Sunday, November 25, 2012

La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 1998

Probably my favorite Rioja (though I admit haven't had an enormous number of them, and in general prefer the Ribera del Duero and Priorats in Spain) is Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. This 1998 is a tempranillo 90% plus 10% graciano, that they age for a long time in barrel and then for 8-10 years in bottle. So it's released as a mature wine. 24 Euros from Bogeda Privada in Madrid. About twice that in dollars in the US but still a reasonable price for fully mature fine red wine. The color is very much that of a mature wine, brick red dominates over the dark center looking like a bordeaux at 20 years. Lovely strong nose with black cherry, vanilla oak, raisiny ripeness and a delightful spicy mixture of perhaps witch hazel, wintergreen and/or clove. On palate it's round--just slides down, slight and sweet tannin dryness, a bit of heat from alcohol, and enough acid for balance. All of which makes for a long finish. I wouldn't say the palate is as complex and pleasing as the aroma. I have trouble believing it can last 10 years considering how resolved the tannins are. 93+. But we can see Parker thinks otherwise.

Tanzer: 93. Bright red with an amber rim.  Pungent, expansive scents of dried red fruits, potpourri, vanilla and pipe tobacco, with a spicy overtone.  The silky palate offers penetrating redcurrant and bitter cherry flavors sweetened by notes of vanilla and mocha.  Finishes smooth and long, with very soft tannins and lingering floral notes.  Ready to drink but there's very good depth here, suggesting (along with this wine's track record) that it will reward further patience.  I also had the chance to re-try the outstanding 2001 Vina Ardanza, which is aging at a snail's pace and really needs more time for the oak to fully integrate with its fruit.  Right now the vanilla character is dominating but there's obviously excellent material underneath it.

Parker: 95. The 1998 Gran Reserva 904 is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano aged in American cask for four years. It has a very fine nose with notes of dried honey, cloves, raisin and wild heather that blossom in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with a touch of orange peel on the entry. It has an effortless sense of harmony and poise, with a crisp tense finish and suffused with a sorbet-like freshness. It just dances across the palate, a memorable Rioja with style and panache. Drink now-2030. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quinta Vale de Meao Tinto 2008

The last of my 3 bottles of Portuguese reds picked up on my too-brief visit there in May. True to form, it's better having it on the third day, after opening it first on Nov 17. Now it's super-smooth and silky with complicated aromas of forest, flower, vanilla, and cream or cheese (weird but very pleasing to me). Despite the round nature and big fruit on the palate there is plenty of acid and soft tannins too so I think this will be a great pleasure to drink for 6-8 years. The finish is long, and a bit warm but not overly so in my opinion. If I didn't know this was Portuguese I might be tempted to guess it's a Priorat. I hope to learn, by reading Jancis Robinson's new book on grape varieties, how the major Portuguese grapes that generally grow nowhere else, relate to the better known types like Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet. 92 points.

Wine Advocate says 93 points. The 2008 TINTO, the winery’s flagship label, is a blend of Touriga Nacional (55%), Touriga Franca (30%), Tinta Roriz (10%) and Tinta Barroca (5%). Ethereal, showing its oak a bit too much in its youth, and reminding me just a little of fine Rioja, this seems otherwise and remarkably graceful early on, a wine that has a Burgundian feel in the mid-palate. It has that stereotypical iron-fist-in-velvet-glove demeanor, too, as it packs quite a powerful punch underneath the initially elegant and oaky demeanor. The oak should integrate with time, but make no mistake about it, there is a lot more here than oak and this wine has a lot of upside; as with a lot of 2008s, it just may not all be apparent early on. Drink 2012-2028. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Malleolus follow-up

Opened this Saturday Nov 17, five days since opening on Nov 12 and it's still excellent. Nose now giving off the most exotic spices--cinnamon, wintergreen esp.--almost erasing the blackberry underneath, with violet overtones. On palate it's rounder but still plenty of acid and tannin. Maybe a tiny bit of volatile acidity but this has been open for five days with only a primitive (Ramon Bilbao souvenir) air pumper to preserve it. Advice: if you want to have a bottle of red wine that you can keep for several days, use a Spanish or Portuguese. As I've noted before, the latter tend actually to improve a day later and keep a few more; Spanish at least maintain their drinkability for several days too. This is a generalization of course but at home, seems to me most people or most couples don't really want to put away a whole bottle of wine in one sitting so useful to know that good Spanish and Portuguese wines will keep (in my experience, and for reasons I don't know) better than French, Italian or American.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Emilio Moro Malleolus RIbera del Duero 2008

Opened this on Friday night and it was fine but perhaps a bit closed. Pumped air out of it with the trusty Ramon Bilbao vacuum item and now, 3 days later, it's really lovely. Came from the refrigerator so too cold. But after a few minutes the nose started with really strong sweet blackberry, then developed more and more complex nuances of flowers, forest, and cinnamon along with vanilla from the 18 months of aging in barriques. Two basic points: 1) Spanish wines, and perhaps even more Portuguese, do really well after being opened for a few days, much better than French. At least that's my experience, in general. 2) It's desirable to pour the wine into the glass 30 minutes before you intend to drink it. It will warm up a little and the esters will interact with the oxygen in the air and you'll get a much better drink. This holds pretty much equally for reds and whites. After about 2 hours in glass, I think the wines do, in general, go downhill.

Anyhow, I have to say Malleolus is a very good bet for a somewhat reasonably priced Ribera--about 25-30 Euros in Spain. For some reason, Spanish wines are often cheaper in Spain than in the US whereas French wines are rarely cheaper in France than the US--as I've been disappointed to realize each time I look into a Paris wine store. In addition, they seem to have given up on the famous Bordeaux names and where they stock Bordeaux, they have off-years and second labels rather than the famous, super-costly stuff. But even looking at Rhones the prices pretty much match up with what you can get in the US in dollar terms. On the other hand, just about any restaurant in France is pretty good to excellent in my experience, and sometimes they'll serve a wine we don't get in America that's quite good. For instance had extraordinarily good Taillevent generic white and red Burgundies (2008 and 2002 respectively), along with a nice Anjou, for my birthday lunch. Had some good Loire wines down there. There's always more to learn.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2010 Villacreses Pruno (Ribera del Duero)

I've already said some nice things about this wine. Opening another bottle on Monday, pumping air out with vacuvin, and refrigerating, then opening again this evening, Thursday, I once again tip my hat to a really excellent red wine quality/price ratio here. The fact that it's quite drinkable 3 days later is good sign. The color is really deep purple, the body is full. There is substantial tannin and acid and no doubt the wine would've been better 1 day later instead of 3. But these components also suggest quite a long aging potential for the wine. On palate the taste is a bit cherry vanilla, a bit plum; the nose is reminiscent of pine forest and spring flowers and that alone makes it enjoyable to me. If I were able to drink wine every day, this would definitely be a candidate for my house red. However I must note that altho I was able to snag the wine for about $11 a bottle, the cheapest US price is $17 (plus tax) in NJ. Still for a wine that garnered 94 points from the Wine Advocate it's a good price.