Rioja and cricket
I really enjoyed my visit to Rioja Alavesa, despite the punishing start and the 22 hour day it necessitated. I was visiting Bodegas Palacio in the Rioja Alavesa, who are achieving great success with fruit-dominated Riojas aged in French oak, as opposed to the more common oakier, American oak-aged style that this region has become well known for.
We began by looking at a range of white Riojas. They are keen to produce a high-end white Rioja, and in order to have a clearer idea of where they should go in terms of style they opened some of the better-known examples and we had a discussion. Then we tasted through their current range. After this, it was time for a lunch and more discussion, with a bottle of 1964 Glorioso Rioja Gran Reserva to help us. Lunch was followed by a trip to visit some vineyards; primarily, two that have been earmarked for an icon red wine project. The first was old vine Tempranillo, the second some 80 year old Graciano (pictured). As is common in the older vineyards here, the vines are trained as bushes, with two or three main arms which are then pruned back to a couple of short spurs each. These vineyards just look fantastic.
We then returned to taste samples from these vineyards made in the 2005 vintage. In short, they were great. The Graciano was amazingly fresh and vibrant with great density, good tannin and high acidity. Unoaked. The Tempranillo had been oaked and showed fantastic richness of fruit, yet still retained freshness. Blended together the result was superb: intense but fresh and with great definition. Much better than many of the inky, soupy, oaky high-end newwave Riojas on the market at the moment.
Woke up this morning feeling fresher than I should have done, perhaps because it was my first game of cricket of the season, for the Wine Trade XI captained by Nick Oakley, versus the Gents of Essex, held at Coggeshall's fine ground. It's normally a batsman's track, so bowling can be quite hard work. Last year (reported here) I had figures of 7-0-42-0. This year, though, it clicked. I opened the bowling, and with the fourth ball cleaned out Coggeshall's overseas professional with a ball that swung in and then straightened out. The next over I got another wicket. And one more two overs later. My figures of 8-2-31-3 would have been a lot better but for the final over where I conceded one more run than the previous seven overs together. Chasing 231, we went on to win the game with 7 down and a few overs to spare.
Tonight I'm drinking a very nice affordable white Burgundy: Albert Bichot Bourgogne Domaine du Pavillion 2005 (Oddbins £8.49). It's fresh and bright with a really nice reductive edge, which, in the context of this wine, works really well.