Two Superb Reds for your Short-list
from Rioja and Central Otago
LAN Rioja Reserva (DOC) 2014, 13.5%
€22.99 Wineonline.ie; Baggot Street Wines; Sweeney’s; Jus de Vine; Egans Off Licence; Molloys Liquor Store; La Touche Wines; The Corkscrew; The Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; J. J. O’Driscoll
On the back label, LAN insist: “Bottled wines don’t last forever. They evoke and mature, yet also grow old and die. Keep this Reserva wine in the best conditions possible but don’t cellar it forever..”
So, let us get going! Colour is a glossy cherry red. Aromas are quite intense, with an elegant vanilla and a touch of spice, ripe red fruit too. More fruit and spice on the smooth and velvety palate, followed by a persistent and moreish finish. Very Highly Recommended.
Grapes used are 92% Tempranillo and Mazuelo (also known as Carignan), the fruit coming from selected vineyards in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa subzones with an average age of more than 25 years. Rioja rules mean that Reserva red wines spend a minimum of one year in oak. They cannot be sent to market until a full three years after vintage.
Founded in 1972, Bodegas LAN lies in the heart of Rioja Alta. The name LAN comes from the initials of the three provinces of the Rioja Designation of Origin: Logroño (nowadays called La Rioja), Álava and Navarra. In her 2012 book, Rioja, Ana Fabiano describes the Lan wines as “modern classics”.
They say: LAN Reserva spent 18 months in hybrid barrels of French and American oak, and 21 months in bottle, inside our cellars, in the ideal storage conditions. Don't keep this Reserva for a special occasion that might never arrive.
By the way, those hybrid barrels have American staves with French oak heads and LAN has pioneered their use and reckon the hybrids give their wines the best of both worlds.
Akarua RUA Pinot Noir Central Otago (New Zealand) 2018, 14%,
€29.99 Mitchell & Son; Avoca; The 1601; Wineonline.ie; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines
This Central Otago Pinot Noir is a light, and bright, ruby. A complex nose of dark and red fruit (cherry, plum), floral (violet) with some spice notes. Amazing depth of bold berry fruit (strawberry, raspberry) on the palate, its velvety power enhanced by its gentle spice, fine tannins and juicy acidity. The finish is strong and long. Quite an experience, start to fruit-driven finale; silky, it is easy-drinking and Very Highly Recommended.
They say: Winemaker Andrew Keenleyside ensures that the fruit is nicely balanced. He avoids the raisiny flavours that some in Central Otago seem to obtain, and produces wines with lovely aromatic lift and fine tannins, which are perfectly illustrated in the 'RUA'. The 2018 spent seven months in French Oak barriques (of which 10% were new).
Akarua is “proudly family owned” by the Skeggs family who were among the first people to buy and plant vineyard land in Central Otago in the mid-1990s, so were lucky enough to acquire a superb north-facing site in Bannockburn. Sustainability in the vineyard and winery is integral to the Akarua ethos. Water conservation, recycling, the use of lightweight bottles, fully insulated barrel rooms and energy efficient lighting in the winery are a few of the initiatives taken by Akarua to guarantee their accredited status as a sustainable producer.