?

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Re: Rioja

#34 Post by Evan S h a c k »

Arv R wrote: February 20th, 2021, 10:03 am For those who don't like American (or other) wood on their Rioja and have avoided it due to that issue, consider some of their non wood aged wines. For example Pecina just released their 2019 Cosecha, and I think their 2018 is still out in the market too.

Don't expect them to keep the way their higher level wines do, but if one is buying and consuming that day, it should not matter.
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es

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Re: Rioja

#35 Post by I. van de Laar »

Often laughed about Rioja as a beginners wine driven by sweet oak but I agree with the topic starter, often surprises me and almost always pleases me.

And In addition to the above mentioned questions: In order to understand Rioja better, does anyone dare to take a shot in categorizing Rioja in a few styles with some elucidation?

many thanks from a Rioja novice ;-)
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Re: Rioja

#36 Post by Ramon C »

Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
I don't have a recommendation for non-oaked Rioja as I prefer oaked-Rioja whose oak is well-integrated (or disintegrated) into a well-balanced stage. Having said that and if going by the regional classification, you will usually find the non-oaked Rioja reds among those classified as Joven and those are generally well below your ceiling price of $50, most likely < $20. Classified Crianza and above usually have at least a year in oak as defined by their regional control board.
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!

#37 Post by I. van de Laar »

Ramon C wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:36 am
Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
I don't have a recommendation for non-oaked Rioja as I prefer oaked-Rioja whose oak is well-integrated (or disintegrated) into a well-balanced stage. Having said that and if going by the regional classification, you will usually find the non-oaked Rioja reds among those classified as Joven and those are generally well below your ceiling price of $50, most likely < $20. Classified Crianza and above usually have at least a year in oak as defined by their regional control board.
The Spanish Drink Joven when thirsty for lunch don't they? [cheers.gif] Gotta love their joie de vivre!
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#38 Post by Ramon C »

I. van de Laar wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:41 am
Ramon C wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:36 am
Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
I don't have a recommendation for non-oaked Rioja as I prefer oaked-Rioja whose oak is well-integrated (or disintegrated) into a well-balanced stage. Having said that and if going by the regional classification, you will usually find the non-oaked Rioja reds among those classified as Joven and those are generally well below your ceiling price of $50, most likely < $20. Classified Crianza and above usually have at least a year in oak as defined by their regional control board.
The Spanish Drink Joven when thirsty for lunch don't they? [cheers.gif] Gotta love their joie de vivre!
Really? I must be doing it wrong when I'm there. I start at breakfast. 😊
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Re: Rioja

#39 Post by Evan S h a c k »

Ramon C wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:36 am
Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
I don't have a recommendation for non-oaked Rioja as I prefer oaked-Rioja whose oak is well-integrated (or disintegrated) into a well-balanced stage. Having said that and if going by the regional classification, you will usually find the non-oaked Rioja reds among those classified as Joven and those are generally well below your ceiling price of $50, most likely < $20. Classified Crianza and above usually have at least a year in oak as defined by their regional control board.
Many thanks, Ramon!

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#40 Post by I. van de Laar »

Ramon C wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:46 am
I. van de Laar wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:41 am
Ramon C wrote: February 21st, 2021, 8:36 am

I don't have a recommendation for non-oaked Rioja as I prefer oaked-Rioja whose oak is well-integrated (or disintegrated) into a well-balanced stage. Having said that and if going by the regional classification, you will usually find the non-oaked Rioja reds among those classified as Joven and those are generally well below your ceiling price of $50, most likely < $20. Classified Crianza and above usually have at least a year in oak as defined by their regional control board.
The Spanish Drink Joven when thirsty for lunch don't they? [cheers.gif] Gotta love their joie de vivre!
Really? I must be doing it wrong when I'm there. I start at breakfast. 😊
haha maybe I am just a boring and preserved Northerling and just don't get life
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Re: Rioja

#41 Post by john stimson »

Carlton McCrindle wrote: February 21st, 2021, 12:41 am
john stimson wrote: February 19th, 2021, 8:36 pm Rioja is a great option, but you have to pick your american oak tolerance and your producers, and also pick the era, as I think oak treatment has varied a lot over the years. And some places use french oak rather than american. Personally my sweet spot is the older stuff--older CVNE, Riojanas, and of course LdH.
I appreciate there is no red line, but when does the newer stuff begin?
For me, the 2000's, but I'm likely an outlier.

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Re: Rioja

#42 Post by Arv R »

Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Arv R wrote: February 20th, 2021, 10:03 am For those who don't like American (or other) wood on their Rioja and have avoided it due to that issue, consider some of their non wood aged wines. For example Pecina just released their 2019 Cosecha, and I think their 2018 is still out in the market too.

Don't expect them to keep the way their higher level wines do, but if one is buying and consuming that day, it should not matter.
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
Generally oak treatment & aging costs the producer money & time, which gets baked into the end price of the wine, so usually the lowest priced Rioja will have less of those flavors. If you don't want the vanilla etc. look below the crianza, reserva, gran reserva levels. It might be called different things by different producers - tinto, tempranillo, joven, cosecha etc. One issue might be that this level may not get exported much; usually it makes more economic sense to ship higher value bottlings. So what is produced may not actually be available stateside

I don't know the unwooded category well; generally if I'm having something that was tank / concrete vatted it's more likely to be a Cotes du Rhone or something.
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Re: Rioja

#43 Post by Evan S h a c k »

Arv R wrote: February 21st, 2021, 10:25 am
Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 6:03 am
Arv R wrote: February 20th, 2021, 10:03 am For those who don't like American (or other) wood on their Rioja and have avoided it due to that issue, consider some of their non wood aged wines. For example Pecina just released their 2019 Cosecha, and I think their 2018 is still out in the market too.

Don't expect them to keep the way their higher level wines do, but if one is buying and consuming that day, it should not matter.
Curious about any other recommendations for a Rioja that is not oak driven, ideally less than about $50.

Thanks in advance,

es
Generally oak treatment & aging costs the producer money & time, which gets baked into the end price of the wine, so usually the lowest priced Rioja will have less of those flavors. If you don't want the vanilla etc. look below the crianza, reserva, gran reserva levels. It might be called different things by different producers - tinto, tempranillo, joven, cosecha etc. One issue might be that this level may not get exported much; usually it makes more economic sense to ship higher value bottlings. So what is produced may not actually be available stateside

I don't know the unwooded category well; generally if I'm having something that was tank / concrete vatted it's more likely to be a Cotes du Rhone or something.
That is helpful information. I am not averse to oak but too much is not my speed. Kinda of like classic vs modern barolo making. I am for sure a fan of the former.

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Re: Rioja

#44 Post by bruced »

Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 1:59 pm
That is helpful information. I am not averse to oak but too much is not my speed. Kinda of like classic vs modern barolo making. I am for sure a fan of the former.
I suggest the Crianza's. They do not see as much New oak. If a little oak is OK for you, these might satisfy.
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Re: Rioja

#45 Post by Ramon C »

Evan S h a c k wrote: February 21st, 2021, 1:59 pm I am not averse to oak but too much is not my speed. Kinda of like classic vs modern barolo making. I am for sure a fan of the former.
I'm not going against your personal taste.
My understanding and based on visits in local wienries: No other old world wine region is into traditional oak aging than Rioja, such that it is their classic wine-making style.
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Re: Rioja

#46 Post by GregT »

I. van de Laar wrote: February 21st, 2021, 7:38 am Often laughed about Rioja as a beginners wine driven by sweet oak but I agree with the topic starter, often surprises me and almost always pleases me.

And In addition to the above mentioned questions: In order to understand Rioja better, does anyone dare to take a shot in categorizing Rioja in a few styles with some elucidation?

many thanks from a Rioja novice ;-)
It's hard and getting harder.

Back in the 1600s, it was called the poor man's claret in London. Most wine was made by big landowners to whom the small farmers brought their grapes. Later, in the 1800s Murrietta and Riscal brought techniques from Bordeaux, creating a modern style that Americans now call "traditional". Eventually they settled on an aging regime that a lot of people are familiar with. For red wines, Crianza gets at least a year in wood and a year in bottle. Whites only need six months in wood. Reserva supposedly uses better quality grapes and gets a year in oak and at least two years in bottle. Whites only need six months in wood. And Gran Reserva needs two years in wood and three in the bottle. Most people age them much longer but the key is that no matter how long in wood, like ten or twenty years, they still need three in the bottle.

In the late 1800s phylloxera hit and a lot of French wine makers came over. That improved the quality of a lot of wines and a number of wineries were located around the train station in Haro. Then people figured out that grafting onto American rootstock would allow wine making to continue and the French packed up and went home, leaving the Spanish to deal with their problems. Now remember that Spain itself is fairly arid other than the north Atlantic region, and they were frequently at odds with France, so they needed barrels. They found lots of wood in their colonies in the Americas, so that's what they used for their wines. Nobody, French or Spanish, was using oak as a flavoring device. That's a modern concept. Wood was used for its mechanical properties only.

Those wineries around Haro, as well as a few others, are the "classic" Rioja bodegas that people now get all hot and bothered about. But for years they were pretty much ignored. Lopez de Heredia couldn't sell their wine. Now they have all these old vintages and people have turned them into a kind of cult winery.

After a few wars and economic depressions, Spain settled into its own wine tradition. They would leave the wines in oak for ages and slowly get around to drinking them and most were considered tired and boring. If you read some of the British critics from the 1960s and 70s, they aren't big on a lot of the Rioja wines.

Traditionally Tempranillo was the main grape for reds and smaller amounts of Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano would be added. And that means really small amounts. I think the acreage of Graciano was less than 2% of the entire region, although there may be more now. They can also use Monastel and Maturana Tinta, but I don't know who does. But almost all of the reds were blends. In addition, since Rioja Baja was the warmest part, the bodegas would get their Garnacha from there and their Tempranillo from somewhere like Rioja Alta or Rioja Alavesa. Tempranillo didn't have sufficient sugar or acidity, so Garnacha provided the sugar and Graciano the acidity. Thus, many of the wines were sourced from various parts of the region.

And then the estate concept came up.

After Franco, Spain rejoined the larger wine world and began to feel more competitive on the world market. LdH had planted its vineyards in the early 1900s and those became the basis of its wines and remain so today. CVNE had a few great vineyards that they used for their Viña Real Gran Reserva. But then they decided to go one step further and in 1978 decided to use the chateau approach to make an estate wine. They called it Viñedos del Contino. Later they went a step further and made a single-vineyard wine called Viña del Olivo. They also, uniquely, did a monovarietal bottling of Graciano.

And more wine makers started to feel constrained by the old rules. So a lot of them rebelled. They started experimenting with new barrels, with French oak, with different aging regimes. Some of them felt that the standard aging regime was too limiting. And it is weird in a way. If a crianza is your lowest tier, why would you put your worst wines into oak for a year and then keep them in bottle for a year? It's a dumb convention if you think about it, but the restaurants in Spain like to have crianza on their lists and fortunately, people don't use their "worst" grapes. In fact, I've had crianzas that are over twenty years old and they were great.

Consequently smaller bodegas popped up and they'd make something called Seleccionada, Viñas Viejas, Roble, Joven, etc. Those didn't have rules attached and they offered more freedom to the wine maker.

A lot of people started making wine and outsiders came into the area. Right next to Tondonia is Roda, run by a completely different mind set. So for a while people were banging on about "modern" vs "traditional". But Tondonia was modern when they started, although people don't like to think about that today. And what people consider "traditional" is a heavy hand with oak. It's impossible to taste the wines of Muga or especially La Rioja Alta and not notice the oak. It's been made that way for over a hundred years, so it's not like someone decided to "over oak" the wine recently.

The key is that there's a lot of really good wine made in the region these days and some of it ages exceptionally well.

In addition there are changes that were recently made to the winemaking regs, allowing different grapes. Today there are people making monovarietal Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Tempranillo. Cab was never allowed, even though it was probably there before Garnacha, but it's considered a French grape, whereas the others originated in Spain. So you find it in "experimental" bottlings, like some made by Riscal.

My suggestion is just try a few. Try some of the centenary bodegas and some of the modern ones. There's a lot of good wine there.
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Re: Rioja

#47 Post by Arv R »

Exhaustive history; thank you!

I actually have a magnum of a varietal labeled Mazuelo from Rioja. I hope its better than the leathery carignans from the Midi I sometimes trip over.
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Re: Rioja

#48 Post by John Kight »

John L Hall wrote: February 19th, 2021, 6:36 pmHas anyone else ever suddenly realized that a nice Rioja reserva fills the bill about 80% of the time? I laugh because I routinely spend far more on California and French wines I end up liking a whole lot less! Cheers.
Agreed, though I would say the same thing about a lot of categories if you're generally talking about $20-$50 wines vs. more expensive California and French (specifically Bordeaux) wines. Chianti Classico (and CC Riserva), plenty of sub $50 Brunello & Barolo, and Cru Beaujolais all fit comfortably alongside Rioja Reserva in this regard.

Even when you get to more expensive wine ($60-$100), these "other" categories still usually outperform $100+ Cali wines. For example, Muga's Prado Enea Rioja Reserva sits at about around $65-$75, and is better (or at least more consistent) than any $100 California wine I can think of (though I must admit, I haven't drank many expensive California wines in recent years simply due to this perception on my part). And there are any number of Barolos and Brunellos for $65-ish that are also terrific.
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Re: Rioja

#49 Post by GregT »

Arv - which Mazuelo? There aren't a lot of them but I've seen a few recently.
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Re: Rioja

#50 Post by Mattstolz »

interesting to see less love for LRA than I expected. 904 is one of the wines that I feel like still offers pretty good price for what I view as a world class wine. IMO in general the classified Riojas that see oak just need a ton of time to integrate it.

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