The middle of a trio of so-called Mediterranean vintages, 2016 generally produced wines with good concentration and ageing potential. That’s certainly the case with the impressive Viña Arana release, which shows impressive depth, energy and presence. Aged in La Rioja Alta’s signature American oak barrels, it’s a well judged blend of Tempranillo from three vineyards in Rodezno with grippy 5% Graciano from Fuenmayor. It has classic aromas of dried coconut, cinnamon and baking spices, plenty of acidity, undertones of baked earth and wild herbs, plum and reds berry fruit flavours and graceful, fine-grained tannins. Very drinkable now, but will cellar well, as La Rioja Alta’s wines so often do.
Textbook stuff from the extensive Muga family, this is a pan-regional cuvée of Tempranillo with 30% Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo, aged in a combination of French and American oak. Youthful, structured and showing the freshness of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2018 vintage, it’s good to drink now but will also reward some extra time in your wine rack. Textured and balanced, with racy acidity and flavours of liquorice, blackberry and vanilla spice.
La Rioja Alta is one of the most traditional wineries in Haro’s Barrio de la Estación, famous for producing wines that are good to drink on release, but also age beautifully in bottle. This new Gran Reserva, made from Tempranillo with 6% Graciano for added backbone, is very much a reflection of the cooler, more “Atlantic” 2014 vintage. La Rioja Alta didn’t make its top two Gran Reservas – 904 and 890 – in 2014, so all of its best grapes were used for Viña Arana. Fine and elegant, with vibrant acidity, notes of coconut and cinnamon from the American oak and a core of savoury, refreshing tobacco leaf and red berry flavours framed by fine, caressing tannins. Old-fashioned Rioja at its glorious best.
Contino is one of the properties that launched the single estate movement in Rioja, a superb wine that develops beautifully in bottle. 2008 was a late, cool vintage in Rioja, giving this blend of mostly Tempranillo with Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano a refreshing, low key elegance. Sublte and refined, with red fruits, subtle oak, some plummy tannins and deftly integrated oak.
A top Rioja Reserva for less than £20? Sounds very appealing to me. This is very much a modern style Rioja, with the emphasis on Tempranillo (97% of the blend here, with 3% Graciano for added backbone) and the ability to age further in bottle rather than drinkability on release. This is sweetly oaked, with fine tannins, fresh, minerally acidity and a core of red and black fruits. Long, textured and very complex, it’s still a very young wine, so hold off if you can.
Graciano is more readily associated with neighbouring Rioja (and then only in small quantities) than Navarra, but this one from the youthful Adriana Ochoa is superb. It’s almost Italian in style, with marked acidity, some spice and a fair bit of tannin, but there’s some black cherry and bramble fruit to add sweetness and flesh to the bones.
Blended by Waitrose’s Spanish buyer, Nick Room, this is a tasty introduction to Spain’s best-loved wine style, a Tempranillo-based red with a hint of sweet, coconutty American oak, lots of soft red fruits, bright acidity and supple, palate-caressing tannins.
A much more modern style than we’ve grown accustomed to from CVNE in recent years, this is youthful and vigorous for a Gran Reserva, with the emphasis on vibrant Tempranillo fruit. The freshness of the Alavesa vineyards is really evident on the palate. This is refreshing and fine, with sweet oak, medium weight tannins and nuanced red and black fruits flavours. An interesting change of tack by CVNE.