2001 Medrano-Irazu Gran Reserva, DOC Rioja
Back to what I'm so comfortable with, like hot water and epsom salts after a brutal workout. Fall weather, kind of stressed, eating mushrooms . . . a few glasses of Gran Reserva Rioja sounded perfect. All the bright colour of traditional Rioja, with that wonderful interplay of ripe red berries and vanilla that makes Spanish reds so special. Wonderful texture, good length, a delicious wine all around.
What is it about some wines and oak? The different sides regarding oak use are pretty clear by now . . . like many things, I think it can be very misguided to go to extremes. Some wines need oak. Some need it to take it to another level, and Rioja (and Ribera del Duero) is certainly one of those wines. Tempranillo just somehow does so much better with that subtle injection of flavour, structure, and oxidation of oak, and this wine proves it. Usually, vanilla in wine is horrifying - not in this case. Keep an open mind.