(2019) This new Gran Reserva from the historic La Rioja Alta joins their tremendously good portfolio of wines. It is utterly classic Gran Reserva in many ways, opening with those fragrant American oak barrel notes of marzipan and coconut, but a terrifically plush depth of fruit that also hints at game and truffle. A blend of 95% Tempranillo from forty-year-old vines with 5% Graciano, there is concentration and elegance on the palate. The wine remains juicy and vital to the core, shimmering with spices and depths of velvetty fruit, smooth tannins and creamy acidity. Beautifully balanced, what a treat this would be if you are looking for something special for Christmas. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2018) A very harsh year, very dry and austere. 15% Garnacha joined the Tempranillo in this year, as the climate produced a dark Garnacha that fitted the profile. Lovely edge of brick to the colour. Dry, mineral, a touch of iron oxide, a touch of dried blood. Beautiful fruit on the palate, very dry, the tannins coating the mouth, but such a delightful cherry and blackcurrant intensity of fruit. Racing acidity adds to the wiry, tense feel of the wine. Fabulous length. No UK retailers of this vintage listed at time of writing, but use the wine-searcher link to find overseas sellers who ship worldwide.
(2018) A very dry year - even drier than 1994 - a Mediterranean vintage with hot summer and low rainfall. Lots of coffee and more torrefaction character, dense and svelte. Again the colour very youthful. Supple, plush, the deep fleshiness of the plum and mocha fruit and the warming creaminess of the oak. Such a dark pool of fruit here, spices and modern in style, but absolutely beautifully done. Hugely impressive and sumptuous, but on personal taste, the edge of the 2004 just sneaks this battle. Bottle price equivalent given, but only half and full case stockists at time of review.
(2018) A great vintage with sufficient rain but very few problems needing any intervention. An Atlantic year. Deep, dense colour. Intense very youthful profile with cedar and black fruits, a graphite and mint chocolate character, and a sense of serious concentration. The palate carries a welterweight of cassis and mint, dramatically dark and plush, long and very very pure, the touch of austerity just adding rigorous charms, but there is light and shade aplenty here.
(2018) A Mediterranean year. A great drought, with only around 15 inches of rain. Early flowering in hot temperatures but then July was cold, August and September hot, meaning a harvest 15 days earlier than in 2010. Darker and more dense in colour still, quite closed, glossy and dark, quite impenetrable at this stage. The palate a similar muscular, deep character but has that mineral, slightly dusty but deeply hued character, so grippy, masculine and rich. Power and weight here, dark vine fruits, huge structure and the coffee touch of creaminess. A cautious 94, but this has the potential to be as great a Roda 1 as the 2010.
(2017) Torre de Oña is a winery created by parent company La Rioja Alta in the 1990s, to make very high quality wines in the neighbouring Rioja region of Alavesa. This is the first release of Martelo, and the first time winemaker Julio Sáenz felt the vintage merited this special selection of the best grapes from old vine plots, aged 24 months in new American oak (80%) and French oak (20%) barrels. It's an immediately modern, plush, yet svelte and concentrated wine, graphite and ebony-dark aromas driven by intense fruit wrapped in very fine oak. The palate has wonderful intensity too, the fruit cool and pure, nothing overblown, everything stylish and serious, spices and balsamic richness to the tannins and fruit, very good acidity, and a long finish playing fruit against structure. There are components of Mazuelo, Garnacha and even the white wine grape Viura alongside the bedrock Tempranillo, in a terrific wine.
(2017) A fairly punishing 15.5% alcohol declared on the label for this selection of the oldest vineyards and best fruit that tops the range. Only 150 cases were produced. The colour is saturated and opaque and the nose closed and dramatically dark. Some cocoa perhaps? Definitely some dense, blue/black fruit coming through like damsons and blueberry. Subtle French oak. In the mouth this is voluptuous, smoky and creamy, full and dense and whilst clearly the onslaught of alcohol and oak is considerable, it seems better balanced than the Seleccion Personal, the grip of the oak tannins, bittersweet twist of fruit and acid, combining in a long, concentrated and powerful finish. Impressive of its fairly massive style.
(2014) The first release of this wine, 100% very old Tempranillo from a single vineyard, also weighs in with 14.5% alcohol. It is a vibrant, deep and saturated colour, the nose has really deep, glossy black fruit, but it is more smoke-swirled plum and deep, ripe cherry than cassis. There's a delightful, subtle floral fragrance and elegance, partly the quality, lightly-toasted oak, partly the natural fruit concentration. In the mouth that cherry skin bittersweetness again, quite spicy and exotic, nuanced flavours of cardonom and anise amongst the fruit. The oak is polished, smoky, chocolaty but edged with firm endive and liquorice bite. Hugely concentrated and excellent. Should have considerable cellaring potential given the balance and intensity.
(2014) With its 15% alcohol and yield of less than a 10hl/ha - not to mention 14 months of ageing in all new oak - you might expect this to be somewhat overblown, but how wrong you would be. From a single vineyard of 110-year-old Grenache planted in 1903 in limestone and clay with 10% of rocks, the concentration here is entirely natural and vividly fresh. The ageing was in 500-litre French barrels, not the standard 225-litre barrique - so the impact of the oak is lessened too, adding just a delightful floral and exotically spiced edge, and touch of creaminess. In the mouth it has dramatic, dark plum, damson and blueberry intensity, all smoothed by the coffeeish background of oak and wonderfully supple and creamy tannins. Briary, cherryish acidity completes a totally convincing picture of a terific wine, and hugely impressive contemporary take on Rioja.
(2013) >From slightly younger (but still 25- to 40-year-old) vines this is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, aged for 26 months in new oak, 80% French and 20% American. It has a dense ruby colour, and the nose is delightfully rich, deep and seductive with copious red and black fruit compote notes, a polished sheen of oak and some nicely pitched gravel and earth savour. On the palate it is a powerful and substantial wine, the concentration of fruit is obvious, grippy and tart with plum and cherry skin grippiness to the fruit and acidity. Tannins are also fairly beefy at this stage, though they are refined. The wine finishes on that matière, with real intensity.