Tasting No. 180 – August 29, 2016 – Wines from Spain


 Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Paisaje Riojano

Paisaje Rioja Landscape

1. Presenters and Participants

Wines presenters: Ruth Connolly and Ginger Smart


Members: Marcello Averburg, Emilio Bernal-Labrada, Jorge Claro, Clarita Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Peter Lapera, Italo Mirkow, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Raul Sanguinetti, Ginger Smart, Pedro Turina, Ricardo Zavaleta, Germán Zinke

Guests: Xavi Vila, Montse Montamart, Ramón García

Type of Tasting: Open

2. The Wines  

The  main objective of this tasting is to establish the differentiating features of three Rioja wines, one is a “Crianza”, another is a “Reserva” and the latter is a “Special Edition” similar to a “Gran Reserva”.

  1. 2015 –  Ameztoi  Getariako Txakolina Rosé
  2. 2007 – Rioja – R. Lopez Heredia Crianza – Viña Cubillo
  3. 2008 – Rioja – Vivanco Reserva
  4. 2011 – Rioja – LAN – Limited Edition

3. The Menu:

  1. Ensalata Di Caprese
  2. Fettucini with mushrooms, cherry tomato and white wine sauce
  3. Hot Italian Sausage Stuffing in a Red Bell Pepper
  4. Grilled Lamb with Sauteed  Potatoes and Spinach
  5. Dessert and/or coffee

4. Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from varios internet sources) .

2015 –  Ameztoi  Getariako Txakolina Rubentis -Rosé  

ameztoiThe Wine: Winemaker’s Notes: Candied red fruits combine with a lime infused edge makes this a wildly intriguing rosé.

Red currant, rhubarb, lime zest, and strawberry fruit are heightened by abundant minerality, a touch of spritz, and that transportative salty streak

The Winery: Ameztoi Txakolina is one of the top producers of Getariako Txakolina. The winery owns 20 hectares of vines in the best location. From the vineyards one can see the town of San Sebastian and understand the influence of the Atlantic Ocean on this vineyard site.

Ignacio Ameztoi is the seventh generation to carry on the tradition of making Txakolina in the province of Getaria. Made from the indigenous grape variety of Hondarribi Zurri and its red companion Hondarribi Beltza, the wine is fermented in stainless steel and bottled with residual carbonic that gives the wine its natural spritz.

Read more about Ameztoi Winery here: http://www.txakoliameztoi.com/en

  • Experts Rating:  JS 90 Pts. 
  • CV Members Rating:  88 Pts.
  • Price: $18

2007 – Rioja – R. Lopez Heredia Crianza Viña Cubillo

r-lopez-de-heredia-vina-cubillo-crianza-rioja-doca-spain-10219180The Wine. Winemaker’s Notes: Clear, bright ruby color. Fresh with a slight aroma of licorice with consistent texture and persistent aroma, comparable to any Rioja Gran Reserva! This Crianza has all the seriousness of an older Reserva.

The Winery. Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta founded Viña Tondonia in the years 1913-14.  Tondonia was to become the bodega´s most famous vineyard and product.  Viña Tondonia is a beautiful vineyard of over 100 hectares, situated on the right bank of the river Ebro, where the most typical Rioja wines are grown. Apart from Tondonia, López de Heredia owns three more vineyards also set in the Rioja Alta region. These are the “Viña Cubillo”, “Viña Bosconia” and “Viña Zaconia”. These vineyards are planted to ensure that maximum quality starts in the vines themselves, forming the basis of the reputation of our wines.

Read more about R. Lopez de Heredia vineyards and winery here: http://www.lopezdeheredia.com/indexgb.html

  • Experts Rating: 90 Pts avg.
  • CV Members Rating:  87 Pts.
  • Price: $25

2008 – Rioja – Vivanco Reserva   

vivanco_rioja_reserva_lblThe Wine:  Aromas of mature black and red fruit fill the nose, with hints of cinnamon and sage lending a pleasant spiciness and herbaceous quality to the bouquet. This is a complex wine with lush, velvety tannins and create a long finish. This age-worthy Reserva is vinified in large French oak vats, then aged in new and second-use French and American oak barrels for 24 months, plus an additional 24 months in bottle. Approachable now, yet will continue to develop for years to come. Decant before serving. Vivanco Reserva’s intensity is a great match for hearty stews, roasted red meats, or even, dark chocolate. This wine is 90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano.

The Winery: Vivanco Winery is located in Briones, a privileged enclave in La Rioja Alta, on the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria and on the banks of the River Ebro. It is an area with a mild microclimate and extraordinary chalky-clay soils.

Around the winery we find the Finca El Cantillo, whose name comes from the large number of boulders found on the ground. Tempranillo is the fundamental variety, but not the only one. In this vineyard we can also find other grape varieties that we use in our wines: Graciano, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Viura, Malvasía, etc.

The underground winery is functional and aesthetically pleasing. It was built underground in order to remove as little as possible of the vineyard surface area and to minimize the environmental impact in favour of preserving the landscape. By building the winery underground, was also achieved the right temperature and moisture —naturally balanced throughout the year— essential for properly preserving and ageing wine in oak barrels or vats.

See more about Vivanco winery here: http://vivancoculturadevino.es/en/winery/the-winery/

  • Experts Rating: JS 91 Pts.
  • CV Members Rating: 90 Pts.
  • Price: $25

2011 – Rioja – LAN – Limited Edition  

Lan 2011The Wine: Indicative blend: 85% Tempranillo,10% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano.

“This rich red delivers ripe, racy flavors of blackberry, kirsch, toast, spice and mineral. Plush but dense, with subtle yet powerful tannins and tangy acidity. A big wine, showing energy and style. Drink now through 2031. 6,250 cases made.” –TM

“As a producer, it’s an honor for Bodegas LAN to be included among the 25 best wines in the world, especially when the price-quality ratio is one of the elements used by Wine Spectator in the wines’ assessment scale. This accolade is a recognition of the quality of one of our bodega’s iconic wines, made from a selection of grapes grown in a privileged plot in our unique Viña Lanciano vineyard. This vineyard is the origin of our best wines: Viña Lanciano, LAN Limited Edition / LAN A MANO  and CULMEN.”

The Winery: Bodegas Lan was established in the early1970s. The name Lan comes from the first three provinces that produce Rioja wine: Logroño, Alava, and Navarra. It has a large modern winery and 72 ha of vineyards which it uses for its best cuvées. It also sources grapes from neighboring growers. Lan has been introducing improvements in vineyard management and winemaking over the past 10 years which have contributed to the high quality of its wines. (International Wine Review)

  • Experts Rating:  JS 94 Pts.
  • CV Members Rating: 92 Pts.
  • Price: $48

 4.  CV members Rating

Rating Scale:

  • 96-100 Pts. – Exceptional
  • 90-95 Pts.  –  Outstanding
  • 86-89 Pts.  –  Very good
  • 81-85 Pts.  –  Good
  • 76-80 Pts.  –  Acceptable
  • 75 or fewer – Mediocre

Participants ranking, average scores and wine prices:

  1. 2011 – Rioja – LAN – Limited Edition  92 Pts. – $48
  2. 2008 – Rioja – Vivanco Reserva  90Pts. – $25
  3. 2015 –  Ameztoi  Getariako Txakolina Rosé 88 Pts. – $18
  4. 2007 – Rioja – R. Lopez Heredia Crianza – Viña Cubillo 87Pts. – $18

Best value for Money: 2008 – Rioja – Vivanco Reserva 

See full evaluation here: summary-of-tasting-scores-180rioja

5. Technical Notes

Wines from Spain

(Compiled by the Jairo Sanchez and the Presenters)

Overview.  Spain is the most widely planted wine producing nation (1.17 million hectares) and the third largest producer of wine in the world, the largest being France followed by Italy. The country has over 400 varieties planted but 80 percent of the country’s wine production is from only 20 grapes—including the reds Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Monastrell; the whites Albariño from Galicia, Palomino, Airen, and Macabeo; and the three cava grapes Parellada, Xarel·lo, and Macabeo.  As the Spanish wine industry becomes more modern, there has been a larger presence of international grape varieties appearing in both blends and varietal forms-most notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot and Sauvignon blanc. Other Spanish grape varieties that have significant plantings include Cariñena, Godello, Graciano, Mencia, Loureira, and Treixadura.

Major Spanish wine regions include the Rioja and Ribera del Duero, which are known for their Tempranillo production; Valdepeñas, known for high quality tempranillo at low prices; Jerez, the home of the fortified wine Sherry; Rías Baixas in the northwest region of Galicia that is known for its white wines made from Albariño and Catalonia which includes the Cava and still wine producing regions of the Penedès as well the Priorat region. Other regions include Navarra where top Spain’s roses are made, Toro producing denser, darker reds while Rueda makes snappy verdejo and, Castilla-La Mancha, south of Madrid makes most of Spain value wines.

Classification:  Since Spain’s entrance into the European Union, Spanish wine laws were brought in line to be more consistent with other European systems and include the five-tier classifications, which follows, starting from the bottom:  Vino de Mesa (VdM)-. Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT) -.Vinos de Calidad con Indicación Geográfica (VCIG)-.Denominación de Origen– (DO)-.Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) which is similar to Italy DOCG-. Additionally, there is the Denominación de Pago (DO de Pago) designation for individual single-estates with an international reputation. As of 2013, there were 15 estates with this status. 

Labeling laws. Spanish wines are often labeled according to the amount of aging the wine has received. When the label says vino joven  or sin crianza, the wines will have undergone very little, if any, wood aging.  For the vintage year (vendimia or cosecha) to appear on the label, a minimum of 85% of the grapes must be from that year’s harvest. The three most common aging designations on Spanish wine labels are Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.

  • Crianza red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.
  • Reserva red wines are aged for at least 3 years with at least 1 year in oak. Reserva whites and rosés must be aged for at least 2 years with at least 6 months in oak.
  • Gran Reserva  red wines typically appear in above average vintages with the red wines requiring at least 5 years aging, 18 months of which in oak and a minimum of 36 months in the bottle.

 Spain has a relatively large number of distinct wine-producing regions, more than half having the classification Denominación de Origen (DO) with the majority of the remainder classified as Vinos de la Tierra (VdlT). There are two regions nominated as Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) – Rioja and Priorat – the flagship regions of Spanish winemaking.   

Escudo_de_la_Comunidad_Autonoma_de_La_Rioja.svgRioja Wines.  Rioja consists of three distinct wine districts:  Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  The first two are inherently superior.  Navarra, which overlaps part of Rioja Baja, has a smaller area of vineyards, which are divided into five districts.  A small part of the Cava producing area, Most of which is in Catalonia, extends into Rioja and Navarra. Only  a short drive from the suburbs of the commercial city of Bilbao and the dramatic beauty of an upland valley becomes apparent, rich with architectural treasures of the 12th century, isolated hilltop pueblos, a generous tradition, philanthropic people and a hearty cuisine.  Few great wine regions span so many difficult terrains and unite them with such recognizable character.

Rioja is the first wine to receive DOCa status, Spain’s highest classification.  Rioja is without a doubt Spain’s greatest fine wine region.  Rioja is oaky, and all attempts to rid the wine of oak are doomed to failure.  Oak is the basis of it’s fame and the reason it became Spain’s first and greatest red wine success.  Critics who suggest that these wines are too oaky for today’s more sophisticated  consumers may have a point.  There is precious little left in most Rioja once you take away the oak.  It was the French who originally blessed the wines of this region with their unmistakable sweet vanilla identity.

As early as the 18th century, a few enlightened Riojanos looked to France (Bordeaux particularly) to improve their wine making skills.  The changes that took place were subtle that took place in the 1840s and the 1860s.  After phylloxera, a louse that attacked vine roots ruined many French vineyards (mostly Bordeaux and Burgundy), a number of those vineyard owners gave up hope of reviving their own vineyards.  They then moved to Rioja  to set up new wineries.  Their methods dramatically improved the quality and style of Rioja.  In addition to this other Frenchmen who were wine merchants  from Bordeaux immediately opened up a lucrative trade for the wine as a result of the total lack of wine from their devastated vineyards.

Wine has been made in Rioja since at least the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered the area. The wine was well respected  into the 14th century as producers would not allow grapes from outside the region.  Wine was transported in goat skins back then.  In the 18th century wooden barrels came into use.  They were five times the size of casks today.

Tempranillo is by far the most important grape of Rioja.  It blends well with the rounder, plumper tasting Garnacha (Grenache).  Also blended in with varying degrees are the Graciano ( known as the Morrastel in the Languedoc and the Tinta Miuda in Portugal).  Mazuelo (Carignan) is also allowed and there is experimentation with Cabernet Sauvignon being blended in as well.

Until the 1970s most Rioja was juicy stuff made by small scale farmers fermented fast and then aged for many years in old American oak.  The result was pale wines, sweet with vanilla, that could be beguiling provided the grapes were of impeccable quality.

With the bottlers’ control on growers so dangerously loose, the temptation to cut corners and increase yields has at times been overpowering.  Recently this has led to a revision in winemaking techniques in many bodegas/wineries (most of which now make their own wine, if not grow their own grapes).  The thin skinned, gentle Tempranillo is macerated much longer and bottled much earlier after aging in oak that is now often French rather than American.  The result is wine that is deeper and fruitier and in short, more modern (but less like traditional Rioja).  Another less controversial development in Rioja wines is the rise of single estate wines.

About a seventh of all the vines grown in Rioja produce white grapes.  Usually it is the tart Viura (Macabeo) supplemented by very limited amounts of traditional Malvasia Riojana and Granacha Blanca.

Rioja wines are classified according to quality of the grapes used and how long the wines are aged.  The hierarchy includes crianza (the youngest), reserve and grand reserve.  Red crianzas have the most vibrant flavors.  They are easy drinking wines full of earth, spice, cherry, and vanilla.  Crianzas are the bread and butter of every winery made from good but not exceptional vineyards.  Made from superior grapes from prime sites, reservas are more lush and concentrated than crianzas  They are not necessarily powerhouses.  They can be subtle.  Reservas are only made in exceptional years.  Gran reservas, are made only in exceptional years.  They come from the best vineyards and all are extremely rare.  In most years gran reservas represent just 1 to 10 percent of the wines produced.

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