Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marqués de Vitoria: an underrated traditional Rioja's winery (2nd post) and 2001 Marqués de Vitoria Reserva Rioja Alavesa Spain

Marqués de Vitoria: an underrated traditional Rioja's winery (2nd post)

As I already mentioned it in a previous post, Marqués de Vitoria features amongst some of my favorites traditional Rioja's wineries, which include: La Rioja Alta (Vina Ardanza), Lopez de Heredia (Vina Bosconia and Tondonia), Bodegas Riojanas (Gran Albina), CVNE (Vina Real), Marqués de Murrieta (Castillo Ygay), Marques de riscal (Reserva and Gran Reserva), and a few more rare gems.

However, being a part of the massive Faustino group, which owns quite a few wineries and hectares of vines in the Rioja region, Marqués de Vitoria is very often underrated by the press and overlooked by most Spanish wine lovers as a less established or more commercial brand. Somewhat not always working for the reputation of the brand, these unfortunate downside facts allow great opportunities for connoisseurs and amateurs like you and I, to still enjoy the wines from this Bodegas at a great price, which works best for our wallets.

In a previous post, I talked about the 2004 Marqués de Vitoria Crianza and the 1996 Gran Reserva, which were really good, yet once again, Marqués de Vitoria impressed me with its old school, integrated, earthy attitude 2001 Reserva.

2001 and 2004 were surely the best two vintages of last decade in Rioja overall. Although still a bit young for some Gran Reserva and Reserva Especial, the 2001 Reserva are drinking beautifully and most of the ones that I tasted are massively expressive. The 2004 are quite impressive too, yet some of them may need a few more years. Marqués de Vitoria 2001 is the last 2001 Rioja that I tasted recently and it was absolutely exquisite, especially if you prefer more traditional, earthy Rioja style like me.

Created in the late 19th century by the Marquis of Vitoria, the Bodegas has a name eponymous of a city anciently known as Gasteiz (in Basque), which became Vitoria in 1181 (or Victoria in English) and it’s now the region’s capital.

Bodegas Marqués de Vitoria has become one of the landmarks of the plains of the Alavese region (or Álava or Alavesa), located in Oyón, a small village north of Logroño, in the south of the Álava region. The bodegas possesses an ocean of vineyards from which they craft numerous wines: Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva, an organic wine called “Ecco”, an exclusively old vines made wine called “Original”, a white Rioja made with 100% Viura and a 100% Tempranillo Rosé.

People may see this Bodegas as a commercial venture like Faustino, yet no one can deny the fact that both of these wineries still craft their Rioja wines with an old school, traditional twist which is far from the heavy duty, modern, super extracted and woody, massive fruit bombs that certain Rioja producers have crafted recently to please the demand of certain markets influenced by certain prominent critics.

I have been a Rioja wines fan for years and being from Bordeaux, when I go back to France in vacation, I rarely missed an opportunity to drive to the Basque country in Spain for a few days, to appreciate the warm climate, the frank attitude of the Basque, the culture, the landscape and more especially to gorge myself with “Tapas”, “Chuletas” and other Basque delicacies paired with some old vintage Riojas found in some of the unknown-to-the-grand-public restaurants bordering the Basque coast or lost in one of the numerous hilltop villages, like Laguardia or San Vicente, in Rioja itself.

Old school, traditional Rioja red wines are usually extremely aromatic, mixing the nuances of the toasted oak barrel long ageing and earthy, Terroir influenced touches with fresh, juicy red cherry fruit, complemented by integrated tannins. Their color is often light, see through for some with age, which, just to remind you, has nothing to do with the concentration or complexity or length. Classic Tempranillo based wines like Pinot Noir can appear to be light in color and not extracted, yet they most of the time reveal great aromas, beautiful balance and fruit concentration in the palate with complex structure and texture.

Color can be a deceiving indicator, not to take for granted depending on the grape variety. In any case, Tempranillo like Pinot Noir shouldn't be too hinky or dark or too extracted. Both grapes are not Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache or even Zinfandel and shouldn't be treated like such. They both produce delicate, balanced, juicy, vibrant wines, more imparted by the oak influence in the case of Tempranillo, I admit, but they shouldn't taste jammy or be too thick. Modern ways and demand for such heavier style wines may have become fashionable for a while, yet people will realize with time that Tempranillo (and Pinot Noir) is more about elegance, charm and earthiness mixed with harmonious oaky nuances, rather than being hugely fruity and ripe (or even way overripe for some) with tones of oak flavors.

However, let’s go back to this wonderful 2001 Marqués de Vitoria Reserva, which once again startled me and confirmed my tendency to better appreciate traditional style wines compared to more modern and extracted style.

2001 Marqués de Vitoria Reserva Rioja Alavesa
Spain Suggested retail price $23-$26
Imported/Distributed by VINAIO in NYC

Made from 100% Tempranillo grapes coming from 30 years old vines, this wine was vinified then aged for about 2 years in French Allier forest oak casks where the wine remained from roughly December 2001 to September-October 2003. It spent an additional year in bottle before release.

Which make me think to remind most Rioja novices, that Rioja is one of the rare regions in the world that has kept the tradition to age wine for a long period of time (2 years in Barrel + 1 year in Bottle for Reserva; 2-3 year in Barrel + 1-2 years in bottle for the Reserva Especial and Gran Reserva). In fact, release occurs when the wine, although still young and full of promises with great ageing potential, is ready to drink and integrated enough, presenting its best youthful profile to the patient consumer. Some of us will even be more patient and keep it for a few more years until the wine reaches its ideal maturity in the bottle.

The color is quite characteristic to older Rioja, medium intensity red-aged-cherry garnet with brick orange touches on the rim. On the nose, the 2001 Marqués de Vitoria exhibits ripe red and dark cherry aromas, with woody, slightly floral and earthy notes intermingled with hints of toasted oak, cedar, spices, underbrush, forest floor, coffee and few more attractive secondary and tertiary nuances. The medium to full, juicy and harmonious palate offers ripe red and dark cherry fruit, old prune and toasted layers, here again complemented by sweet integrated tannins that add structure and vibrant, refreshing acidity that nicely balance the fruit and the oak. The lingering finish is dry and inviting with good ageing potential. Pair it with grilled baby lamb Chuletas, rack of lamb, meat casseroles and stews, game and poultry, venison or even duck served with gratin Dauphinois and garlic-parsley sauteed mushrooms.

Overall, a well-crafted wine from the acclaimed 2001 vintage and another fine example of what this vintage can offer and what an authentic Rioja should taste like. Some more established or renowned brands may offer more complexity and guts, thus give you a better or finer experience in this 2001 vintage, but none or few of them will offer such experience at less than $25 a bottle, except Marqués de Riscal which was amazing under $20.


LeDom du vin

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