TN: 2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial

I haven’t had lots of experience over time with La Rioja Alta but I have tasted and drank a lot of their wines in the last 2-3 years; 2001 and 2004 Arana, 2000 and 2001 Ardanza, and 2005 Alberdi. They are definitely traditional in terms of their use of American oak and the acidic nature of the wines which I like.

It definitely sounds like there is some bottle variation for this one but I’m in the “needs a lot of time” camp. My 2 tastings of this wine suggest that and the “Especial” designation seems to emphasize it.

They’ve only made an Ardanza Reserva Especial twice before although I don’t know if they do anything different vs. a regular Reserva vintage. This is from Joe Manekin’s, K&L’s Spanish buyer, comments on the wine:

“In the very best vintages, La Rioja Alta designates Ardanza as a “Reserva Especial”; this has only happened two other times, in 1964 and 1973. I have not had the '64, but I did recently taste the '73 and it was superb. Yep, this is a $30 wine which ages gracefully for more than three decades.”

In any case, I should pull a bottle to see if I got a bad batch since mine didn’t come from either store where I tasted it.

“Marc - Did Rocky find it woody as well?”…your the best buddy…after what I saw Rocky do with that coke can…I felt it was best to not to offer him a glasss at this juncture!

Ethan, I was discussing this with Robert Alfert some time back…I was astounded by the amount of american oak the Ridge cab…I like american oak as long as its not too dominant…its not a bad wine by any means just a bit too much with the wood.

I don’t necessarily see that Malloy was experiencing the same issue as you were. Pickles imply acetic acid (VA), which is certainly common in traditional Rioja. I assumed when you said high acid you meant tartaric etc., which could just be old style tempranillo. If you meant vinegar acidic, than that’s a different thing.

His note is very entertaining:
Like a gobby mouthful of preservative-laden cherry vanilla streudel folded around a generous chunk of chocolate covered dill pickle. And not the good streudel, rather the spoofulated kind sold on the end-cap at the bad grocery store. That’s right, spoofulated streudel.

I’m speculating, but vanilla steudel could very well be caramel and spice from American oak and the pickles could be VA. The oaky bottles I had were certainly like a vanilla custard in aroma. Tempranillo can definitely give you cherries. I don’t know what to say about the chocolate. And trying to give chemical explanations for other people’s tasting descriptors is, well, a bit of a stretch.

U could be correct I will explore this dill thing with one of my wine making friends and report back

Count me as one who had this wine and found it to be quite good. There was oak, but it was not overwhelming and was what I would expect from a relatively young, traditionally styled Rioja reserva. I also did not find the off flavors described by others. There is obviously bottle variation, could there have been issues with one or more of the barrels the wine was aged in?

I bought three more bottles based on my experience with the first. I planned to keep them for a while but now I may have to open one up in the interests of science.

M @ r k

John, I’m interested in this comment in particular (“And, probably, to some extent, the same wine showing differently on different occasions”) because it assumes that people are drinking their bottles over extended periods of time which would go at least some way to explain bottle variation.

To be absolutely clear, the six bottles that are the subject of my sample were bought shortly before thanksgiving this year and my last one was dispatched yesterday evening. In part that’s because three of them were shite, for different reasons, and were poured down the sink and replacements were called up.

It’s clear to me, based on my experience, that there’s tremendous bottle variation with this wine, and within lots. My half-case was from lot L/016/S8, and of the six bottles one was corked and two were irredeemably marred by excessive dill pickle aromas and flavors. The other three were fine. As I said on CT, a $28 bottle of wine ceases to be a value buy when its failure rate renders it effectively a $56 bottle.

I’d love to hear more about different lot numbers. As I said in the earlier thread, I think the UK guys had a series of comparisons of lot numbers but since I am not a member there, I have no further details, unfortunately.

Thanks! Yes, I guess it was VA (I don’t have much experience with that, so I can’t be sure, but that sounds right). Whatever it was, the level was extremely high, really undrinkable.

In my case, there were three of us who tasted this together blindly on three occasions (one may have been missing on one occasion), and in two cases the wine showed overpowering American oak. It wasn’t repulsive – just extraordinarily intense. The other time the wine seemed more balanced.

There were others who were present for all three bottles who perceived things the same way.

The point is, this wasn’t just a subjective, individual palate thing. Whether it was bottle variation or the way a bottle was decanted and what it was served with, I cannot say.

Dill and pickle (vinegar) are too different things. I have no idea what the dill would be, but if it was vinegar (acetic acid), then that’s a winemaking fault after a certain threshold.

A wine store mailing this morning quotes Neil Martin saying that the Ardanza spends three years in four-year-old American oak. Wild! So it’s not even remotely new oak!

Wow,imagine if there was new oak involved…john, can higher acid wines leech more oak from the barrels?

I’m not a fan of coconut/vanilla laced rioja. My impression of LRA is that the wines are traditional but good. They have gazillions of barrels, so there’s no real barrel maintenance other than splash racking every six months. The wines seem to survive this quite well, though.

FWIW here are my verdicts on the range from a visit in Oct 10. The 2001 Ardanza got a good score.

Marc – My question is: What wines goes into those barrels when they’re new?!

Jamie – Some bottles of Ardanza 01 have shown coconut on steroids. Where it’s lot variation or just the wine showing differently on different occasions, I have no idea. I haven’t hated the wines, but you certainly have to be ready for a wine that, in oak terms, is rather like a brass band version of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Good question john… Has to be the 890

Perhaps a special blend for the USA?
This wine is not too oaky here [cheers.gif]

How many bottles have you tried, Harry? I’ve had four or five and some have been super oaky and others not.

I have had 4 or 5 bought in Norway and haven’t noticed it either.

More than that John [cheers.gif]
That special blend crossed my mind because of this:

Eric Solomon
Good Evening xxxxxxxx

Thank you for your e mail inquiry which was forwarded to me today by my office. I am currently in the Rhone Valley on my usual December trip to access and buy my allocations of now, the 2012 vintage. I apologize for not responding sooner. Your observations are absolutely correct and I spoke to Mr. Parker about what is indeed confusing. The wine he tasted with me and consequently rated so highly (96 points) was in fact the wine called and labeled…Celler Cal Pla Mas D’en Comte 2009. This wine is indeed very different from the wineries entry level red simply labeled “Cal Pla”…Furthermore, there are 2 blends/cuvees of Mas D’en Compte red made. One for Spain and all of Europe/Asia and one specifically for me in the USA. Neal Martin tasted and rated the European cuvee (already being sold) and R. Parker tasted my cuvee which has not yet arrived in the USA. The only way to distinguish the two from each other is by my back label. I realize this has and may cause some confusion and had asked the winery to offer a different label/presentation but alas did not happen. I hope this at least clearly answers your questions. I wish you Happy Holidays.


Eric Solomon

Thanks for the link, Jamie. Your report on LRA is quite interesting. I hadn’t realized the scale of this winery–43,000 barrels! That’s really industrial winemaking, even tho various things are done “by hand”. I am very suspicious that the variation we hear about (and experience!) in this wine is due to this enormous scale–it’s very hard to keep up quality and consistency with something like wine when you’re making so much of it.

With all respect, why is quantity “suspicius”?

Having taste bottle #1 with Marc, I would say that it was dill, not pickle as noted in the question. I definitely perceive dill aromas when I have wines that have been aged with significant percentages of American oak (Silver Oak-Alex and St. Francis Reserve Cab (both from the early to mid 90s) come immediately to mind.