Brett happens

All wine, most of the time

Posts Tagged ‘Rioja

A double dose of Tempranillo Blanco

leave a comment »

Grape vines are prone to mutating and winemakers prone to taking advantage of the results. One not uncommon example is red grape vines that mutate into white grape vines. Henri Gouges has a famous row of white Pinot Noir vines, propagated from an offshoot discovered in the 1940s, whose white berries are vinified to make a blanc de blancs (as opposed to a blanc de noirs, a white wine made from red grapes by minimizing the juice’s contact with the pigments in the skins). Tempranillo Blanco, a white mutation of Spain’s iconic red grape, was discovered in 1998 in Rioja Baja. (A grey-berried mutation called Tempranillo Royo or Tempranillo Gris has also been found in Toro.) After several years’ work to stabilize the variety, Tempranillo Blanco was authorized for use in white Rioja in 2004. Under the appellation rules, the grape can be used on its own or in blends, with Viura (aka Macabeo) generally considered the best blending partner. Two monovarietal Tempranillos recently showed up at the SAQ and we gave them a try.

Rioja 2016, Alto Cantabria, Inspiración, Valdemar ($19.90, 12591821)
100% Tempranillo Blanco sourced from the Alto Cantabria estate. The estate claims this was the first wine made from the grape; Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes says that honour goes to Ijalba. Fermented and matured on the lees in temperature-controlled (16°C) stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Oneo.
Odd but not unappealing nose of “cotton candy,” “peanuts,” “salty bread,” “Bazooka gum” and apple. Medium- to full-bodied. Dry but ripe-fruity (pear and pineapple), even juicy, with a salty mineral undercurrent and just enough acidity. Tasters note “tea tree” and “cucumber” on the sustained finish. Clean, savoury and involving, delivering a mouthful of flavour for under 20 bucks. Several around the table said they intended to buy this. (Buy again? Sure.)

Rioja 2016, Tempranillo Blanco, Edición Limitada, Rioja Vega ($22.50, 12489157)
100% Tempranillo Blanco. After alcoholic fermentation, the wine spent six months on the fine lees in French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Importation Épicurienne.
Minerals, apple, ash and preserved lemon mark the nose. In the mouth, it’s full-bodied, rich and round. The fruit tends to white pear and apple with tropical and citrus overtones. The oak adds spice but also calls attention to itself, especially on the long finish. Not exactly refreshing and probably best thought of as a food wine, though fans of big, New Worldish wines might feel differently. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

September 17, 2017 at 12:58

New-wave Rioja?

with 2 comments

Rioja 2015, Tempranillo, Bodegas Moraza ($18.35, 12473825)
100% Tempranillo from organically farmed vines in three parcels with chalky-claey soil around the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Rioja Alta. In a quest for freshness and lower-than-usual alcohol levels, the grapes are picked (by hand) earlier than at most other estates in the region. Undergoes partial carbonic maceration. Fermented in concrete tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.3 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Spiced plum and black raspberry, turned earth, old wood, some leather in the background. On the fuller side of medium-bodied. The spicy ripe fruit seems sweet on entry, an impression that quickly fades, leaving a bone-dry mid-palate. Prominent mineral and faint lactic notes add interest, sleek acidity keeps things fresh. The tannins are stealthy, most apparent on the long finish, which is marked by a light but pervasive astringency, a note pitched between dried tree leaves and dried herbs and a lingering black pepper bite. While there’s not a lot of depth (maybe it’s a young-vine cuvée?), this is a high-quality, complex and savoury sub-$20 wine, albeit one that virtually demands food. Smooths and coheres after an hour’s breathing, so carafing isn’t a bad idea. (Buy again? Yes.)

I’d seen this recent arrival on the monopoly’s shelves but my interest wasn’t really piqued until I read Karyne Duplessis Piché’s profile of the estate in Friday’s La Presse and the companion piece about the attempts of a handful of iconoclast producers to open the Rioja appellation to a more terroir-driven approach.

Written by carswell

January 22, 2017 at 12:41

Red and white (OK, maroon and gold) Heredias

leave a comment »

Rioja 2004, Reserva, Viña Tondonia, R. Lopez de Heredia ($49.25, 116679010)
Estate-grown Tempranillo (75%), Garnacha (15%) and Graciano (5%) and Mazuelo (aka Carignan, 5%). Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in estate-made American oak barrels for six years, with twice yearly racking. Fined with egg whites. Bottled unfiltered. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Straightforward but beautiful nose of plum, cut wood, spice, papier d’Arménie, raspberry cordial, blackberry tea, hay and a touch of vanilla. Medium-bodied, savoury and ready to go. The combination of velvety fruit, dark minerals, wood, smooth acidity and supple if lightly raspy tannins is engaging though more structure, complexity and depth wouldn’t be unwelcome, especially at the price point. The slow-fade finish brings balsam and leather to mind. Maybe it’s passing through a phase but this seems less special, more earthbound than in earlier vintages. (Buy again? Hmm.)

Rioja 2006, Crianza, Viña Gravonia, R. Lopez de Heredia ($30.50, 11667927)
100% Viura (aka Macabeo) from old vines. Manually harvested, gently destemmed and immediately crushed. The must is transferred into 60-hectolitre oak vats, where it ferments spontaneously. Matured in 225-litre American oak barrels for four years, with racking twice a year. Unfiltered but fined with egg whites before bottling. Reducing sugar: 2.4 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
The layered, faintly oxidized but still fresh nose generated a wide range of descriptors from the assembled tasters: honey, oak, “a coniferous thing,” “raw almond,” “green almond,” vanilla, “basement concrete,” “vegetal but not, like a tree,” “elm,” ground cherry, “almost Muscat,” white spice and more. Hefty but not heavy in the mouth. The fruit – mainly preserved lemon and stone fruit – is wrapped in a gauze of oak, enlivened by soft acidity and tethered to a chalky saline substrate. Toffee and nougat notes overtone the long finish. Perhaps a shade less complex than earlier vintages but still unique and delicious. The price is astounding for a 10-year-old wine of this quality. (Buy again? Absolutely.)

MWG October 27, 2016, tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

December 2, 2016 at 13:44

Rioja Gran Reserva times two

with one comment

Rioja Gran Reserva 2009, Imperial, C.V.N.E. ($51.50, 12203796)
Tempranillo (85%), Graciano (10%) and Mazuelo (aka Carignan, 5%) from vines averaging more than 20 years old in Villalba and Haro in Rioja Alta. Manually harvested. The grapes were destemmed and cold macerated prior to cool alcoholic fermentation in oak vats and malolactic fermentation in barrels and cement vats. Matured 36 months in American and French oak barrels and 48 months in the bottle. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: LBV International.
Plum, old wood, black tea, cherry tart, a whiff of alcohol. Smooth, satiny and balanced, the fruit ripe and pure, the firm, gritty tannins beginning to relax, the acidity providing welcome freshness. Incipient layers bring smoke, black fruit and minerals to mind and hint at depth to come. Long, sandalwood finish. Young but approachable now, better integrated and more refulgent in five to 10 years. (Buy again? Sure.)

Rioja Gran Reserva 2005, 904, La Rioja Alta ($72.50, 12407810)
Tempranillo (90%) and Graciano (10%) from vines over 40 years old in Briñas, Labastida and Villalba. Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. Matured 48 months in four-year-old American oak barrels (made in-house), with racking every six months. Bottled in November 2010. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
“Like Christmas cake,” said one taster upon smelling the nose. I wrote: macerated cherry, leather, tobacco, pencil lead, sawed cedar, background coconut and vanilla. Medium- to full-bodied. Still youthful and vibrant though the tannins are mostly resolved. Great depth of flavour, including plummy fruit, inky minerals, animale, smoke and well-integrated oak. Very long woody/savoury finish. Balanced, elegant and, more importantly, delicious. Enjoyable now but probably not peaking for another 10 years and capable of aging longer. Special. (Buy again? Budget permitting, yes.)

MWG April 14th tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

August 4, 2016 at 12:07

MWG October 2nd tasting: Rioja faceoff

leave a comment »

Both wines were carafed and poured back into the bottles about four hours before we got around to them.

Rioja Gran Reserva 2005, Marqués de Murrieta ($39.00, 12259554)
Tempranillo (84%), Garnacha Tintorera (13%) and Mazuelo (aka Carignan, 3%). The grapes are destemmed, crushed and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks for ten days with daily pump-overs and punch-downs. Matured 25 months in American oak barrels and 36 months in bottle before release. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bergeron-les-vins.
Mocha with cherry, blackberry, dried fruit and sweet spice relegated to the background. Full-bodied, dense and velvety. Dark-fruited with a mineral streak. The tannins are plump, the acidity bright if cloaked, the oak pervasive but not cloying. Chocolaty finish. Lacks focus and dimension, especially depth, next to the Prado Enea. Popular with several of the tasters, some of whom bought bottles. Reasonably priced. (Buy again? Not my style but if it’s yours, go for it!)

Rioja Gran Reserva 2005, Prado Enea, Bodegas Muga ($50.25, 11169670)
Tempranillo (80%), Mazuelo (10%), Graciano (5%) and Garnacha (5%) from vines averaging 35 years old. Manually harvested. Fermented in oak vats with indigenous yeasts and without temperature control. Matured nine months in new oak barrels and 27 months in “semi-new” American oak barrels and at least 36 months in bottle. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vins Balthazard.
A far more intriguing nose: the expected red and black fruit are joined by prominent graphite and animale aromas while spice, floral and smoky vanilla notes add complexity. Rich, concentrated and mouth-filling but not heavy. Acidity gives the ripe-sweet fruit an inner glow. The firm but unaggressive tannins are beginning to resolve. Vigorous chewing reveals real depth of flavour and structure. Oak, spice and leather colour the long, elegant finish. A sumptuous wine that’s just beginning to transition from the primary stage. (Buy again? To revisit in 15 or 20 years.)

“After these wines, you need to floss,” quipped one taster. Not that that stopped him from polishing off both glasses.

(Flight: 6/6)

Written by carswell

October 30, 2014 at 19:02

Posted in Tasting notes

Tagged with ,

MWG October 2nd tasting: Garnacha v. Grenache

leave a comment »

Rioja 2010, Propiedad, Bodega Palacios Remondo ($36.00, 10256131)
100% Garnacha (aka Grenache) from 40- to 90-year-old vines. In previous vintages, the wine has been a blend; the 2010 is the first all-Grenache bottling. The grapes were manually harvested, sorted in the vineyard and again at the cellar and fully destemmed. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and maceration with regular punch-downs took place in 5,000-litre oak vats and lasted nearly a month. Matured 14 months in French oak barrels, 50% new and 50% second-fill. Unfiltered and unfined. 14.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les vins Horizon.
New Worldish nose: up-front plum and cherry, spicy notes (black pepper especially) and background vanilla. In the mouth, it’s a middleweight. Bright acidity and smooth tannins supplely structure the ripe-sweet fruit, while a slatey underlay adds depth. The oak-accented finish is heady, even a little flaring. Enjoyable in an uncomplicated – “one-dimensional” quoth one taster – fruit-forward way. Before the bottles were unveiled, another taster (tasting double-blind) who spends a lot of time in San Francisco declared this a Californian. And even I (tasting blind) was convinced it was the Bonny Doon. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Grenache 2012, Central Coast, Clos de Gilroy, Bonny Doon Vineyard ($28.30, 12268557)
Mostly biodynamically farmed Grenache (84%, from the Alta Loma vineyard in Greenfield) with a little Syrah (11.5%, from the Alamo Creek Vineyard near Santa Maria) and Mouvèdre (4.5%, from very old vines in Oakley). Manually harvested and sorted. Mostly destemmed. The varieties were vinified separately. A cold soak of several days was followed by lengthy fermentation (with indigenous yeasts) and maceration in open vats with regular punch-downs. Matured in stainless steel tanks, then blended and bottled. Screwcapped. 14.4% ABV. Quebec agent: Trialto.
Fresh nose of crushed raspberry, white pepper and pastry cream over a subterranean bass line. Tighter and more structured than the Rioja, though also a middleweight. The satiny fruit is lifted by high acidity, framed by sleek tannins and grounded by dark minerals. Finishes cleanly on a heady, herb-scented note. An appealing mix of suave and gruff. Unfortunately, like so many California wines in Quebec, the QPR seems a little off. (Buy again? At $28.30, maybe. If it were $5 cheaper, sure.)

(Flight: 4/6)

Written by carswell

October 22, 2014 at 11:29

MWG October 17th tasting (5/5): New and old style Rioja

leave a comment »

Rioja Reserva 2005, Siete Viñas, Barón de Ley ($39.50, 11962627)
An unusual blend of the seven grape varieties, including white, permitted in Rioja: Tempranillo (55%), Garnacha (15%), Graciano (15%), Mazuelo (7%), Viura (7%), Malvasia (2%) and Garnacha Blanca (1%). Manually harvested. The varieties were vinified and matured separately in French and American oak barrels for three years, then blended and aged another 12 months in French oak foudres. 14.5% ABV. The Cellier New Arrivals wine in this flight.
Meat, sawed wood, bright candied fruit, oak and musk. Concentrated and fruit-forward but surprisingly fresh; smooth on the surface but tense and astringent underneath; impressively broad but not what you’d call deep. The fruit seems perfumed (the white varieties speaking?), redolent of spice, flowers, sandalwood, balsam and, of course, oak, with some coffee and graphite joining in on the long finish. Fans of New World wine will enjoy this; traditionalists may too, even as they note that it’s not very Rioja-like. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Rioja Reserva 2001, Viña Tondonia, R. Lopez de Heredia ($42.75, 11667901)
Estate-grown Tempranillo (75%), Garnacha (15%) and Graciano and Mazuelo (10%). Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in estate-made American oak barrels for six years, with twice yearly racking. Fined with egg whites. Bottled unfiltered. 13% ABV.
Lighter and redder than the red-purple Siete Viñas, with a hint of brick at the pale rim. The closed nose – little but anise and sweet spices at first – soon blossoms, with berries, cherry, old wood, leather, underbrush and clay wafting from the glass. In the mouth, the wine is medium-bodied, tart, lean and, despite the mildly astringent tannins, supple. The glowing core of sweet fruit is shrouded in thin, crinkly layers of dried herbs, minerals, old excelsior and leaf mould and, like a cooling ember, fades through the long slatey finish. So civilized, so balanced, so authentic. Continued evolving over the hour or so it was in my glass, indicating it hasn’t peaked yet. (Buy again? With pleasure.)

Written by carswell

October 28, 2013 at 11:07

Posted in Tasting notes

Tagged with ,