Friday, February 15, 2013

consistency and discipline

2001 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial | DOCa Rioja Alta

After the Champagne, we went on to a mature Rioja. I love these wines, and I may have mentioned it many times before, but Rioja provides reliable, consistent wines that offer one of the few opportunities to taste something at maturity. My go-to wine, if there ever is such a thing. But this one was extra special.

The Reserva Especial label is given to exceptional vintages, and 2001 is a fabulous one for Rioja. The wines combine that characteristic linearity and precision with a density and structure that will undoubtedly allow the wines to age well for a very, very long time. The Viña Ardanza is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from their vineyards in Fuenmayor and Rioja Baja (Ausejo and Tudelilla) respectively. The 2001 is only the third (!) vintage to be declared a Reserva Especial after 1964 and 1973, and was aged in American oak for 36 months. Holding onto its colour, although it does have a certain dullness in hue typical of Rioja. Decanted, and then back in the bottle for some chilling before dinner. Great vanilla and strawberry aromas, immediately - nothing else could smell like this. This intense minerality giving backbone. Very perfumed, developing a gamey savouriness. So seductive, so pure, all on a tensile, energetic palate showing fine tannins and integrated acidity. Mature, but certainly at the beginning of a long life.

Rioja is just so consistent, it's amazing actually. Their processes for aging wine in barrels is fascinating - they blend not only different varietals but also wines kept in barrels with different ages. It's so much more of a complicated process than just aging wine in oak for x number of years. So much more complicated, and something that Decanter magazine's Andrew Jefford covered a few months ago - a must read. It just comes down to discipline. Does the producer have the discipline to maintain traditions in the face of let's pump this shit out and make some money, and the determination to put in the work required to see it through? I sometimes lack in discipline, something I desperately need to work on. Talk, at the end of it all, is so fucking cheap - action is all that matters. And like these grand Riojas, progress is incremental, but constant.


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