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Rioja Alavesa tasting notes

text and photographs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Rioja Alavesa.

Luis Cañas

UK Agent: Alliance Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

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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