Got together with my brother, a few of the NYC regulars (JC, Ramon, and Dale), and a few new wine friends for a wonderful night of mature Rioja at Noreetuh in Manhattan. It was a special night, the food was spectacular and the wines were nearly all firing on all cylinders. It is not every night that we get to taste so many mature classics from Rioja, including from 1964 and 1981 which are considered amongst the vintages of the century in the region. I don’t think these wines are for everyone stylistically, given the high American oak and distinctly lemony acidity, but I love them.
1996 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Viña Gravonia
1996 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Reserva Viña Tondonia
Wow, really good. Smells of sherry, almonds, fresh ground ginger and unsweetened caramel. Attack seems sweet like caramel at first, yet this is actually quite dry with grapefruit and linseed. Good layered mouthfeel, long lingering acetic finish. In that oxidative style but still fresh and has enough fruit for balance. Not something for everyday, but special. 92 pts.
1987 Marqués de Tomares Rioja Reserva Blanco
Tastes like a bordeaux Blanc after the Tondonia. Shockingly light and fresh still. Dominated by flavors of fresh honeydew melon, wonderfully intact, a little honey on the attack, a bit light on the backend. 90 pts.
1973 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Ygay Etiqueta Blanca
I was quite charmed by this, perhaps because it showed the most like claret. Sweet nose of tobacco and earth, reminds me of a Graves, just lovely. High acid but good fruit too. Nice length, tart notes, some savoriness, still has some structure (someone says that 73 was a big, tannic year in Rioja). 93 pts.
1989 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Ygay Reserva
Huge oak on the nose still, quite woody palate as well, super lemony acids, almost giving it a white wine profile. Nice midpalate weight, quite rustic and intense with loads of sour-saison notes. Most at table think this is too young, I find it the oakiest wine of the night both aromatically and on the palate with lots of dry wood tannins. If oak integrates, could get better. 89 pts.
1942 R. López de Heredia Rioja Viña Bosconia
Incredibly dark color. Beautiful fruit still. Monolithic at first, but with air, starts to give dill and balsamic and scents of lime zest. Tart, lean, sour cherry fruit, classic Rioja. Gets much better with some air, fanning out on the palate and showing more complexity. Must have been a monster in its youth. Special to try such a museum piece. 93-94 pts.
1947 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia
FLAWED, fully maderized.
1964 Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Royal Reserva
I like a lot, one of the most mature wines at the table, wood completely integrated, very fresh and bright, complex with citrusy acids and spicy fruit. Good depth and length, but nothing explosive. Rather it charms with aromatic expressivity and a silky resolved palate. Lovely. 92-93 pts.
1966 Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Royal Reserva
Very good, but not a complete as the 64 served next to it. This has a bruised fruit note, smelling of sur-maturité, lacking the freshness of the 64 while seeming a bit bigger bodied. I’d still happily drink any time and probably rate it higher if enjoyed by itself. 90-91 pts.
1981 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia
Terrific showing, if not quite as explosive as prior bottles. Quite Burgundian in profile, shy nose at first, lovely fresh rounded palate but still quiet. Has sneaky depth and everything is perfectly integrated, I like the fruit profile of sour cherries, but not too sour or acetic. Tasting this Lopez wines tonight makes me realize how much less new oak they (appear) to receive than the other wines, which I prefer. 92-93 pts.
1964 C.V.N.E. Rioja Viña Real Reserva Especial
In the running for wine of the night. Wonderfully youthful, with great fruit and grip still. Seems to transcend the Rioja profile, with a bit more structure and fruit intensity than the others, showing just a timeless red wine magic. Darker colored than the other wines except perhaps the 42 Bosconia. Cherry fruit, licorice, herbs, cigarbox, big and bright. Balanced, fully mature, spicy yet buttoned-down. 94 pts.
1985 C.V.N.E. Rioja Viña Real Reserva
I’ve had this wine several times before, and it shows very differently in this line up than other nights, seemingly exceedingly young and fruit-forward. It does come across as rich and layered with a high-toned minty nose, lacking the integration and the elegance of the older wines. This makes it popular with one or two at the table who prefer a bigger, fruity wine. At any rate, this wine is quite intense with all that sour cherry Rioja fruit bound with lemon acids and notes of dill and some exotic spicy liqueur nuances. Excellent to be sure, and hard to believe that it really needs more time, but I am left little doubt that my remaining bottles will hold decades longer and hopefully gain a little more nuance in the process. 91 pts.
1982 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904
Sweet’n’sour palate again like most of these Rioja, with plenty of dill and lemony acids. This has a silky smooth attack, one of the most resolved palates of the night with great layers of spicy fruit to go with the terrific acidity. Stacked with fruit and flavor compared to some of the more delicate wines on the table. Would be my favorite perhaps, except that it still has a super oaky nose, borderline too woody for me. Hence, hard to rate: 94-95 pt palate, maybe 88-90 pt bouquet.
1995 R. López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia
Opened later on a whim, I was worried it would show too young after all the senior citizens, but this is an outstanding Bosconia and already giving lots today. Again, quite Burgundian in texture. Clean, bright fruit, terrific depth and balance, fresher than some LdH wines and also shows very little if any new oak influences. Doesn’t seem fruity yet has all the fruit needed to balance the acids and structure. If you own some, you are lucky and will enjoy this wine for decades to come. 93 pts.
1985 Bodegas Toro Albala Montilla-Moriles Don PX Gran Reserva
This was the current release in 2011 when I was in Spain. Liquid sugar, with molasses and maple syrup. Exotic scents of licorice, incense, char. As always, super sweet and unctuous on the attack, yet hyper bright and fresh on the finish. A little goes a long way. Wonderful in its style. 93 pts.