Rioja on the Cutting Edge of Tradition
Posted on: 09/18/18 12:01 PM
Today I’m particularly excited to offer the latest gems that I discovered on my trip to Spain in April- a stunning pair of Riojas that offer unbelievable value for money and make a magnificent comparison with one another. Perhaps I shouldn’t say ‘discovered’ for the first, La Antigua Clasico Reserva, as we offered their 2008 last year and it was enormously popular. This year though we’re back with their even better 2010- a phenomenally good vintage in Rioja and a ridiculously good wine for this price.
The second, Sierra de La Demanda Tinto, is a magnificent new find for me and flat out one of the most impressive wines I’ve tried this year. This one is made by Alberto Orte, the same ridiculous genius behind the incredibly good Atlantida Blanco that we offered two weeks ago and sold out in under an hour. Orte’s wines are going places in a major way, and frankly we all need to be buying them while we can. This is an insanely good wine, and I give it the highest recommendation I possibly can. Jancis Robinson is an extremely harsh marker, and a 17 out of 20 from her means that this is world class. For comparison she gave the latest release of what is about the most expensive Rioja money can buy, La Rioja Alta’s top wine ‘890’ (current retail price around $165), 17-.
Do what I will do, take six bottles of each for $300 total, and spend the fall and the winter comparing these two beauties.
Sierra de la Demanda Rioja Tinto 2014
Unusual blend of 75% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo, 5% Viura. Vines planted in 1930 on the north-facing slopes of the Sierra de la Demanda south of most Rioja vineyards at 700m. Picked unusually late. 20 months in French oak. Transparent, very lively sweet, fresh red fruits with a hint of strawberry but no sickliness whatsoever. Really fresh and satisfying though unlike most red riojas. Very refined and long. Exciting. 17 pts., Jancis Robinson MW
La Antigua Clasico Reserva 2010
Quite a traditional Rioja with red-fruit and milk-chocolate notes, medium-body, moderate tannins and a supple finish. Good harmony and length. Drink now or hold. 91 pts., James Suckling
More about the wine:
Both of these are from the almost unknown area of Sierra de la Demanda, which Alberto describes as the ‘4th subzone of Rioja’. Unknown not because of any lack of quality, but because of a rather difficult terrain to work with. We’re at far higher altitude than anywhere else in Rioja here, on steep slopes where mechanization is impossible. Both of these wines come from cool, north facing hillsides of mainly old vine Grenache, among the oldest anywhere in the region. This means a slow ripening period, and extraordinarily well balanced, fresh and complex wines.
I very strongly recommend trying both of these rather than picking one. They are not completely polar opposite styles, as both are as Jancis Robinson puts it in her note, “Really fresh and satisfying unlike most red riojas”. Both have a remarkably silky smooth texture and tannins, but the Antigua is lighter both in colour and weight. My tasting note for it is full of spice, red fruit with cloves, pepper, anise, cedar and leather.
The Sierra de la Demanda on the other hand is a little fuller (though I would still only say medium weight for Rioja). My shorthand note reads “Silky smooth, pure fruited, great balance. Irresistable and extremely long. Big winner!”. Tasting this blind there would be no way I wouldn’t guess that it was a very expensive wine, as it has that somehow effortless seeming combination of intensity and freshness wrapped up in a wine so smooth it seems almost impossible. This comes from organically grown vines, planted in 1930, at the highest elevation in Rioja at 2,300ft.
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