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Rioja Alavesa tasting notes

text and photographs © 2011 Tom Cannavan

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

Bodegas Valdemar

UK Agent: Berkmann. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

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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