Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain
Opened 21 Dec 2017
James Suckling: 95
Robert Parker: 91
Cellar Tracker: 90
Wine Spectator: 89
La Rioja Alta, founded in 1890, within the Station Quarter of Haro, Spain, offers some of the finest wines coming out of the Rioja producing region. The Vina Alberdi brand was added to the firm’s lineup of great wines in 1978, making its newest label, out of 5, and the only one made with 100% Tempranillo grapes.
The Rioja region’s wine history is tied into the arrival of the Phoenicians, and their wine making skills, 3000 years ago, with their arrival and founding, in the 11th century B.C., of what is now city of Cadiz along the southwestern Spanish-Atlantic coast. They likely continued their migration to the Rioja region via sea routes along the Atlantic-Iberian coast. The Romans continued, and expanded, the wineries in the Rioja area starting around the 2nd century B.C.; credited with the planting many of the vineyards in the area. During the Middle-Ages, Christian pilgrimages through the area provided a continuous market, and free advertising, for these northern Spanish wines.
In the 19th century the French vineyards were devastated and destroyed by the very small critter: Daktulosphaira vitifoliae. With the resultant collapse of the French wine industry many of the country’s wine artisans migrated south into the Spanish wine growing regions, bringing with them their expertise and customs, especially from the Bordeaux region. La Rioja Alta’s first winemaker in 1890 was the Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, coming during the period, in the late 19th century, of the greatest vineyard destruction in France where 65-90% of the vineyards succumbed to the Phylloxera.
La Rioja Alta’s estate owned vineyards: Las Monjas, Bardal and Las Cuevas, which provide the Tempranillo grapes for this wine, grow at 1600 to 2000′ above sea level, a few miles from Haro. The soils are chalky and clayey, nurturing vines that were planted more than 40 years ago. Growing season temperatures range from a the low 50s at night to the low 80s Fahrenheit during the day, with atypical 20 degree, night-to-day, temperature swing. Rarely does the area experience freezing temperatures. The spring and summer months average 1.75 to 3 inches of rain per month.
The Tempranillo grapes are manually harvested and the wine spends 12 months in new American oak barrels and an additional 12 months in 3-year-old, or more, barrels. Every 6 months the wine is romantically racked (trasegamos) by the light of a candle. The 2010 vintage was bottled in 2013.
This is a brilliant, dark cherry-red wine with a peachy-pink rim. Aromas of red fruits and berries, with a hint of oak and caramel. Very nice tasting, balanced, medium bodied and smooth, with a crisp acidity and just right tannins, producing a long, dry finish. The wine evokes visions of the gently undulating curves of a gypsy dancer in an iridescent, flowing chiffon red dress; her body pulsating and pressing to the slow Bolero beats in a smoky, steamy, waterfront Cadiz club.
An outstanding wine. Serve with cheese or light fare. Decant and aerate for one hour before drinking.