Thursday, 12 August 2010

A Fantastic 2004 Rioja Reserva

Rioja isn’t a wine I tend to drink very often, and I’m not really sure as to why, since they do produce some fantastic wines at very reasonably prices. Rioja is Spain’s leading wine producing region and can be found in the northwest of the country, the name is derived from the river (Rio) Oja, which is tributary to the Ebro which runs right through the heart of the region.

They produce Red, White and Rose wines under the Rioja DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada), which can be a blend from any of the seven permitted varieties (four red, three white). It is then fermented in large stainless steal tanks and aged in new American or French oak. The time spent maturing in oak will determine how it’s classified, with Crianza and Reserva meaning it must have spent a minimum of twelve months in the barrel, Gran Reserva requiring a minimum of two years. There is another classification which is Joven, meaning the wine is unoaked; these however only apply to the reds.

The most widely planted red varieties are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), with Mazuelo (Carignon) and Graciano which are planted in much smaller quantities. You can use a blend of any of these or just use a single varietal to produce your wine.

Barón De Barbón 2004 Reserva is produced by Bodegas Muriel, and the first thing you can take from the label is the term Reserva, which means that it has spent a minimum of 12 months maturing in an oak barrel before being bottled. The back label however states that it has spent up to two years in both American and French oak; all the grapes are hand harvested to ensure the highest quality of fruit and most importantly is produced from 100% Tempranillo.

After opening the bottle I gave the cork a quick smell, as you do, and got the strangest of aromas, Smoky Bacon Crisps! In the glass you got a ruby colour at the centre of the glass with the edges starting to become tawnier, a sign of the ageing this wine has received. On the nose you got some really pronounced aromas of red berries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Red Cherries, with Cedar and Vanilla coming through in the background, which again came from the oak. On the palate you got all of these flavours which lingered in your mouth for ages, along with these you got wonderfully smooth and silky tannins and a good level of acidity. Combining all of these together you got a wonderfully balanced and outstanding wine, showing how a good Rioja can taste, which I would highly recommend to anyone.

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