29 May 2013

Snooth PVA: Wines of Rioja

Our final tasting for the Snooth PVA weekend was focused on the Rioja region of Spain and supplied by Vibrant Rioja. People ask me for wine recommendations all the time, and there are a few shortcuts that I take. If someone says, "I like a good red wine, not too expensive, not too--" and I say "Rioja." "OK, but I don't want it to be too tannic, and--" I once again say "Rioja." "But I need something that I can find in my local wine shop like--" "RIOJA!"

If you want a proper red wine for dinner with a few years on it and don't want to spend a lot of money, it's hard to beat the quality-price ratio you get out of the Rioja region. Whether Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva, your odds are great for getting a delicious wine. And stored properly, the best of these bottles can survive for fifty years or more, meaning that the various houses have some phenomenal libraries if you are privileged to visit. However, most people I know are of the "drink now" mentality, and across many producers you can easily find these bottles throughout the United States.

Due to an early flight I did not get to spend a lot of time with each of these wines, but I did hear most of the presentation by our hostess Ana Fabiano, author of the book at right:

The Wine Region of Rioja
Ana Fabiano
Sterling Epicure, June 2012
$20, 256 pp.

While I gave a one word answer as a recommendation, Fabiano drills down into every detail of the history and geography and enology of the Rioja region. In the 80s, she was part of a team that helped privatize the Spanish wine industry after decades of national control via the Franco regime. Currently she is Brand Ambassador for DOCa Rioja and U.S. Trade Director for Vibrant Rioja.

The book is full of scenic shots of the Rioja region as well as her own observations and reflections, delivered with a combination of passion and true affection for the vineyards and producers.

One thing that struck me was when she pointed out that Spain is the second most mountainous country in Europe after Switzerland, and I doubt most people would be able to answer that question in a trivia contest. More importantly, the mountains and the people who live amongst them have had a profound impact on the development and character of the wine made in Rioja. If you're interested in the region I would highly recommend reading her book.

As mentioned earlier, these are very brief impressions of each wine and should not be taken for full reviews.

2007 Marques de Riscal Reserva, $14: Red cherry, slight profile of herbs and twigs.

2007 Marques de Murrieta Reserva, $22: Tart red cherry with firm tannins.

2004 Manuel Quintano Reserva, $48: Black cherry with high, bright acidity. Very interesting.

2005 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva, $53: Another with a black cherry profile, but this time milder and with deeper black fruit flavors.

2004 Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva, $35: Leather and plum aromas dominate, dialing in on the Rioja profile that I adore.

1994 Marques de Riscal Reserva, $45: Slight garnet/copper tint from the age. Earthy and barnyard aromas with an underlying dried cherry flavor and a delicate finish.

1994 Marques de Murrieta Reserva, $52: This one surprised me with the mineral aspects, bringing out a little ash and stone above the fruit. While this wine was a little closed on my sampling, I am sure it would open up with time and decanting.

1994 Manuel Quintano Reserva, $60: Rich nose of sour cherries that follows on the palate, and I mean that in the most delicious way possible. Amazing that such bright acidity can last so long, coincidentally from the year I graduated high school.

1994 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva, $76: Spice and dried fruit. Slightly sweet on the tongue, yet with a black tea finish. One that rewards long thought. My favorite of the lineup.

1985 Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva, $99: In a blind tasting this one could have easily been five or ten years old instead of eighteen. While this one had the acidity and cherry elements found in many of the other wines, I found a little of the tomato leaf notes found in some of my favorite vegetal wines.

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Before everyone had finished tasting, my buddy Dezel and I split early to catch our flights. Standing on 6th Avenue with our bright pink gift bags, we hailed a cab and made it back to LaGuardia in time for him to get back to D.C. and for me to get back to Memphis.

While this post concludes my series on the Snooth PVA weekend, it does not conclude my relationship with that website nor my friendship and collaboration with the many wonderful people that I met on that trip. We've all been in frequent communication with each other since, and there are great things to come in the future. Stay tuned!

Check out these other great reviews of the same tasting! Vinesleuth "What is Rioja Wine?", The V.I.P. Table "Rioja: An Untapped Resource", Vindulge "Cellar Worthy Rioja", My Vine Spot "#SnoothPVA: Wines of Rioja Farewell"

Note: This trip was provided by Snooth.

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