"This winery's top of the line offerings are the Gran Reservas. The 1981 Gran Reserva 890 boasts a knock-out nose of smoke, charcoal, vanillin, black fruits, and cigar smoke. The wine's terrific fruit seemingly belies the relatively advanced medium ruby color with significant amber at the edge. There is tannin in the background, but the wine is broad and expansive, with considerable sweet fruit, glycerin, and length. 1981 was considered one of the great vintages for Rioja, and this wine is at its peak of maturity, although it will last for another 15-20 years." 92pts WA
This is an exceptional example of an old school Spanish Rioja that was aged in different-sized oak vessels, and not released until it had reached full maturity. If readers think the price is high, consider the fact that this bodegas has aged the wine for the consumer, rather than asking you to buy it as a "future" in 1982 and hold it for 15 years before drinking it.
The traditionally made Spanish wines from this bodega are successful. However, readers looking for more internationally-styled Spanish reds that have saturated ruby/purple colors, and grapy personalities are advised that this bodega emphasizes the more mature, aged character of Spanish Rioja, with mature garnet colors with rust at the edge, and fragrant, intense, evolved aromatic profiles.
The Bodega was formed in 1890 as a partnership of 5 quality-conscious growers keen to exploit the export potential for well-made, ?€?modern?€? Rioja. At this time, French vineyards were ravaged by phylloxera, and connoisseurs were having to look elsewhere for supplies of fine wine. Rioja, with its excellent climate and soils, had already attracted attention, and experiments with Bordeaux-style vinification and barrique-aging were proving very successful. The region?€?s only real disadvantage was its remoteness, cut off from the lucrative markets to the north by the same mountains that ensured its favorable climate. This problem was solved by construction of the rail link to Bilbao, and it is no coincidence that Bodegas La Rioja Alta was established next to the Haro railway station in the same year it opened. In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, and gained access to some of the finest vineyards in the Rioja Alta district. The luxury 904 bottling commemorates this important milestone in the company?€?s development. Since then Rioja has seen more bad times than good, and many producers have harmed the reputation of the region and its production methods, releasing sloppily-aged wines which were never good enough to support a long time in cask. But La Rioja Alta has never let standards slip, and continues to this day the tradition of careful long-aging that gives Rioja its unique character. These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release.
Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world class quality. The company owns 300 hectares of vineyards in different parts of the best zones of the Rioja Alta region. La Rioja Alta S.A. is specialized in red wines. The leading grape variety is the Tempranillo with small doses of Mazuelo and Graciano. The Vina Ardanza differs from the other wines with some 25% Garnacha in the blend. After vinification in the new ultra modern vinification plant near Haro, aging is in traditional Bordeaux casks, all made from American oak. Racking is by hand every 6 months with 8 teams working full time racking the 51,000 casks. There is no filtration prior to bottling and further long aging in bottle before release. In short the wines are made in the traditional Rioja manner. The company is adamant about not using French oak, keeping the unique Rioja style which has been developed since the end of the 19th century. In spite of the varying amount of time in cask and bottle the wines all display a wonderful rich ruby colour, gorgeous aromas of oak, spices and fruit followed by a sensational feel on the palate, with a wonderful smooth texture, clean rich oaky/fruity flavours and a long lingering finish. All the wines are ready for consumption on release but will keep for many more years in bottle. This situation is almost unique in the world of wine and is the reason why so many restaurants list La Rioja Alta?€?s outstanding range of truly classic Rioja wines.