Archive for ‘Rioja’

February 26, 2019

El Pacto Rioja, 2016

Everything you want in a Rioja at about the price you want to pay for a Rioja.  Drinks like something more expensive, silky tannins, assertive structure, decent fruit, some nice dark hints of charcoal and chocolate; full bodied but not flabby.  Food friendly, a decent sipper, and a lovely label to boot.  There will be multiples down the road.

 

Price: $30 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar

 

Market Liquidity: Surrender to the old school finesse.

September 14, 2018

Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva, 2011

Probably the first bottle of Rioja I ever drank was MdC; a Crianza of course.  I would hazard a guess, based on the volume and availability, many North Americans and not too few British would echo the sentiment.  Marques de Caceres is an omnipresent red which usually comes on strong and tannic and decent in a bistro but nothing of note.  I’ve always thought of MdC as the Casio watch brand of wine labels.

 

The Reserva is less available, at least in Western Canada; the BCL has the Gran Reserva.  We’re not going to shell out another $40 to compare, but I’m going to suggest that if you love the oak of Rioja get the GR but if you just have a hankering for fine Tempranillo go the Reserva route, with less time on the cask but still a fine selection off the vine and some love and care in the aging.

 

At seven years this vintage is a blast of candy store licorice, followed by a heady, alcoholic, tannic bomb of cherry, plum, charcoal, moist earth then followed on the finish with traces of oak and vanilla.  Although top heavy it’s ludicrously food friendly (which we drank with a New York Times beef stew braised in Dijon, cognac, wine and beef stock).  Assertive, not terribly acidic, very masculine.

 

Price: $40 at Kits Wine Cellar (but with a half case purchase, reduced by 10%; no such luck at BCL).

 

Market Liquidity: Like running with the bulls in Pamplona, this wine cannot be held back.

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November 6, 2017

Vina Eguia Rioja Reserva, 2011

Yeah.  So.  Not Rioja’s finest hour.  It’s a close but no cigar vintage.  We did not find it elegant or balanced or rounded, as promised.  We found it a bit uneven, with a vanilla that’s at the fore (and not in a good way) and a softness to the fruit that was decent and palatable but not memorable.

 

You can find this in the US for $12 a bottle.  A steal.  You can buy this in Saskatchewan for $18.  Very good value.  But at nearly $30 in BC with tax it’s like fruit past its prime.

 

Price: $26 plus at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

 

Market Liquidity: Polka dots and plaid.

October 12, 2017

Campo Viejo Rioja Reserva, 2012

The reds we like, the reds that really shine without breaking the bank, have slowly moved into a break the bank category: More and more we’re shelling out $28-42 for a bottle to really bow down to.  And of course enjoy on a Tuesday night.

 

Having said that, it’s important to remember that drinkable (if somewhat forgettable) and totally decent everyday reds at or just under the $20 mark are still out there.  Hard to find in BC (and in my view it’s like playing the slots, you spend $100 on five bottles to find one keeper, whereas you could have 2.5 totally extremely gratifying at that price, no loss…)  The Campo Viejo comes in a totally palatable Tempranillo and a food friendly reserva, both under $20 before tax.  Do I hear “open bar” anyone?  How about, even, a palatable house wine under $40?

 

If you like the classic plummy peppery vanilla oak that Robert Parker does, you can’t go wrong with the reserva.  It’s like a lesser version of those monumental Napa reds he scores in the 94 point range, without the lingering depth or interest, but certainly with the same flavour profile.

 

Price: $18.50 at BC Liquor.

 

Market Liquidity: Like a mediocre SNL impersonation it hits the mark, but barely.

July 24, 2017

CVNE Rioja Reserva, 2012 & CVNE Rioja Crianza, 2012

The best tasting, best drinking red wine in its class, the best red wine under $40 in BC, period.  And, I might add, much better than many BC reds up to half the price more.  We have held off posting until assured there was no more to be found in the Lower Mainland.  Joking.  Half joking.

 

Marquis had a superb pre-offer at, with tax, $25 for the Crianza and $36 for the reserve.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  Marquis was sold out.  We sourced it at Everything Wine.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  EW was sold out.  We sourced it at Kits Wine Cellar.  We bought a lot.  We went back for more.  KWC was sold out.

 

On the plus side, maybe we were the only ones smart enough to buy up this wine?  I don’t think I’ve drunk, and stashed away, so much of one bottle as I have of this year’s CVNE release.  (The Monopole was similarly outstanding if slightly less impressive.)

 

These reds are the most comforting, smooth, rich and concentrated blends you can get at such a reasonable price point.  But price be damned, they are just really good tempranillos.  The Wine Spectator said the Reserva has depth and intensity and gave it 93 points.  (Can you imagine a BC red getting 93 points and going on sale for less than $40?).  That’s a fair summation.  But it’s also just plain likable in the most approachable and delectable way.  As you can see from the group picture, we simply can’t get enough.

 

The Crianza is, yes, lesser, but only by a margin so slim it could be a BC election; and what a wonderful sipper still, and just gorgeous to share at dinner without breaking the bank.  The WS gave it 91 points.  And in Ontario you can buy it with change from a $20.  In BC we have to cough up more and it sells out quicker but let’s give a shout out to Rioja.

 

Price: See above.

 

Market Liquidity: These Riojas remind me of that Hugh Johnson quote that wine is a marriage of nature and aesthetics.  To which I think he meant what is real and beautiful.  Because these babies are real beautiful.

April 11, 2017

CVNE Monopole Rioja Blanco, 2015

Nothing about this wine, drinking it, no words sound good: Assertive.  Astringent. Metallic.  And yet it is nothing but pure pleasure; nutty and lemony and complex.  It is bottled sunshine.  There is nothing so striking as a bold, balanced, boisterous Rioja Blanco.  There is something so sensationally Spanish about it, somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Sherry.  Of course it bears the “golden ticket” of 90 points on its collar, which is a bugbear, but nevertheless…

 

Price: $22 at Marquis, and worth every cent.

 

Market Liquidity: When pointster and anti-pointster see eye to eye.

February 16, 2017

Sierra Cantabria Rioja, 2011

sierra-cantabria-rioja-2011

Ever taste wine with friends, take notes, compare them, and find that what one person found heavy and tannic another found fruity and light?  Or, more typically, buy wine specifically because of the reviewer’s blurb—only to be wholly let down?  This is that experience in a nutshell.

 

Here’s the professional review: “…dense, rich red cherry and liquorice aromas…sour cherry, coffee and nutmeg notes and the oak is fully integrated.”

 

We just couldn’t get past the flatness of it, the one note, a very tepid Tempranillo, immediately forgettable.  Not cheap either.  And this was after our splurge on D’Orrance a few weeks back based on a stellar review which was a match made in heaven.  So it goes.

 

Price: $30 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Hugh Johnson called Sierra Cantabria “drinkable and good” and I’ll give it that.

February 6, 2017

Finca 10 Rioja, 2014

finca-10-rioja-2014

The epitome of cheap and cheerful.  A wonderful Wednesday red.  Fruity, approachable, marginally tannic.  Maraschino syrup against a light peppery bite; think grenadine mixed with Chartreuse.  No weight, feather light for a Tempranillo, and as weak on the nose as the palate and the finish.  But food friendly in a big way and welcome (and warming) during this incredibly long and frigid winter.

 

Price: Regularly $16.99, but on sale at Everything Wine for an astonishing $12.99.  Thanks you EW.

 

Market Liquidity: A bird in the hand.

December 29, 2016

Two White Riojas: Acustic Celler Montsant & Altos Rioja Blanco

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Acustic Celler Montsant, 2013

You could cut this with a knife; a thick and meaty white, minerally to the point of an old oil can, spirited citrus and nuanced wood that is more mushroom and moss than wood shavings.  We found the juicy, stony assertiveness of this very masculine white something to write home about.  A white Rioja blend (Macabeo and Garnacha) which is a tad out of the ordinary.  From a region just outside of Priorat that I’m totally unfamiliar with.  A little touch of seasonal novelty: Fresh, unexpected, invigorating. Stood up to and conquered a vegetarian saffron dish: Well done!

altos-rioja-blanco-2014-jpg

Altos Rioja Blanco, 2014

A little simple; citrus forward, lemon, lime, grapefruit pith, with a sweet and weighted tropical note.  Uber refreshing and a perfect pair with any number of rich shellfish or cheesy starter type dishes.  With a cheese and bacon quiche it worked a charm.  If you were “introducing” white Rioja to someone this might be the gateway wine.

 

The thing is this: White Rioja has so much to offer, but it simply can’t compete with Burgundy or New World Sauv Blanc; it doesn’t hold a candle to Riesling; it bows down and is trammeled by Alsace.  And yet, and yet, it is ridiculously food friendly and deserves a place at the table.  If you are bored with predictability, this will enliven your cellar.  (And, get this: Many bottles of white Rioja age a treat.)

 

Most white Rioja is Viura; the Altos is blended with Malvasia giving it a nice prune-ish edge.  The Acustic abandons Viura for something novel.  Both win in their way.

 

Price: The Altos you can find at private stores in YVR for as little $20 before extras; the Acustic, harder to find, will run you about seven dollars more.

 

Market Liquidity: Refresh your palate; there’s more to life than Chardonnay.

August 9, 2016

Lopez de Haro Reserva Rioja, 2009

Lopez de Haro Reserva Rioja, 2009

Sensational value.  The bottle was gone before I even got a picture in! We tried their rather simple white, which was wonderful, a few days ago; ditto this red, wundebahr.  It doesn’t have the great depth and nuance of the 90 plus pointers but at the price point it is ALL VALUE and NO DOWNSIDE.  You will taste everything that a better, more classic Rioja has to offer, the oak (not too much), the sweetish berries, the not too powerful tannins, but unfortunately in less intensity, and somewhat fleeting.  Who cares? At the price, I mean how satisfying can it get at $20?

 

Price: $19.99 at the Broadway International Wine Shop.

 

Market Liquidity: Honestly, if only I could find a car this reliable.