Thursday, March 6, 2008

A pair of outstanding Riojas

Had dinner last night at Rocky and Pris' place. The previous night, I opened a 2001 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva DOC, that was so amazing I had to save some for them. Had to let Rocky have a taste.

As you know, Rioja was my introduction to Spanish wine. And what a great introduction. I don't think I've ever been disappointed by a Rioja Reserva. Definitely by some of the Crianza, but I can't recall having even a mediocre Reserva. So I definitely had high expections for the Beronia.

It had a beautiful, rich brick red colour, nicely saturated. Just released at LCBO. Wonderful nose - really wonderful. Nice ripe, red fruits, cigar, some coffee, and this wonderful pungent earthiness to it. Great use of oak as well, what's interesting is that this wine was aged for 18 months in a combination of American and French barriques. The aromas translate almost directly in the mouth, with really lush, ripe fruit, and a great stream of well integrated acidity. Tannins are very, very ripe. Over two days, one constant was the ripeness. The fruit, the structure was so well built, and so ripe, almost perfectly ripe. None of that jammy, candied nonsense. Truly, one of the greatest Riojas I've ever drank.

Second bottle was also a 2001, a Bodegas Ondarre Rioja Reserva DOC. This one featured a much light colour, and a more candied nose. Needed a bit more time to open it, this one had a really tight core, which I actually discovered that I really enjoyed. The Ondarre shows much more focussed acidity and was bone dry, just absolute puckered up mouth dryness. Which was fantastic by the way. Just the precision of the wine, the way it "cuts" instead of "floats" on the palate was amazing. What it lacked in complexity, it made up in structure and harmony and focus. Another great effort.

Thankfully, I have picked up a bottle from nearly every single release of Rioja Reservas. I really love this region. The expression of the earth, the solidness, and the masculinity of these wines is just everything I want from a red wine.
I think it's time for a change. I'm going to start moving away from French wines and start exploring Italian. Barbera D'Alba and Barbera D'Asti, along with some Brunello di Montalcino seem like some great wines to start off with. I have some limited experience was wines from Sicilia and Sardegna, so I'm very eager to jump right into Italia!

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