(2024) According to the Faustino web site this iconic wine represents three out of every 10 bottles of Rioja Gran Reserva sold in the world. It is certainly the most recognisable and, between that and its ubiquity, is so easy to overlook a wine like this in favour or newer or less familar names. Although there are notes on 300 Riojas in wine-pages database, this one has never featured. Aged a minimum of 24 months in French and American oak and 36 in bottle, there's surprisingly little of the coconut and vanilla character one might expect from a 14-year-old, traditional Rioja. Instead it is cedary and spicy, with red fruits that are plummy and savoury. In the mouth it again doesn't have the sumptuous softness that I think I recall from previous tastings. A little mocha coffee does underpin, but the firm acids and grippy tannins dominate though balanced by some solid, plummy fruit. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas. Costco is the place to buy at £15.49, though widely available including Asda and Tesco at £18-£19.
(2024) A limited production wine made from 100-year-old Tempranillo from a single vineyard at 550 metres in the Rioja Alta region. It spent seven months in French oak barrels and 10 more in bottle before release. Vanilla, rich black fruit and a racy suggestion of gravel and cedar are the opening impressions. There's a little hint of violet lift too. In the mouth it is firm and structured. A vinous black plum, blackcurrant intensity of fruit floods the mid-palate, but mouth-coating, sandy tannins combine with spicy, mocha coffee oak and pert cherry acidity to give a long, fresh but powerful finish with a bit of gravitas. Should cellar well. Watch the video for more information.
(2023) The blend is Tempranillo (80%) and Garnacha (20%), the wine fermented with indigenous yeasts. There's a painstaking elevage, with long maceration then gentle pressing into a combination of second use, 225-litre French oak barrels and new Hungarian oak casks. After 16 months the wine remains in concrete vats for a further 22 months. Exquisite nose; so refined with pencil-shaving nuances and old polished wood, a wreath of gentle smoke and a deep seam of black fruits. In the mouth the tannins here have been burnished to a firm, but elegant sheen and the acidity and crisp nature of the blackcurranty fruit gives this liveliness and sophistication. This one is approachable now with food, but will cellar for 10 years easily. Beautifully composed.
Multibuy price £99.
(2023) From a single vineyard at 650m elevation this is an ultra-selection of the best fruit, fermented with indigenous yeasts. It spent 14 months in 500-litre French oak barrels, before finishing in concrete vats for a further eight months. There's a real buoyancy about this aromatically, with potpourri florals and spices running into zippy red fruit, the oak much less imposing than in the Mirto for example. In the mouth there is a creamy gloss of polished oak, and it's a wine in a very sprightly style; it's not without concentration and a residual whack of tannin and oak spice underpinning, but the acidity is crisp and the fruit stays in that red spectrum. Multibuy price £99.
(2023) a project begun in 1999 to bottle an expression of Tempranillo from a single, high-altitude vineyard of 85 year-old vines. Matured for 24 months in 100% French oak barrels. Very dark and dense, the sonorous nose beguils with violet and kirsch lift over very classy French oak. Fabulous nose as exotic spices and tobacco join the plush black fruit the lies beneath, with a wisp of smokiness. The oak is possibly a little too toasty and charry at present, suggesting this needs time to me, because beneath, all of that structure and fruit concentration is there. Elegant cherry-bright acids and slick tannins do balance in a wine that is hedonistic, without going OTT. I'd approach again after decanting or more ageing - or with a chunk of serious protein. Multibuy price £42.75.
(2023) Second tasting of this in fairly quick succession. 100% high altitude Garnacha made in a combination of concrete tanks, amphorae and 600-litre French oak barrels, blended and aged a further eight months in 225-litre French casks. This expresses a svelte, floral-touched creaminess on the nose. Really quite a pretty red wine, the creamy but subtle oak not masking the buoyant red and black fruit flavours. Nicely balanced, the finish has smooth tannins and a good level of acidity, just a little coffee and spice, and balsamic edge, all showing through, perhaps even a little more chocolaty plushness than on my previous tasting.
(2023) A 50/50 blend of Maturana Blanca and Tempranillo Blanco from vineyards planted at altitude at Rioja's north-easternmost limit, planted on shallow gravel soils. Lightly baked apple pie aromas, pastry and orchard fruits combining. There is a definite creaminess and suggestion of weight here. In the mouth not to far removed from the Mar de Frades in overall, general style, with concentration and texture to spare, oak-ageing adding extra buttery roundness and a faint touch spice, but the finish braced by a lick of salty salinity. £15.75 on Multibuy, but note price and stockist is for the 2017 vintage at time of review.
(2023) It is fair to say that I am never quite as impressed by this wine as I was several years ago when it seemed a bit like a decent entry level white Burgundy with a lower price tag. Now? I don't know, it just fails to deliver much of a punch in any aspect, with a lightly mealy sheen to apple and citrus fruit and slightly short finish.
(2023) Sourcing fruit from across the Rioja region, this wine spends 14 months in American oak barrels, which imparts plenty of vanilla and coconut, as well as warming spices to the rich black fruit. In the mouth there is copious ripeness and richness to the fruit, but again the oak adds charry, coffee-ish layers of spice and warmth. The tannins are quite plush and the acid just nicely pitched to freshen with a cherry juiciness. For a big volume supermarket Rioja that will surely be a crowd-pleaser, it is very well done. (£8.75 'Club card price' at time of review).
(2023) Viñedos de Altura demonstrates winemaker Rodolfo Bastida's love for higher altitude vineyards. This blend of 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha comes from vineyards at 700 metres, but interestingly from opposite ends of the Rioja region; the Tempranillo from Rioja Alta, while the Garnacha is from the Rioja Oriental. There's a fine, tobacco and lightly earthy note here, a bit of lifted cherry and violet, the aromatics fragrant and quite delicate. On the palate this is really very nicely composed. The fruit is sweet and rich, naturally so, with an infusion of black tea and kirsch playing against the spice and tobacco of 15 months in French oak. A nicely judged level of acidity and taut tannin gives a long, composed finish. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.