Showing posts with label Marques de Riscal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marques de Riscal. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rioja Rocks. Voluptuous Red Wines

Rioja Rocks


Rioja wines are voluptuous; they  are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.*
Samaniego, between Haro and Logroño (2012)

Rioja in the north of Spain is one of the great red wine areas of the world. Like some of the other big red wine areas, there is a river running through it. The Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries, has given its name to the peninsula. But where has the name Rioja come from … Hard to say! Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, says there are twenty two theories! But she narrows it down to two serious ones.


One of the pair does include the River Oja, Rio Oja, a tributary that joins the Ebro near Haro, in the mix. It is convenient for the modern reader to jump to that conclusion. But, as Ana points out, it is too simple. The origin is clouded in history and by versions in so many languages, including local, invader and Euskara (Basque). Much easier though to work your way through the wineries, even if many of them have Basque names!

Must admit I didn't know until recently that Rioja (the wine region) and La Rioja (the administrative region) are not exactly the same. Vines don't recognise where the border ends and so a Rioja vineyard can extend into Navarra or Álava. Rioja is divided into three sub regions: Alta, Alavesa and Baja.

Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. She (yes, it is a she) is so called because she ripens early and the Spanish word Temprano means early.

*The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano.

Rioja red wine stickers:

The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.

The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.


Finca Cien Vacas Tempranillo 2012 (Rioja), 13%, €11.95 Karwig Wines

Decent fruit and a matching acidity combine to make this a quality, easy drinking wine. Colour is ruby and you have a bowl of ripe red fruit in the aromas. It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has been produced by a family undertaking to be “pleasant, healthy and for daily consumption,.... reflect in a straightforward manner the qualities of the environment and the benefits of the vintage”. All sounds honest to me and the wine is Recommended.

This bottle has a green label indicating less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle. This level of wine is often spoken of as being joven (young) but you may never see that word on the label. More than likely, you’ll see cosecha (harvest).



Ardo by M. de Riscal Rioja 2013, 13.5%, €10.99 *

You’ll love the colour of this one, ruby with a shine. There are intense aromas of ripe red fruits. Fruit and spice combine in impressive attack, fine tannins too, superb body and balance and finish. This, made from younger grapes, has had a few months in oak. It is very good indeed for your basic cosecha (green sticker) and Highly Recommended.

Torres Altos Ibéricos Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €16.99 *


While Torres is synonymous with wine in Spain, it was only in 2005 that they first purchased land in Rioja. This wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in French and American oak. It bears the red crianza sticker. It was first produced in 2007. Torres don't rush and they now have just two wines from here, the second a Graciano. Watch this space methinks!
This deep cherry wine has aromas of ripe fruits, wood and spices. Quite a serious wine this monovarietal, bold and confident with fruit galore, elements of the oak too, a tannic grip, and a balancing acidity. Not of the easy drinking variety but well worth making the effort to get acquainted with this smooth customer. Very Highly Recommended.

M. de Riscal Arienzo Crianza 2010 (Rioja), 14% *
In 2008 Tempranillo, Spain’s flagship variety, accounted for 80% of the red wine harvest in Rioja. You’ll also see it called Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz (Portugal), Tinta de Toro, and more. The blend here is Tempranillo (90%) and five per cent each of Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan).

Colour is ruby (with a super sheen) and it has ripe fruit aromas. Vibrant wash of fresh fruits leads the soft attack, some sweet spice there too and other hints of its 18 months in oak. The finalé doesn't lack for length. May not make the top wines of Riscal - after all it is a newcomer (2007) to the stable - but it will sit nicely on my short list. Very Highly Recommended.

Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza 2012, 13.5%, 17.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Carpenters Off Licence Castleknock, Co. Dublin. Chill in Off Licence, Co. Dublin. JJ Gibneys, Co. Dublin. Matsons Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork. The Wine Well, Co. Meath
Zuazo
This comes with dark fruits aromas, hints too of its 12 months in oak. Fruit and spice on the palate, fine tannins too and sufficient acidity, complex and elegant, all before a long pleasant finish (with a hint of fruit sweetness). Highly Recommended.
This is listed as one of the best crianzas in Ana Fabiano’s Rioja. Can't argue with that. Indeed, it is that listing that alerted me to Zuazo Gaston. The bottle is of an unusual colour, frosted dark green which, when full, looks totally black. Looks well on the outside, and what is inside tastes well when you get it out!

CUNE Rioja 2011 Crianza (Spain), 13.5%, €10.00 Tesco
This bottle, from one of the longest established wineries in Rioja, has the bright red sticker that indicates its a Crianza with a minimum of 12 months in oak. It is drinking very well now. Uncomplicated, easy to drink and Highly Recommended. Penin, the leading Spanish wine guide, gave it 90 points.
Colour is a Cherry Red and there are very pleasant fruit aromas. Fruit flavours, fine tannins, plus the influence of its time in the oak and a matching acidity make this a very agreeable wine indeed and it has a decent finish too.
CUNE was founded in Haro 1879 as Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CVNE). The transformed acronym, pronounced coo-nay, grew somewhere along the way! The sixth generation of the Madrazo family are now in charge.


Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.50 Karwig Wines
The bottle has the burgundy sticker indicating Reserva status. It is dark cherry in the glass with aromas of fruit (ripe, red) and spice. No shortage of power here, fruit, spice and wood wonderfully combining in a smooth show of Tempranillo at its best, power yes but in a velvet glove. It has spent 17 months in oak, well over the minimum twelve.
Founded in 1970, Bodegas El Coto is one of the “younger” Rioja producers and its wines are regarded as “wonderful Classic Riojas”. And indeed reverence is due here, excellent structure, well rounded and balanced and Very Highly Recommended.

Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2011, 14%, €19.99 (down from 23.49) *

This superb reserva is made mainly from Tempranillo vines planted in the 70s. The Graciano and Mazuelo varieties, whose presence in the blend does not exceed 10%, provide crispness and a lively colour. The fruit has been hand-picked and the wine has spent 26 months in American oak.

That colour is a dark cherry and the aromas are of concentrated ripe fruits, hints too of the oak and also balsamic notes.  The palate is superbly rounded, smooth and elegant, tannins are very soft and there is a long finish, A top drop for sure and Very Highly Recommended.

They recommend pairing it with ham, mild cheeses, casseroles which are not highly spiced, bean and pulse dishes, poultry, red meat, grills and roasts.

* At leading independents, including Bradley's and O'Driscoll's of Cork and also available on-trade at leading restaurants and bars.

Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
More here on Rioja whites 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Good Wine Mix. Your Thursday Tips.

A Good Wine Mix.
Your Thursday Tips
The grapes are dried by the Ammasso method,
explained on a peel-off back label.

Barone Montalto Ammasso 2013 Rosso Siciliane (IGT), 14.5%, SuperValu €18.99

This may well be Sicily’s answer to Amarone as the islanders have used the traditional Ammasso (known as Appassimento in the north of the mainland). The varieties blended in this gorgeous and complex wine are the locals Nero d’Avola and Nerello Mascalese and the internationals Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A serious work of wine is the result and it is Very Highly Recommended.

Medium red is the colour and the aromas, of dark fruit, are pretty intense. There is a luscious concentrated fruit, hints of sweetness, spice too; overall, a rather plush wine, tannins just about in play, and the finish is long.


Albet i Noya, Petit Albet 2010, Penedes (DO), 12%, 12.49 O’Donovan’s

This organic wine from Catalunya is a blend of Chardonnay and the local grape Xarel-lo (60%). The Xarel-lo will be familiar to you as one of the grapes used traditionally in Cava. Albet i Noya started their move towards organic in the mid 70s. They also buy in grapes and these too are organic and, besides, the wine is certified vegan friendly.

Aromas are of white fruit, including melon. It is light and fresh and those scented fruits continue strongly on the palate. It boasts a bright acidity and a good dry finish. Enjoy it young, as the name implies. Highly Recommended.


Marques de Riscal Sauvignon 2013, Rueda (DO), 12.5%, €12.99 Bradley’s Off Licence

This bottle had just been opened and was on a table about two feet away. Yet, with the tail-end of a cold, I still got the very inviting aromas. Inviting too was the colour: light gold, fresh and clean.

And the wine continued to surprise on the palate. The feel, the flavour, the finish complete a hat trick of delights. Go try it now and then maybe move up the Riscal scale and see what their other Sauvignons have in store. This though is great value and Very Highly Recommended.

The World Atlas of Wine credits Riscal with a key role in the revival of Rueda’s Verdejo. On this evidence, they are doing well also with the Sauvignon, a more recent arrival.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reds to Remember

Reds to Remember
A Margaux chateau this summer.

Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva 2001 (150th anniversary edition), 14%, €49.99 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork.

This was produced to mark the 150th anniversary of Riscal and is rather special, a good choice for a special occasion of your own! It is the normal Rioja blend of Tempranillo (mainly), Graciano and Mazuelo, but from vines older than 30 years. The picking was by hand. Two and a half years in American oak was followed by three years bottle aging.

Dark cherry in colour, it has a complex nose: herbs, oaky fragrances, spicy. It is rounded, at this stage, well balanced with a viscous mouthfeel, no shortage of power or backbone, intense black fruits, supple and with a long silky finish. Superb. I’m sure you'll think of a special occasion. Very Highly Recommended.

By the way, I had a special occasion myself! Normally, I'll be sticking to my usual (flexible!) price range on this site, usually between €12.00 and €22.00.


Domaine de Maucaillou Margaux 2009, 12.5%, €12.00 in Margaux June 2014.

Moved on to this just as I was finishing the Riscal. What a pleasant surprise and a pleasant reminder that price is not always the best indicator of wine quality. This is a beautiful Bordeaux from a good year. Thought it was one of the more expensive of the Margaux that I bought there this summer and, on checking, was surprised to see it was the cheapest.

This is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot, has spent 12 months in barriques and is produced in a 2.3 hectare vineyard. Confusingly, there is a Chateau Maucaillou not too far away in Moulis.

Colour is a deep ruby, healthy and bright, and it has a rather delicate fruity nose. On the palate, it has power and attractiveness in equal measures, a big wine indeed from a very small domaine, and a very nice finish as well. Check out your local wine merchant for Margaux. This one, if you come across it, home or away, is Very Highly Recommended.

Aresti Trisquel 2012 Syrah (Chile), 14%, €17.99 Supervalu.

This dark dark red has an intriguing nose: blackcurrants, spices, vanilla, caramel, smoke even. The Syrah (rather than Shiraz) suggests a nod towards the European style and it is indeed close to the more restrained Old World style. Quite complex on the palate, juicy, spicy, darkly fruity and a long pleasing finish. Quite a lot going on in this really stunning wine. Very Highly Recommended.

Moulin de Gassac Albaran 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah Old Vines, 13.5%, €14.49 Curious Wines online.

On the lookout for value? Then you could do worse that check out the Curious Wines website as they give genuine discounts throughout the year. I saved three euro on this one a few weeks back. This is an excellent red for the price, great fruit and flavour, a highly recommended easy drinker from this innovative and well established Herault (Languedoc) vineyard.



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

On a Roll with Reds

On a Roll with Reds

I seem to be on a roll with my reds recently while not doing so well with the whites. The two reds below come from either side of the Pyrenees and each is Very Highly Recommended.


Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2008, 13.5%, on offer at €20.49 (usually price €23.49) Bradley’s Off Licence
The Frank Gehry designed hotel at Riscal HQ is an iconic building and this 2008 Reserva is one of their iconic wines. The grapes, mainly Tempranillo (with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo) are hand-picked and the wine spent 26 months in American oak.


The ripe fruit aromas are quite intense and it has a lively cherry red colour. It is fresh on the palate, the tannins soft and round. It is light and vibrant, tasty and well balanced with a persistent finish. Restrained, refined and Very Highly Recommended.


Chateau du Donjon, Cuvée Prestige, Minervois 2009, 14%, €18.46 Karwig Wines

Colour here is medium red. You’ll find red fruit aromas, though not very intense. But, on the palate, you immediately sense that this is a red of the south of France, from the hot limestone slopes of the Languedoc. Full bodied, supple and spicy, and fruity (plums, for sure), the shake-hands is firm and this rich wine lingers. A blend of Syrah (60%) and Grenache Noir, it is made by traditional methods, has spent 12 months in oak and is also Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Marques de Riscal Tasting at Bradley's

Marques de Riscal Tasting at Bradley's

The Hotel Marqués de Riscal Elciego, built in 2006
(architect Frank Gehry)

In 1858, Marques de Riscal founded their winery in La Rioja. A few years earlier, Bradley’s had opened, as a dairy, in Cork. A glass of cream was a regular treat for lady customers of the time. Yesterday in North Main Street, the ladies, and some gentlemen, were tasting not cream but the superb wines of Marques de Riscal.

Riscal was one of the pioneers in Rioja and, over 100 years later, in 1972, became pioneers in Rueda when they produced their first white wines there. Ruth Sutton, their Sales Manager for Ireland and the UK, was in Bradley’s yesterday and started us off with a couple of whites from Rueda, both 2012.
First up was a refreshing Verdejo, quite characteristic of the variety, a variety that I rather like. The surprise came with the next taste, this from a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Quite  a complex nose, crisp on the palate and a good long finish. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

In Bradley's yesterday
with Ruth Sutton of Marques de Riscal.

On then to the reds, starting with the Ardo Rioja 2012, easy drinking and made from younger grapes. It has spent four months in oak. Floral and fruity on the nose, soft and pleasant on the palate and a longish finish with some pepper.

Moved up a notch or two for the next one, the 2008 Reserva. Really gorgeous aromas here with a fresh and soft introduction on the palate, quite pleasant and elegant and one to note for sure. As was the 2005 Gran Reserva, this even more silky on the palate with a long finish. A Reserva will normally have spent 12 months in cask while the Gran gets 24 months.

And then came the finale, the stunning Gran Reserva 150th Anniversary edition from 2001, a very good year! The deep red colour in the centre changes to to brick red around the edge though nothing too dramatic! But this is incredibly smooth on the palate. Irresistible! And selling now at 46.00, a reduction of over four euro.

Indeed, all the wines, distributed in Ireland by Findlater's, are reduced while stocks last. The Sauvignon, for instance, is down from 14.99 to 12.49. But you’d need to move fast as they were selling quickly even before the tasting began.