The wines of Rioja Alavesa, Spain

These tasting notes accompany our in-depth report from Rioja Alavesa. For profiles of all of these estates see Regional report: The wines and Rioja Alavesa.

Viñedos de Páganos – El Puntido

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2007
Young, tight, quite, but quite gamy nose, with meaty aromatics and a certain tobacco and herb character. The fruit is beautifully fresh, with just a little chocolaty, berry depth but tight with a lovely structure. Long and very well balanced, the oak just adding a spicy character to the finish, but fruit driving this. 91/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2006
Tight, if anything more subdued aromas than the 2007, but a lovely incense-like refinement and very tight black cherry fruit. The concentration here is superb, with tight, cherry and black chocolate fruit, and very fine-grained tannins. The oak here is lovely and the juicy fruit quality gives it plenty of length and refinement. 91/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2005
Intensely gamy, mineral, much more aromatic and much more expressive, with those animal notes and much more spice. The palate maintains that very keen edge, the ripe red fruits buttressed by those juicy tannins and that very fleshy, gamy quality, the acidity is very good and this retains great freshness. 93/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2004
Spices and tightly-wound cherry fruit, not nearly so much of that gamey quality, beautifully rounded, cedary fruit, with graphite and some balsamic notes and lovely sense of balance. The palate has similarly intense, rounded and structured fruit, with real sweetness but lovely grainy tannins giving grip and a fine cedar and mineral finish giving a twist of energy and freshness. 94/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2003
Lots of spice and cedar here, lots of graphite, and the fruit not too overripe for the vintage. The palate has delicious fruit sweetness, with a thick, quite plummy character and a touch of chocolate, but this is really well balanced, if a little shorter than the 2004 and less edgy. 91/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2002
A little sweaty note, slightly like the 2007, the fruit not quite so fresh, with a slightly meaty, balsamic character. The fruit has lots of sweet meatiness on the palate, very good balance and nice overall impression with a spicy finish. 90/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido 2001
Lovely dense colour still, with big, meaty, mineral nose, very like the 2004 in many ways, with that same fleshy richness but suggestion of freshness. The palate has superb fruit, with real ripeness and roundness, very expressive with those meaty, balsamic and spice notes and aromatic herbal notes too. Lots of tobacco and spice into a long finish, with very good, fine tannins and that smoky, but grippy finish. 94/100.

Viñedos de Páganos – La Nieta

Viñedos de Páganos, La Nieta 2008
Lovely balsamic and mineral nose, intensely concentrated graphite-edged black fruit, shrugging off the oak, which is all medium to medium+ toast. Terrific minerality, dried herbs and glossy black cherry. Concentrated palate too, with such silky tannins and sweet, complex fruit filling the mouth. Lovely spice and definition, in a terrific wine with power, but lovely balance and precision. 94/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, La Nieta 2007
Fabulous blue/black intensity of colour. Seems even fresher on the nose than the 2008, with lovely tobacco and spice notes in the background, and a very breezy minerality. Little ash and stony notes, even a touch of greenness which works very well. The palate has that balsamic richness, with less complexity than the 2008, but lovely precision and length yet again. Juicy, savoury tannin and very pure and long blackcurranty fruit. 92/100. Viñedos de Páganos, La Nieta 2006
Very black colour. This has a kirsch-like, lifted cherry fruit quality with little floral hints. Very fragrant wine, with lovely cedary oak and the fresh raspberry-like fruit. The palate is deliciously slippery and silky, with the liquorice and tight balsamic notes underpinning and gripping, but the sweet fruit driving through. Great concentration here again, but not at the expense of elegance. 93/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, La Nieta 2005
Hints of that meaty, balsamic quality again, with some subtle Oriental spices. Quite plummy and meaty, with a plum quality to the fruit. The palate has fantastic presence: an espresso richness to the tannins and silky texture. The mouth-feel is lovely, the edge of charry oak and the freshness of the acidity giving this length. Concentrated and long, and focused into a superb finish. 94/100.

Viñedos de Páganos, La Nieta 2004
Terrific nose: very alluring, and very smoky and vanilla-licked, with the fruit quite meaty, a plum skin note and a touch of dried marjoram. The palate has a lovely nervosity, the edge of liquorice and plum skin grip, sinewy, tight tannins and beneath, the sweet opulence building on the mid palate. Very nice balance and length here, with delicious fruit and great length again, the spicy, meaty substance just lightened in this vintage. 95/100.

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Bodegas Valdemar

Conde de Valdemar ‘Finca Alto Cantabria’ Barrel-fermented White 2009
13%. From an old Viura vineyard at an altitude of 700 metres. The first barrel fermented white in Rioja, spending four months in new French oak. Oak is quite subtle, with lovely floral aromatics and a delicate apple peel fragrance. The palate has lovely freshness, with lots of lemony freshness and a very clean finish showing just a touch of spiciness. 89/100. £9.99

Inspiracion Valdemar Tempranillo Blanco 2009
This is a brand new grape – it is not a blanc de noirs, but a mutation of the red Tempranillo that was discovered a few years ago and has been propagated to commercial qualities. It shared 97% of the DNA of the red Tempranillo. Harvested early before potential alcohol too high (13.5%). Lots of experiments with barrels and fermentations to discover the best way to approach this new grape. Three months in new French oak barrels, though now finding 500 litre Acacia barrels very interesting. Gentle honey notes and a soft toastiness, but very delicate and low toast wood. Touches of tropical fruit, a creamy character with really nice punch and acidity, a little touch of apricot and fine orange peel tang to the finish. 89/100

Conde de Valdemar Garnacha 2007
Garnacha fell from 25% to 10% of plantings in the Rioja region and is still falling, but Valdemar believe in it and have launched a Reserva – the first in Rioja. Slightly nutty edge that is typically Grenache, with a juiciness of berry fruit coming through and a touch of spice. There’s a touch of cedary minerality too. The palate has good freshness and has crisp, crunchy berry fruits with lots of cherry-skin tang and freshness. 88/100

Conde de Valdemar Garnacha Reserva 2000
Old stock. Much oakier, more resinous, lots of oak and although the fruit is fresh and very good acidity. 87/100

Inspiracion Valdemar 2007
100,000 bottles of this. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano. 13.5% alcohol. Aged nine months in all new oak, 90% French and 10% American. Lovely fresh berry nose, with gentle balsamic notes and touch a gamey quality, but really the red berry fruit drives this. The palate has lovely fruit, a nice spicy edge, and a touch of liquorice in the finish. Very tangy and fresh and touches of cinnamon and clove are gentle in the finish. 89/100

Inspiracion Valdemar Edicion Limitada 2004
12,000 bottles. 70% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano and 15% ‘Experimental variety’ which is Cabernet Sauvignon, though CS will be decreased in future, in favour of Graciano or Maturana. 18 months in new French oak. Fantastic nose, with some meaty and balsamic notes and lots of pencil-shaving finesse, and a bold blackcurranty depth. The palate has lovely sweetness, with a fine edge of acidity running through it, the tannins spicy and grippy, but giving a lovely length. 93/100

Inspiracion Valdemar Graciano 2005
14.5%, 20 months in new French oak. Needs a very good year for single variety Graciano, dry and warm (but not too hot as it over-ripens easily). Big, bold nose with quite a lot of creamy oak, a slightly eucalyptus quality, and a firm cherry and black berry fruit beneath. Nice little gamey touches. Very nice palate, not quite so rounded on the mid-palate as the Edicion Limitada for example, but does have terrific juiciness and structure: very muscular and possibly in need of some time. 91/100

Inspiracion Valdemar ‘Colleccion Varietales’ 2005
In fact 100% Maturana, which is now allowed on labels in Rioja. A variety lost after Phyloxerra, not known for 100 years then rediscovered in a small town, in a 130-year-old vineyard in sandy soils by the side of the river where Phyloxerra did not attack. Grape was identified as Maturana. 20 months in French oak, not all new. Creamy, smoky, nicely herbal and gamey notes, with spices and balsamic notes, with lots of clove and some roasted meat qualities. Very ripe and full palate, with silky, deliciously rich fruit, lots of coffee and mocha notes, lots of bold autumn berries. Tannins are silky and refined, with gentle but balanced acidity, the dry, but rich berry fruits and that spicy, espresso finish. 92/100

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Bodegas Baigorri

Baigorri, Barrel Fermented White Rioja 2006
40-45-year old vines, 95% Viura, 5% Malvasia. New French oak, and aged with battonage for eight months. Richly honeyed nose, lots of delicately spiced toasty aromas and Brazil nut, with a hint of apricot fruit. On the palate beautifully balanced: a fine, silky texture and delicious freshness, with a lemony core and cool melon and underripe pear fruit, with those buttery and nutty notes beneath. 91/100.

Baigorri, Rioja Crianza 2006
14 months in new French and American oak. 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha and Mazuelo. Very attractive cigar and tobacco notes, refined herbal notes, with a bright cherry and red berry fruit. Delicious palate, the black cherry fruit svelte and creamy and very plush, with delicious balance. 90/100.

Baigorri, Belus 2007
70% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo and 20% Garnacha aged six months in special toast barrels, to give a ‘velvety’ wine (Belus means velvet). Creamy and gamey nose, with some minerality and a touch of charry, grilled meat torrefaction. Very silky sweet fruit, masses of plush sweetness, pastille brightness of blackcurrant and black cherry, and terrific length. 92/100.

Baigorri, Garnacha 2008
40- 50-year-old vines, fermented in stainless steel and eight months in oak. Roasted, grilled meat quality from high toast oak and the nutty, sweet fruit. The palate has an intense cherry fruit, with good acidity retained and a nicely grippy finish, though perhaps oak a little overdone against a slightly jammy sweetness of fruit. 88-89/100.

Baigorri, Rioja Reserva 2005
100% Tempranillo, fermented in oak vats and eighteen months in French oak. More herbal and spice notes, touches of clove and nutty nuts. Tight, muscular, quite refined fruit, lots of structure here and the oak is savoury and supportive, allowing fruit and tannins to give grip. Nice balance, in a savoury, reserved style. Quite lean, but beautifully balanced. 90-91/100.

Baigorri de Garage 2005
Yes, a ‘garagiste’ wine from 60- 70-year old vineyards, 100% Tempranillo, one vine per bottle. It is fermented in oak vats and then into new French oak for 18 months. A substantial amount of juice is bled-off to make the rosé, then the vats topped up with more fruit to add concentration. Lovely blood-streaked, meaty concentration of fruit with deep-set red plum and lightly balsamic notes, but lots of plush elegant fruit. The palate is hugely opulent and deep, with those charry, meaty notes wreathed in smokiness. Lovely plushness and sweetness, but the silky tannins and the tobacco-infused herbal edges melding into cherry acidity. Beautifully balanced, plush and modern, but authentic too. 94/100.

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Marqués de Riscal

Marqués de Riscal, Rueda Blanco 2009
85% Verdejo, 15% Viura. Bright, ferny, pea pod aromatics, with grapefruit and a touch of lychee and grapefruit peel. Bold, fruity palate with good tropical fruit sweetness and a grapefruit acidity soon sweeps it up with that slightly bitter Verdejo nip in the finish. Mouth-filling, but crisp and well-balanced. 86/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Finca Montico 2008
100% Verdejo, from 20-year-old vines, stays on lees for several months. Darker colour, and a touch of pineapple and custard on the nose. Plenty of that vivid tropical fruit, fewer green notes. On the palate has a very rich mouth feel, with a massive hit of sweet fruit and a lots of silkiness. Again a good apple and grapefruit acidity freshens this, but it has huge presence with a tangerine, exotic punch. 88/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Limousin Cask Fermented 2008
100% Verdejo from 40-year-old vines, fermented and spending 5 – 6 months in French oak, actually from Alliers, not Limousin, in 300-litre format. Plenty of toasty vanilla notes, with the creamy oak prominent at this stage with custardy richness and a little touch of Verdejo leafiness. The palate is drier than the Montico with a food friendly, racy finish of lemon and mineral acidity. 88/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Viña Collada 2008
Also sold as Proximo in UK. Mostly Tempranillo with a touch of Graciano and Mazuelo aged in very old, basically inert barrels. A touch of earthy spice, a slightly dank quality, and lacking a bit of fruit on the mid-palate. 80/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Reserva 2005
90% Tempranillo plus Graciano and Mazuelo, 26 months in American oak. More than a touch of Brettanomyces here, with leathery and horsey aromas that detract hugely. Red fruit beneath is fruity and has a touch of vanilla. The palate has a dry, sweet fruit, with crisp tannins and good acidity, but it is very dry on the finish. 83/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Finca Torrea 2006
90% Tempranillo and Graciano, with 14 months in Alliers oak. Touch of cedar and a touch of spice, with plenty of fresh raspberry and cherry fruit. The freshness on the palate is excellent, with lots of dry, savoury tannins and a long, earthy but red fruited finish. A balanced food wine. 88/100.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Gran Reserva 2001
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% ‘other’ (Cabernet Sauvignon). 32 months in oak, all with table-sorted grapes. A touch of balsamic and spice, but much, much cleaner than the Reserva, with a gentle meatiness against very good red berry fruit. This tastes very young still, with the fruit reserved and tightly embraced by grippy but fine tannins and nicely charry and dense oak. 90/100.

Marqués de Riscal, Rioja Baron de Chirel 2005
Tempranillo with 15% Cabernet. In 66% French and 34% American oak for 24 months. Smoky, lightly charry notes but it is the fruit that drives this wine, with bold, sweet, cassis and hints of cocoa and mint, but tightly-wound and muscular fruit, with a meatiness and a tobacco touch. The palate has lovely silkiness and very pure fruit on the palate, with very smoky and silky tannins, but in the finish the fruit is what persists through the spicy, espresso touches. Gamey and rich, with good fruit. 93/100.

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Bodegas Lar de Paula

Lar de Paula, Rioja Blanco 2009
Horrible yellow synthetic cork. Oak-aged for 70-100 days with battonage. 60% Viura, 40% Malvasia. 12,000 bottles. Nice nose, with soft vanilla and toast, some quite crisp melon fruit beneath. Plenty of oak on the palate giving rather too much vanillin character, but good freshness and acidity, the melon fruit and lime quality coming through. 86/100.

Lar de Paula, Madurado 6 Meses en Bodegas 2008
Aged six months in oak, but that is not an official classification, so this has the generic Rioja label (rather than ‘Crianza’, ‘Reserva’, etc.) A touch of briar and a little bit of toasty barrel, the fruit is nicely judged: sweet and ripe, with lots of berry richness and a nice hint of chocolate. 86-87/100.

Lar de Paula, Rioja Crianza 2007
100% Tempranillo, 14 months in oak and six in bottle. The nose has a little touch of gamy, earthy quality, with some tobacco and fine cherry and red fruit. The palate is perhaps a touch dilute, the spice of the barrels overtaking the finish, but has a tobacco and red fruit elegance too. 86/100.

Lar de Paula, Rioja Reserva 2005
Aged in slightly older barrels for 18 months, and aged in bottled 18 months. From 40-year-old vines, a selection of the best. Nice oak here, a gentle toastiness and suggestion of espresso. The gamy quality and tobacco touch comes through, and a ripe blackberry fruit. The palate has a savoury, meaty quality to the fruit, but the cherry acidity again lifts this and the tannins are quite refined. Balanced, in a dry, savoury style. 89/100.

Lar de Paula, Rioja Vinedos Viejas 2005
50-year-old vines, all Tempranillo, 14.5%. Harvested at 30hl/ha. All in French oak, almost all of it new. Very attractive nose, with a cedary refinement and a cassis sweetness into chocolate and balsamic richness, with just a hint of espresso. On the palate it has very good fruit sweetness, with nice silky tannins and texture, the fruit leading seamlessly into a spicy, but juicy finish. 92/100.

Lar de Paula, Rioja Merus.4
9,000 bottles, from 60-year-old vines, not produced every year. Malolactic in barrique, then into large oak tank with some micro-ox, then into new French oak for 12 months. All Tempranillo. Very refined, very harmonious nose, with discreet black fruits, touches of cedar and black plum, some savoury balsamic notes, very silky palate too, with torrefaction notes and delicious silkiness of black fruit. 92/100.

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Luis Cañas

Luis Cañas, Barrel Fermented White 2009
85% Viura, 15% Malvasia, aged in oak for only 2.5 – 3 months. Lovely nose, with a tiny marzipan and hazelnutty note, with a touch of glace fruit and lots of fruit sweetness. Nice orangey acidity, with a bright, pithy orange and hint of grapefruit finish. Very well balanced and very fresh and drinkable. 87/100

Luis Cañas, Amaren Blanco 2009
50-year-old vines, 80% Viura and 20% Malvasia. Seven months in oak. Very delicate toast on the nose, allowing more bright, orangy fruit and tiny floral touches. The palate shows more toast and a touch of vanilla, but that stripe of grapefruity, pith acidity again though the overall impression is a little softer and rounder. 89/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Crianza 2007
95 Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha, 12 months in oak, 70% French. Cedar and a touch of meaty, gamey aroma, with some grilled, but plummy qualities. The fruit is savoury and quite lean on the mid-palate, again with that gamey edge, before plenty of charry, liquoricy notes in the finish. 87/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Reserva 2004
Forty year old vines, 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 24 months in oak. Much more plummy and ripe depth, more chocolaty with a meatiness. The palate has lots of substance and weight, with structural tannins that are rounded but grippy, and lots of oak quality at this stage, A big, long finish, where that solid, ripe fruit melds into the charry, grilled meat notes. 90/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Gran Reserva 2001
95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 12 months in new French oak then into 2nd fill American oak for the second year. Much more vanilla and milk chocolate here, with rich, ripe, sweet berry fruit. The palate has that sweet, almost minty quality of fruit, with the tannins and oak drying the finish slightly, but then that sweet, sweet fruit has staying power and the cherry-skin edge of acidity adds good energy. 90/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Reserva de la Famila 2003
85% Tempranillo, 15% ‘other varieties’ which is Cabernet Sauvignon, same oak treatment as the Gran Reserva. Very ripe, very sweet, almost a little bit of mint chocolate on this, a touch of chocolate and charry toast. The palate has lots of chocolate and sweet cassis and kirsch fruit. Huge presence, with big, ripe tannins and a very nice, long finish. 91/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Hiru 3 Racimos 2005
Production ranges between 500 and 2000 bottles depending on year – finding tiny parcels of just five or six boxes of the very best old vines, so production unpredictable. From 70-year old Tempranillo, maximum yield of 3 bunches per vine, spending 18 months in American and French barrels. Fantastically tight, deep, sinewy nose, loaded with ripe black fruit, but all dark, chocolaty and dense, almost impenetrable, with a touch of mocha, a touch of game, but a tight, mineral intensity. The palate has hugely ripe fruit, with masses of silky tannins, that tight plum-skin quality with cigar smoke swirling around the plush fruits. 94/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Amaren Graciano 2006
60-year-old vineyard, 18 months in French oak. Lovely deep, sinewy, meaty nose with masses of tight, muscular black fruit and has spicy, charry wood coming through. Tight, sinewy and muscular on the palate too, with a lean streak to it, but this does flesh out with excellent black fruit and those meaty, chewy tannins and structure from the barrel suggests this will be better in a few years. 91/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Amaren ‘Angeles’ Tempranillo y Graciano 2006
Named after Luis Canas late wife. Forty year old vines, 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano aged 16 months in French and American oak. Tight cherry nose, with very tightly wound with a touch of liquorice and balsamic. The oak is tight and shiny. Big structured palate, but with really sweet, ripe, fruit. The dark, charry, chocolaty structure adds lots of weight and concentration, but easy to drink because of that sweet black fruit. Tight on the finish, and should loosen up. 91/100.

Luis Cañas, Rioja Amaren Tempranillo Reserva 2004
From 60-year-old vines, aged 18 months in new French oak. Deliciously meaty, ripe, balsamic and rich nose, masses of fruit, concentrated and cassis like, but with that bright raspberry edge too. Notes of tobacco and spices. The palate has delicious structure, the fruit concentrated but unforced, with a natural sweet concentration, and those cedary, elegant notes, with a smoky, tobacco-infused spicy finish. 93/100.

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Eguren Ugarte

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Eguren Ugarte, Martin Cendoya Reserva 2006
Big aromatics here, with minerality and schisty, gravelly notes. The black fruit is bright and focused, and there’s a solid, charry oak underpinning. The palate is very juicy and keen, with tight blue and black fruit, all edged with that tight, liquoricy, grippy mineral edge. The tight structure of tannins and oak gives this a long, focused finish of spices and black fruits. 91/100.

Eguren Ugarte, Anastasio 2005
All Tempranillo cuvee. Generic Rioja designation as this is a special product. Nice meatiness on the nose here, with lots of tobacco and spice and a certain gamey quality, the rounded berry fruit coming through. Lovely sweetness of fruit, with full cherry and berry sweetness, the charry oak coming through powerfully, that gamey, briary character coming through in a wine showing plenty of character and structure. 92/100.

Bodegas Covila

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Bodegas Covila, Rioja Crianza 2007
Tempranillo 100%, American oak for 12 months. Quite meaty, a touch animal, but nice red fruits come through. Nice tobacco and spice, a bright fruit quality with good acidity. Nice balance and a spicy, but fresh finish. 86/100. With M&S.

Bodegas Covila, Rioja Reserva 2004
Tempranillo 100% , 30 months in American oak. Selection for the regular wines is made in the winery, though the Pagos de Labarca is a vineyard selection. Extra spiciness here and a little more slick vanillin character. The palate has a lovely edge of tight tannin and a chocolaty density, but nicely modern. Nice freshness and a very well-made, persistent finish. 89/100.

Bodegas Covila, Rioja Pagos De Labarca Aex 2005
100% Tempranillo, 18 months in all new American barrels. All vineyards older than 30 years, treated differently in terms of harvest, etc. Quite a long maceration. Big, cedary, modern but very European style, with nice meaty density to the aromatics, a touch of liquorice. On the palate has that density too, a big grippy tannic framework, good acidity and the fruit retaining a nice sweetness and freshness. 91/100.

Luis Alegre

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Luis Alegre, Rioja Blanco 2008
92% Viura, 8% Malvasía, 6 months in a selection of European barrels from France, Hungary, Croatia and elsewhere. Vineyard is 60-80 years old, a mixed planting with red varieties. 13% Lovely nose with classy oak, not subtle but lovely quality. The fruit beneath is clean and bright with an orchard fruit dryness and on the palate, real tang and ripeness, lovely infill of more tropical notes. Long and delicious. 89/100.

Luis Alegre, Rioja Parcela Nº 5 2006
Tempranillo 100%, 12-14 months in French and American oak. Could be a Reserva, but decided not to, to allow more freedom. The fruit is nicely focused and to the fore, with a nice herbal and lightly gamey lift, but mostly focused on bright. The palate has a slick of vanilla, but lots of juicy fruit and plenty of charry, chocolaty oak coming through. 89/100.

Luis Alegre, Rioja Pontac 2006
Tempranillo 95% Graciano 5%, 16 months in barrel. The top end wine, comes from 80- 90-year-old vineyard, a little parcel that is more than 100 years old. Only made in years when the quality is good enough. Fermented in wooden vats then into French oak, around 30% new. Lovely plummy, meaty quality, with lots of cedar and a little more sweet, ripe quality too. Plenty of fruit on the palate, with a terrific plush depth, lots of coffee and liquorice and a fleshy density, long and retains that minerality. 93/100.

Bodegas Ostatu

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Bodegas Ostatu, Rioja Crianza 2007
Tempranillo 90% from 30-50 year old vineyards, Graciano 5%, Mazuelo and Garnacha 5%, 12months in French oak barrels. Tobacco and meaty, herbal notes. Has a little underripe feel perhaps. Nice fresh fruit, with a cherryish brightness. 86/100

Bodegas Ostatu, Rioja Reserva 2005
Tempranillo 100%, more than 50-years-old. Fermented and then 18 months in new French oak barrels. Tight, blackcurrant and cherry fruit. Very tight, sinewy aromatics with a density and firmness that shrugs off the oak. The palate has lovely crisp edge, with real structure here: firm, tight tannins, a juicy fruit quality and very good length. Lovely wine. 91/100.

Bodegas Ostatu, Rioja Gloria de Ostatu 2005
Tempranillo 100%, from the oldest vineyards of the family, one of which are from 60 – 75 years old and in shallow, low yielding soils. 30hl/ha. Fermented and 18 months in French oak. Big, rich, oaky nose, but very mineral too, with gamey edges and lots of crisp, black plum skin bite. There’s a balsamic quality to this of concentration and richness, and a lot of dry, meaty extraction. Perhaps I find the Reserva a touch more charming. 90/100


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Valserrano, Rioja Blanco Gran Reserva 2000
Viura 100%, 18 months in French oak barrels for two years then seven years in cellar. About to be released “we kept tasting it and thinking it was getting better and better”. Beautiful nose, with touches of waxy parcel string, lanolin and buttery notes. Beautifully fragrant and still very fresh. On the palate fantastic freshness and intensity, with those developed waxy notes but no real oxidation. Terrific, nutty finish. 91/100.

Valserrano, Rioja Graciano 2004
Graciano 100%, 14 months in new French oak barrels. Lovely big balsamic nose, with meaty tones and a bright fruit quality beneath. Very appealing. On the palate this is a little leaner than many of the Tempranillo-based blends here, keeping a sinewy, lean edge. Lovely fresh acidity. 89/100.

Valserrano, Rioja Gran Reserva 2003
Tempranillo 90%; 10% Graciano, 27 months in oak barrels, at least two years in bottle. Very fragrant nose, lots of incense-like aromatics and a bright cherry fruit. Fruitcake spices, but again that sense of freshness. The palate has a little slick of vanilla, nice balance and slippery quality with lots of spices playing against the sweetness, but well managed tannins and acidity. 91/100.

Carlos San Pedro

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Carlos San Pedro, Penalta Rioja 2009
Very nice, cool, herbal nose, with very bright, herbal aromatics and dry, underripe melon and pear fruit. Nicely balanced, refreshing finish, with very good fruit and a little bit of punch and vibrancy. 85/100.

Carlos San Pedro, Vinasperi Rioja Reserva 2005
100% Tempranillo. 40-50 year old vines. Aged in oak, 85% American for 28/30 months. Nice nose: lots of fruit and slick, cherry and black berries to the fore. Nicely spicy and chocolaty oak, but not overdone. Very nice palate with sleek black fruit, lots of good cherryish acidity, and lovely spicy, but ripe and firm tannins giving lots of bite and structure. 89/100. 12E

Carlos San Pedro, Vinasperi Seleccion 2005
100% Tempranillo. 50-60 year old vines. Aged in oak, 25% French for 23/24 months. Carlos says this one is now at its best after one and a half years on the market. Lovely cedar and graphite quality to slick black fruit: lots of blackcurrant and damson fruit here, lots of firm, attractively juicy concentration. Very nice acidity too, the palate a little finer and more juicy and edgy than the Reserva, with lovely fruit focus. 92/100.

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