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Rioja Alavesa tasting notes

text and photographs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

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

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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