The top wine of La Rioja Alta. It’s a blend of 95% Tempranillo, 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo, and the wine spends 6 years in barrel with 10 rackings (transferring the wine from one barrel to another, with the recipient barrel having been fumigated by a sulfur wick; the barrels aren’t topped up between rackings). 199 barrels (it sounds a lot, but they have over 40 000 barrels in their cellar!) made it into the final blend.
There’s a lot of excitement about this wine. Winemaker Julio Sáenz thinks it’s one of the best wines they’ve ever produced. The main critics all gave it 98/100! I think it’s amazing and I’m enjoying drinking my unlabelled sample bottle. I’ve given it a very high score of 96/100, but with time this score could rise. It’s a thrilling wine, but if you have some, don’t drink it now: it has a further level of harmony to reach. There’s a concentration, intensity and balance to this wine that’s quite thrilling, and it has elegance, too. This may turn out to be one of the great all time Riojas. I just can’t predict that far in the future, hence my high but not astronomic score.
La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 Selección Especial 2005 Rioja, Spain
13.5% alcohol. This, the top wine from La Rioja Alta, is a blend of mostly Tempranillo, with a small amount of Mazuelo and Graciano. It’s only the third release of this wine to be labelled ‘Selección Especial’, and it’s certainly very special. The nose is highly aromatic with a seamless blend of floral red cherries, old leather and furniture, dried herbs and a dusting of vanilla and coconut. The palate has great concentration but also lovely balance, with some grippy tannins and raspberry crunch, alongside complex notes of cedar, tar, herbs and sour cherries. There’s already a harmony and mellowness to this wine, but it has enough acidity and structure to suggest it has a long life ahead of it. Benchmark Rioja, in a classic style, and quite thrilling. If you have some, keep it cellared for at least another decade. 96/100
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