The wines of Bodegas Riojanas
Part 4 of a series based on a visit to this famous Spanish wine region


Bodegas Riojanas is a big producer founded at the beginning of the glory years of the region, 1890, and it is located in the heart of the Rioja Alta. I met with winemaker Pablo Orio for a tour and tasting.

Winemaker Pablo Orio

In 2009 Bodegas Riojanas sold 4.2 million bottles, of which 40% are Reserva and Gran Reserva levels. The winery has some 45 000 barrels, which Pablo says is the most important aspect of Rioja wine. These barrels arenít topped up; they are simply racked every six months. 

Pablo shared a bit about how the region works. Itís dominated by the large producers, who mostly buy grapes from a large number of growers. The growers deliver their grapes, but donít know how much they will be paid. The wineries get together and decide the price, and then the growers are, if they are lucky, paid 60% of this price on 1st January. The remainder is paid the following September.

In 2009 the price was 55/60 c per kilo, and for 2010 Pablo reckons it will be 60 c again. But in 2009 there was a problem. An important winery in Haro broke ranks and paid just 38 c/kilo. This makes the relationship between growers and wineries difficult. Itís currently more complicated to sell wine, and some cooperatives havenít been able to sell all theirs, so they only need half the amount of grapes.   


ViŮa Albina Fermentado en Barrica Viura 2009
Very rich peach and vanilla nose: quite oily and intense with some citrus and grapefruit. Nutty, oily palate with lime cordial finish. Fresh, intense white. 87/100

Monte Real Crianza 2007
100% Tempranillo. Deep coloured. Nicely vibrant nose of blackberry and plum fruit with some spicy notes. Brooding damson and plum fruit on the palate with some spicy oak in the background. Nicely savoury style. 89/100

ViŮa Albina Reserva 2004
Sweet open nose with notes of herbs, cherries, soy sauce and spice. The palate is mellow, broad and quite evolved with some earthy, necrotic notes. Fading a little, but still has some appeal. This spent 28 months in barrel and would have been racked 5 times. 83/100

Monte Real Reserva 2004
This is Tempranillo. Taut and relatively fresh with some focused, spicy cherry and plum fruit. Has some subtle earth and herb complexity, but this doesnít overpower the fruit. A savoury wine with nice fruit and acidity. 89/100

Gran Albina Vendimia 2005
This is equal parts Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano, and as such it is the only example of this blend in Rioja. Taut, spicy nose with some roasted, tarry notes. Tightwound dark fruits dominate. The palate is fresh and vibrant with nice focus and intensity. Taut dark fruits with spicy structure. 91/100

ViŮa Albina Gran Reserva 2001
36 months in oak. Sweet evolved cherry, herb and spice notes with some cedary complexity and soy notes. The palate is mellow, earthy, spicy and complex. Fully mature in a traditional style. 86/100

Monte Real Gran Reserva 2001
Earth, spice, herbs, cherries and plums. Nice fruit, but also some evolution. Good structure and acidity, but this is going through a slightly awkward phase, failing to show as much aromatically as you might expect. 87/100

Monte Real Gran Reserva 1964
Reputedly the best ever vintage in the region. This spent 9 years in barrel. Beautifully aromatic nose is pure and smooth with sweet tea and herb notes. Very much alive still. The palate is super-elegant with lovely aged characteristics. Some cherry fruit still, with herbs and a bit of spicy bite. Sleek, pure and genuinely exciting. 95/100

ViŮa Albina Semi Dulce Gran Reserva Blanco 1983
Yellow/bronze colour. Lovely tangerine and apricot nose with toasty richness. The palate is sweet, intense and spicy showing some savoury notes as well as herbs, apricots and spice. Complex and interesting. 91/100

ViŮa Albina Semi Dulce Reserva Blanco 2001
Quite dense with melon, herb and wax notes. Just off-dry. Has a waxy quality and is a bit awkward at the moment. 85/100

Part 1, Finca Allende
Part 2, La Rioja Alta
Part 3, Valdemar
Part 4, Bodegas Riojanas
Part 5, Remirez de Ganuza
Part 6, OntaŮůn

Wines tasted 10/10  
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