"Appreciating old wine is like making love to a very old lady. It is possible. It can even be enjoyable. But it requires a bit of imagination."
We do a lot of tastings with older wines here at the Wine Watch as part of our scientific research program that we are conducting with wine. That’s we are trying to drink as much of the good stuff so we can to report back to you, our “wine drinking people” as to just how the world’s greatest wines are drinking at this moment. Check out our Instagram TV channel to see the reviews on all our wine tasting events or you can watch live the following day after the tasting at 3:30pm.
Most wines should not be kept for 50 years even if they are properly stored. Less than 1% of the wines produced on the planet earth will benefit from such long-term aging but one of the best wines to put in the cellar is Rioja.
Spain provides some of the greatest values in the wine world today and some of the most age worthy and this tasting takes us all the way back to the 1970 vintage and everything on the table is over 10 years of age.
Join us as Friday, September 29th as we experience some of the best vintage wines that Spain has to offer, chef Toni Lampasone will be making a special meal to accompany them. There are only 14 spaces available for this tasting which includes dinner and the fee is $350 per person + tax. For reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail email@example.com.
Vintage Spanish Treasures Wine Tasting
Friday, September 29th
1970 Federico Paternina Gran Reserva Rioja Doc
1972 Vega Sicilia Unico Ribera Del Duero
1975 R. Lopez De Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Rioja Doc
1997 Torres Grans Muralles, Conca De Barbera, Spain
2001 Artadi Grandes Anadas Rioja
2005 Bodegas Roda Reserva Rioja Roda I
2005 Espectacle Del Montsant
2007 Bodega Puig Odysseus Priorat
2007 Vega Sicilia Unico Ribera Del Duero
2011 Numanthia Termanthia Toro
Jambon De Serrano
Torta Espania with Salt Cured Anchovies Black Olive Tapenade and Multi Color Roasted Pepper Pouree
Mongolian BBQ Iberico Pork Loin or King Salmon served with Bacon Sweet Potato Hash and Sherry Mushroom Spinach Sautee
Dolce de Leche with fried Bananas and Amontillado Sherry Whipped Creme
The fee for this tasting is $350 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let us know when you make your reservations if you have any dietary restrictions and chefs Toni and Dani will be happy to accommodate you.
Rioja –The Most Famous Spanish Wine
The harvesting of wine in La Rioja has an ancient lineage with origins dating back to the Phoenicians and the Celtiberians. The earliest written evidence of the existence of the grape in La Rioja dates to 873, in the form of a document from the Public Notary of San Millán dealing with a donation to the San Andrés de Trepeana (Treviana) Monastery. As was the case in many Mediterranean lands in mediaeval times, monks were the main practitioners of winemaking in La Rioja and great advocates of its virtues. In the thirteenth century, Gonzalo de Berceo, clergyman of the Suso Monastery in San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja) and Spain's earliest known poet, mentions the wine in some of his works.
In the year 1063, the first testimony of viticulture in La Rioja appears in the "Carta de población de Longares" (Letter to the Settlers of Longares). The King of Navarra and Aragon gave the first legal recognition of Rioja wine in 1102. Vineyards occupied the usual part of rural landscapes in medieval Rioja during the High Middle Ages (10th-13th century) There are proofs of Rioja wine export towards other regions as early as the late 13th century, which testifies the beginnings of a commercial production. From the 15th century on, the Rioja Alta specialized in wine growing. In 1560, harvesters from Longares chose a symbol to represent the quality of the wines. In 1635, the mayor of Logroño prohibited the passing of carts through streets near wine cellars, in case the vibrations caused a deterioration of the quality of the wine. Several years later, in 1650, the first document to protect the quality of Rioja wines was drawn up. In 1790, at the inaugural meeting of the Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de La Rioja (Royal Economic Society of Rioja Winegrowers), many initiatives as to how to construct, fix, and maintain the roads and other forms of access for transportation of wine were discussed. The Society was established to promote the cultivation and commercialisation of Rioja wines and 52 Rioja localities participated.
In 1852, Luciano Murrieta created the first fine wine of the Duque de la Victoria area, having learned the process in Bordeaux. In 1892, the Viticulture and Enology Station of Haro was founded for quality-control purposes. In 1902, a Royal Decree determining the origin of Rioja wines is promulgated. The Consejo Regulador (Regulating Council) was created in 1926 with the objective of limiting the zones of production, expanding the warranty of the wine and controlling the use of the name "Rioja". This Council became legally structured in 1945 and was finally inaugurated in 1953. In 1970 the Regulations for Denominación de Origen were approved as well as Regulations for the Regulating Council. In 1991, the prestigious "Calificada" (Qualified) nomination was awarded to La Rioja, making it Spain's first Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa).
Limits of the Rioja D.O.C.
In 2008, the Regulatory Council for the La Rioja Denomination of Origin created a new logo to go on all bottles of wine produced under this designation. From now on bottles of wine from the La Rioja Qualified Denomination of Origin will no longer bear the familiar logo. In an attempt to appeal to younger wine-lovers, the long-standing logo will now be replaced with a brighter, more modern logo with cleaner lines. The aim is to reflect the new, modern aspects of wine-growing in La Rioja without detracting from the traditional wines. In theory, the new logo represents a Tempranillo vine symbolising “heritage, creativity and dynamism”. Consumers should start seeing the labels in October 2008. The Joven from 2008, Crianza from 2006, Reserva from 2005, and Gran Reserva from 2003 being released this year should bear the new label, in theory.
Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro river, La Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region which has a moderating effect on the climate. They also protect the vineyards from the fierce winds that are typical of northern Spain. The region is also home to the Oja river (Rio Oja), believed to have given the region its name. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1,500 feet (460 m) above sea level. The area is subdivided into three regions - Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. La Rioja Alavesa and la Rioja Alta, located closer to the mountains, are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. La Rioja Baja to the southeast is drier and warmer. Annual rainfall in the region ranges from 12 inches (300 mm) in parts of Baja to more than 20 inches (510 mm) in La Rioja Alta and Alavesa. Many of Rioja's vineyards are found along the Ebro valley between the towns of Haro and Alfaro.
A wine from the Rioja Alavesa region.
The three principal regions of La Rioja are Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja with each area producing its own unique expression of Rioja wine. Most of the territory subjected to the Rioja Protected designation of origin is in the La Rioja region, even though their limits do not coincide exactly. There is a narrow strip in the left bank of the Ebro river lying in the southernmost part of Álava included in the La Rioja wine region, whereas the south-southwestern part of the La Rioja region is not a part of this Protected designation of origin.
Located on the western edge of the region and at higher elevations than the other areas, the Rioja Alta is known more for its "old world" style of wine. A higher elevation equates to a shorter growing season, which in turn produces brighter fruit flavors and a wine that is lighter on the palate.
Despite sharing a similar climate as the Alta region, the Rioja Alavesa produces wines with a fuller body and higher acidity. Vineyards in the area have a low vine density with large spacing between rows. This is due to the relatively poor conditions of the soil with the vines needing more distance from each other and less competition for the nutrients in the surrounding soil.
Unlike the more continental climate of the Alta and Alavesa, the Rioja Baja is strongly influenced by a Mediterranean climate which makes this area the warmest and driest of the Rioja. In the summer months, drought can be a significant viticultural hazard, though since the late 1990s irrigation has been permitted. Temperatures in the summer typically reach 35 °C (95 °F). A number of the vineyards are actually located in nearby Navarra but the wine produced from those grapes belongs to the Rioja appellation. Unlike the typically pale Rioja wine, Baja wines are very deeply coloured and can be highly alcoholic with some wines at 18% alcohol by volume. They typically do not have much acidity or aroma and are generally used as blending components with wines from other parts of the Rioja.
Ribera Del Duero – The New Kid on the Block
Officially, the Denominación de Origen (D.O.) of Ribera del Duero was founded on July 21, 1982 by an organization of wine producers and growers who were determined to promote the quality of their wines and enforce regulatory standards.
In practice, winemaking in Ribera dates back over 2,000 years to the Roman era, as evidenced by a recent find, a 66-meter mosaic of Bacchus, the god of wine, unearthed at Baños de Valdearados. In the middle ages, new plantings by monasteries such as the Cistercians in Valbuena de Duero (first to arrive in the 12th Century) and the Benedictines from Cluny in Burgundy spurred a revival in local winemaking. Ribera’s earliest underground cellars with their distinctive chimneys were built in the thirteenth century in towns across the region, and still serve to protect wines from the extreme climate.
Wine became an essential aspect of Ribera’s cultural and economic development facilitating trade with other areas of Spain and resulting in the first quality regulations, the "Ordinances of Castilla y León," in the fifteenth century. Ribera wines were highly regarded for export at the height of the Spanish Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in more recent times the founding of Bodega Vega Sicilia in 1864 heralded the quality credentials of the region prior to the formal establishment of the D.O.
Today, new technology and modern techniques as well as a respect for tradition have driven the quality of Ribera del Duero to its highest accomplishments in over two millennia of winemaking history. Ribera wines have received international acclaim and enjoy widespread distribution.
The climate of Ribera del Duero is unique and ideally suited to growing quality red grapes. Mediterranean with Continental influences, the Ribera climate is characterized by extremes; the region has the highest average elevation in Europe for growing red wine grapes, hot summers, cold winters, a short growing season, minimal rainfall, and a diversity of soils. Combined, these conditions favor the highest quality winemaking.
Summers are short and hot with temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 °F (10 to 15.5 °C) at night to over 100 °F (38 °C) during the day. Rapid daily temperature changes during the growing season facilitate healthy ripening of the grapes by day, and promote balanced acidity and aromatic complexity at night. Moderate to low rainfall, with an average of approximately sixteen inches per year, and extremely limited summer rainfall, also contributes to a perfect, consistent ripening of the vine.
On average, the vineyards of Ribera are planted between approximately 2,500 to 2,800 feet (760 to 850 meters) above sea level (with some vineyards as high as 3,100 feet or 945 meters), resulting in considerable differential between night and daytime temperatures.
Soil conditions in Ribera are near-perfect, with a great diversity of soils extending from the banks of the Duero to the steepest slopes. Closest to the river, soils are alluvial with sand and reddish clay. At higher elevations, alternating layers of limestone, marl and even chalk are a notable feature, even with many outstanding plantings on limestone sites.
The main grape variety of the Ribera region is Tempranillo, known locally as Tinto Fino or Tinta del País. Tempranillo, an early-ripening variety, (from "temprano" meaning "early"), is ideally suited to Ribera’s shorter growing season and extreme conditions.
Widely planted and cherished throughout Spain, Tempranillo produces red wines that are well-balanced in sweetness, color and acidity and yields fresh and fruity characteristics with appealing aromas such as black plums, cherry, and licorice. In Ribera del Duero Tempranillo yields smaller berries, loose clusters and tougher skin, which encourages more skin-to-juice contact and promotes full-bodied, powerful wines that still retain the grape’s renowned elegance. The combination of power and elegance represents Tempranillo’s signature in Ribera del Duero, and the region’s singular contribution to winemaking today.
D.O. Ribera del Duero adheres to and closely monitors strict quality controls. During harvest each winery is assigned a surveyor by the Consejo Regulador of D.O. Ribera del Duero, the governing body that oversees all aspects of the viticultural and winemaking process. The Consejo regulates where the grapes come from, the varieties used, the percentages allowed, vineyard practices including pruning, density, and yields, winemaking procedures, alcohol levels and labeling. In practice, the wineries consistently outperform the high standards set by the Consejo in order to maximize quality production.
There are several designations for wines that are produced in the Ribera del Duero: Joven, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva, and Rosado.
* Joven: Joven wines have no oak at all. "Joven Roble" and "Joven Barrica" are interchangeable terms that refer to wines aged for a short period of three to six months in oak, released soon after harvest. All wines with a Joven classification are fruity and vibrant, and meant to be consumed quite young.
* Crianza: Aged two years, a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels. They can be released after the first of October, two years after the harvest. These wines have well balanced tannins with a full-bodied and velvety mouthfeel.
* Reserva: Aged three years, a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels; can only be placed on the market after the first of October of the third year after the harvest. After twelve months in oak barrels, Reserva wines are then bottled and laid down in winery cellars, producing wines that are ready to drink once they enter the market. Reserva wines are elegant and intense, with a rich aftertaste that is long and persistent.
* Gran Reserva: Wines of outstanding quality, made in select vintage years only. Aged a minimum of sixty months, with twenty-four months in oak barrels minimum followed by additional bottle aging. First release is allowed after the first of October, five years after the harvest. After twenty-four months in oak barrels, Gran Reserva wines are then bottled and laid down in winery cellars, producing wines ready that are ready to drink at the time of release. Gran Reserva wines are complex and structured, with great balance and vitality.
* Rosado: Rosé wines are fermented without the skin of the grape and are available shortly after the harvest. Easy to enjoy, with refreshing wild-berry flavors.
The use of oak is closely regulated by type and classification. In addition, oak barrels are changed every four years on average.
Maximum Yields are limited to 7,000 kilograms per hectare (3.1 tons per acre). In practice, the average yields for the past twenty-two years have rarely exceeded 3,600 kilograms per hectare (1.6 tons per acre), as grape-growers reduce quantity, driven by a pursuit of quality.
Ribera Del Duero is to the south of Spain’s most famous wine region Rioja. The Ribera del Duero appellation officially came into being in 1982, when there were still only nine wineries bottling in the area and much of the production went directly into jugs and pitchers. But by the early '90s, several dozen new wineries had opened for business, taking advantage of the decades-old vines of Tempranillo (called Tinto del País or Tinto Fino locally). Ribera is home to Spain’s very first “Cult Wine”, Vega Sicilia made by the grandfather of Spanish winemaking Mariano Garcia. A few years later Alejandro Fernadez made a big impact in the world of wine with his Pesquera wines. Today this area is home to some of the hottest new names on the Spanish wine scene: Bodeaga Hermanos, Dominio De Atauta, Hacienda Monasterio, and one of the newest “Cult Wines” of Spain Pingus.
Peter Sisseck, a Danish winemaker came to Ribera del Duero in 1990 by way of Bordeaux to make wine for Hacienda Monasterio. In 1995, he decided to create two new Ribera del Duero wines that established a new paradigm of opulence and power – Pingus and Flor de Pingus. His objective was to make unmistakably Spanish terroir-driven wines. These wines were the first wines to transcend traditional Spanish winemaking. They caused a sensation not only in Spain but throughout the world, with winemakers everywhere scurrying to emulate them. Sisseck has since become a cult figure and his wine ranks with the world’s best and most collectable. He has led a new generation of Spanish winemakers that are producing really top quality wines that reflect the true potential of Spanish wine.
The legendary Pingus is harder to find than the infamous Screaming Eagle from Napa Valley, however the second wine made at this estate, Flor de Pingus, is a taste of this unique terroir at a fraction of the coast (Pingus sells for between $500-$1000 per bottle). Flor De Pingus is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes. After fermentation in steel or large wooden vat, the wines are raised in 100% new French oak. Peter uses as little sulphur as possible and carefully seasons the young wines, controlling their exposure to oxygen and utilizing lees contact to give the final wines their exotic textures. The primary difference between the two cuvees is that the Pingus is made from four parcels of the region’s oldest vines, while the Flor de Pingus is made from more diverse sites, but still with a healthy percentage of old vines.
Toro - The Bull in the Room
Toro is a place of long-standing wine-making traditions, as the vineyards go back to ancient Roman times.
The best soils for viticulture are composed of very sandy loams on the surface, with moisture-retaining clay below. The roots can thus easily work their way down to cooler depths that contain moisture and nutrition that are seriously lacking in such arid conditions on the surface. This type of soil, and the hot summer, produces ideal ripening conditions for grapes. The diversity of local soil composition adds to the wines' complexity: for example, vines whose soils have higher clay content will show greater fruit intensity, whilst those on sandy and gravelly soils will have more body and structure.
The Toro meso-climate is continental with an oceanic influence. With an average rainfall of only nine-to-12 inches (350 to 400 mm) per year, the region is very dry and at the limit of what is possible for non-irrigated vines. These could not survive without the humidity retained in the layers of clay in the sub-soil. The summer months are hot by day and cool by night, with thermal variations that are often greater than 20°C (68°F). Winter months are very cold. These extreme conditions produce grapes of exceptional quality.
Toro wines are made from a single grape variety specific to the region called "Tinta de Toro" - which is part of the Tempranillo family and is a pre-phylloxeran massal selection that is specific to this region. In Toro they believe this grape may be Spain's original variety, with Tempranillo in Rioja having sprung from it. Tinta de Toro is one of the darkest of all red grapes.
In the sandy soils of the region, "Tinta de Toro" is resistant to Phylloxera – one of the only places in Europe to have survived the blight. What is extremely rare in Europe is for these vines to be ungrafted and to have naturally resisted Phylloxera for over 140 years.
Priorat – An Ancient Wine Region with New Life
The first recorded evidence of grape growing and wine production dates from the 12th century, when the monks from the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei, founded in 1163, introduced the art of viticulture in the area. The prior of Scala Dei ruled as a feudal lord over seven villages in the area, which gave rise to the name Priorat. The monks tended the vineyards for centuries until 1835 when they were expropriated by the state, and distributed to smallholders.
At the end of the 19th century, the phylloxera pest devastated the vineyards causing economic ruin and large scale emigration of the population. Before the phylloxera struck, Priorat is supposed to have had around 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of vineyards. It was not until the 1950s that replanting was undertaken. The DO Priorat was formally created in 1954. The seat of the DO's regulatory body was initially Reus, some 30km to the east of the wine-region, rather than in Priorat itself.
In the decade from 1985, the production of bulk wine was phased out and bottling of quality wine phased in.
Early on, winemaking cooperatives dominated. Much of the development of Priorat wines to top class is credited to Rene Barbier and Ãlvaro Palacios. Winemaker Barbier, then active at a winery in Rioja owned by the Palacios family, bought his first land for Priorat vineyards in 1979, convinced of the region's potential. At this stage, there were 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of Priorat vineyards. In the 1980s, he convinced others, including Palacios, to follow suit and plant new vineyards in suitable locations, all named Clos. For the first three vintages, 1989-1991, the group of five wineries pooled their grapes, shared a winery in Gratallops, and made one wine sold under five labels: Clos Mogador (Barbier), Clos Dofi (Palacios, later renamed to Finca Dofi), Clos Erasmus, Clos Martinet and Clos de l'Obac. From 1992, these wines were made separately. In 1993, Palacios produced a wine called L'Ermita sourced from very old Priorat vines, which led to an increased interest in using the region's existing vineyards to produce wines in a new style.
The Catalan authorities approved of Priorat's elevation from DO to DOQ status in 2000, but national level confirmation from the Spanish Government in Madrid only came on July 6, 2009. In the period from 2000 to 2009, when it was approved as DOQ but not yet as DOCa, despite the fact that these designations were exactly the same but in Catalan and Spanish, respectively, the situation was somewhat confused. A new set of DOQ rules were approved by the Catalan government in 2006. The regulatory body moved from Reus to Torroja del Priorat in 1999.
The vineyard surface of Priorat has been continuously expanding since the Clos-led quality revolution in the 1990s. At the turn of the millennium there was 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of vineyards, with an equal amount of planting rights secured. As of 2009, there are close to 1,800 hectares (4,400 acres).