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4 Old Spaniards Tasting

Again we met in a small round for verifying what age has done to some old Spanish reds. We had a small but fine selection of reds: a Rioja from 1981 and one from 1982 -both vintages were supposed to be the best in Rioja from 1975 to 2001, further a Rioja from 1975 which was an average vintage and as a contrast a 1994 Ribera Del Duero, which was a fine year there.

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But first we refreshed ourselves with a 2005 Schloss Johannisberg Erstes Gewächs, or Silberlack as they traditionally name it. A Riesling with light straw yellow color, a rather light peach nose with mineral notes, a fresh palate with nice minerality, tangy acidity and good extract, which was still a bit astringent and might need some more time to maturity. It is a genuine representative of the rather tangy dry Rheingau style emphasizing minerality and herbs and being a bit lighter on the fruit – about 90 points.

Than our first red was the 1975 Olarra Gran Reserva from Bodega Olarra. Its Colour was still dark but with a lighter, slightly brownish rim. The nose had a clear age note which resembled a bit of cork at first. On the palate the wine had lots of fire and mushroom-like tone (or fake truffles if you’re benevolent) but also notes of cooked fruits and a nice sweetness. The structure of the wine was quite nice actually with a creamy texture. The finish was medium long, but with a beautiful sweetness characterizing many old Rioja. So it was still nicely drinkable, only that age tone disrupted a bit the pleasure – 84 points.

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Second was a 1981 Faustino I Gran Reserva. We already tried the 1987 Faustino vintage at a former tasting where it didn’t appear very balanced, but now we expected quite something since 1981 is said to be a very good vintage. And we weren’t disappointed. It had a very dark, beautiful colour, quite youthful for a 27 year old wine. The nose was complex and evolved with time. It started with Mocha and berries, went on with liquorice and finished with some earthy paprika notes . On the palate it appeared very dense with a nice sweetness and very fine and even quite grippy tannins which gave the wine structure (Not the unpleasant, astringent kind of tannins). The aromas were at first more on the berry type of fruit but also with liquorice appearing later and an elegant paprika sweetness on a very long finish. This wine really left nothing to be desired: that is how aged wines should taste- 92 to 94 points in my opinion.

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Then we had the 1982 Lagunilla Crianza from Rioja, which was also made in a superb vintage. It smelled nice of berries and a little peppery at the beginning, but with time a small age note came through and made it less appealing. The palate though was fine, less dense and concentrated than the last wine, which is normal considering that we compare a Crianza with a Gran Reserva. On the finish the wine had a nice, subtle malty sweetness. So it started as a well aged crianza worth 90 points for me but with the age tones that came up after a while I have to “downgrade” it to 85 points.

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Finally, as a contrast bottle to the Riojas, I still had a bottle of the 1994 Marques de Velilla Reserva (which I already tasted here) from the Ribera Del Duero. 1994 was a good vintage at the shores of the Duero River and so I expected this bottle to be able to keep up with the 1981 and 1982 Riojas. Well, with 14 years of age in comparison to 27 years it was much younger than the Riojas, which could mean it’s an unfair comparison, but we’re not a committee giving away gold medals in the end (we have the right to be unfair :=)). And we also opened the bottle to experience the famous difference in style between the 2 regions! The Marques had the darkest color of all wines. The nose was rather closed at first but opened up later with scents of cooked plums and cinnamon. On the palate, the style difference was obvious: it was much more dense and powerful, appeared very concentrated and juicy with plum-like fruit in the mouth at the beginning. The fruit was structured by powder-like tannins which might still soften up a bit if the wine would lie in the cellar for some more years. But the wine evolved: nose and palate developed earthy and spice notes with cinnamon and cloves. The cherry on the cake was then a very long finish which also had a slight mint-like freshness- 92 to 94 points

So in the end the tasting was a classic duel between Rioja and Ribera Del Duero. 2 different styles that were both appealing, but the perfectly matured Rioja was a tad more balanced and round, and at the same time had concentration and complexity. So for this time I guess the Rioja slightly won, but it was a close match and in a few years the Marques might strike back!

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  1. BerlinKitchen (guest) Said,

    Sehr spannende Probe, Alex. Vor einigen Monaten habe ich einen Rioja der alten Schule getrunken und war total fasziniert von der Stilistik. Hebt sich wohltuend von den modernen span. Weinen dieser Tage ab. Es gibt dazu auch einen tollen gereiften oxidativen Weißen und für 20 Euro fast ein Schnäppchen.

    http://berlinkitchen.com/berlinkitchen/BerlinKitchen/Entries/2007/9/26_1998_R._Lopez_de_Heredia,_Vina_Tondonia_Reserva,_Rioja,_Spain.html

    Die Weine bekommst Du hier: http://viniculture.de/

    Grüße,
    Martin

  2. alexis2 Said,

    REPLY:
    Martin,

    interessant, der Heredia, wobei er mit seinen 10 Jahren noch fast ein junger ist ;=)
    Oxidativer Weisser klingt auf Anhieb nicht so sexy für mich (ausser es ist ein Riesling), da greif ich doch lieber gleich zum sherry (spannendes Thema auch und relativ günstig).

    Gruss,
    Alex

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