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Daily Glass: Study of La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi

March 8, 2013 21 comments

DSC_0159  La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi 2003On a given day, outside of any big holidays or special dinners, I have no idea what bottle I’m going to open in the evening. Sometimes it can be a painful procedure of looking at 20-30 bottles not been able to decide. Today, it was easy – @wineking3 mentioned on twitter that he had not the best experience with 2003 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Reserva, which sparked my interest. You see, La Rioja Alta is one of the very best (and of my  favorite) producers in Rioja, so I wanted to see if I can taste the same or similar wine – and I quite convinced that I should have some 2003 La Rioja Alta wine. Also it appears that Decanter magazine suggests that 2003 Rioja should be drunk now, however suggesting that better producers created powerful wines – which again only increased my interest.

La Rioja Alta was founded in 1890 by the group of five winegrowers in the Haro Station District. In 1941, the winery introduced its Viña Ardanza brand, which became one of the most famous in Rioja. In 1970, Viña Arana and Viña Alberdi were introduced, and since then La Rioja Alta wine had being produced under all three labels – but not in all the years. Each “brand” has it’s own unique source of grapes and grape composition, which is rather expected.

So as I pulled the 2003 La Rioja Alta Viña Alberdi Reserva from the wine fridge, somehow the thought came to my head – let’s use wine thermometer. You see, I have this nifty device called VinTemp, which is an infrared wine thermometer – it can perfectly measure temperature of the wine in the bottle without actually touching the wine. While I know that temperature has a great effect on the taste of wine, I practically never use this thermometer – but today I did, so the simple wine tasting became more of a study of the temperature effect on the wine.

According to the producer’s notes, 2003 was a very difficult year, due to the extreme heat and lack of the rainfall in July and August. As the result, only the grapes form the highest areas were used to produce the wine, which is made out of 100% Tempranillo coming from 3 different areas. The wine was fermented for 12 days, following by 26 days of malolactic fermentation and then aged for 2 years in American oak casks. The resulting wine has 13% ABV. That’s it – I’m done with all the technical and general stuff – let’s go to the tasting notes. Ahh, sorry, last detail – the winery notes recommend drinking the wine at 17°C (63°F).

The bottle is opened and the wine is poured. Initial temperature – 16.2°C (62°F). Color is dark ruby red, a color of mature red wine, but without brown hues. Rim variation – practically absent. The rim is clear and noticeable, which talks about some age, but it is clear. Nose: Mushrooms, earth, cherries, touch of barnyard – clearly an old world wine. Palate: Perfect acidity on the sides of the tongue, tart cherries, tannins. Tannins completely covering the mouth, very similar to Barolo, only with the wine been a bit lighter. And then there are more tannins. And they are going. And going. And going. For about one minute forty seconds ( yes, I looked at the clock). First verdict – perfectly dry wine. Need time to warm up and to open.

Second taste – about 20 minutes later, temperature measures 17.6°C (64°F). Nose – unchanged. Palate – more fruit, less tannins. Green notes, the wine almost tastes bitter. Worrying – is this the case of bad Rioja? Tannins are back, killing and overpowering.

Third taste  – about an hour later, 19.3°C (67°F). Nose – coffee and chocolate showed up. Palate – beautiful. Fresh acidity. Bright fruit, cherries, blackberries. Still lots of tannins, but the fruit now comes first. Very round, smooth and expressive. Lots of pleasure.

Final verdict – Beautiful wine. Needs time!! Drinkability: 8

Let’s sum it up, shall we? In my opinion, this wine needs at least another 10 years to open up. And as you can see, the temperature plays key role here – considering level of tannins, the recommendation of 17°C is very surprising – you do need to drink this wine at a room temperature to let it show up in all its beauty.

Our study is complete. Now, can I have another glass? Cheers!

 

 

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