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Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 - another great vintage

 

The story

Few Exel customers can have missed the hurrah that has surrounded one particular wine over the last year: the Cerro Añon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010.

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter in their March 2019 edition (in a panel test of top-end Riojas), it went on to become our most successful, most demanded and most talked-about wine yet. It was lauded at all the Exel tastings it attended. Online and shop customers either bought it by the boatload or returned frequently. Even the producers were surprised when we kept appearing to demand more pallets.

The hype was well justified (to which all that demand fully testified). This was a perfectly judged Gran Reserva, in which fruit character and intensity were matched superbly with the flavours of ageing and development, neither side overpowering the other. This isn’t so uncommon in top Rioja, but what made it unusual with the Cerro Añon was that you could pick up a bottle of top-class, top-vintage Gran Reserva for just £15. This was a wine, after all, that, under test, outpointed many of the great, £50+ superstars of Rioja.

If you somehow missed the above - or just want some more detail on the wine itself - try the article that accompanied its release onto the market.

 

The problem

The problem with high demand in a world of finite supply is that things run out. Here and across the UK, the Cerro Añon GR10 vanished from shelves just after New Year. If there’s a theme to our days now, it’s being asked if we have some secret stash squirreled away somewhere. We don’t. Really, we don’t. Even my own personal bottles have now all gone.

Other questions necessarily emerge: is there a new vintage? Is it any goodas in … really as good as the previous vintage? And how and when can we obtain it?

These questions, we can now answer.

There is a new vintage. Here it is. If that seems obvious, bear in mind that Gran Reservas are only produced in top vintages. You won’t find the Cerro Anon GR gracing every year over the past decades.

Is it good? As good?

Let’s firstly step back a second. You might expect us to tell you it is, regardless, in order to sell you loads in a piece of mercenary marketing. But we don’t operate like that ... nor can we afford to if we want to stay both popular with customers and in business.

(Honestly, if the new vintage of a wine isn’t up to what customers expect, we’ll tell you. Exhibit A, your Honour: Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and 2017).

Conventional wisdom says the 2011 can’t be as good. 2010 is revered as a truly great year by most for Old World wines. It fits the old, just-about-true, “divisible by five” maxim, and was indeed superb. 2010 was rated as “Excellent” by the Rioja control board. The chances of another great vintage a year after seemed slim.

But it happened. 2011 was also rated Excellent (click here) and Jancis (and team) thought so, too. And, as Decanter put it, in that March 2019 article:

In recent visits to Rioja, and in talking to a number of export managers and winemakers, I’ve learned that many rate 2011 at least as highly as 2010.

However, it was a very different harvest. It was a mighty hot summer, leading to a lot more ripeness, more rounded tannins and less acidity.

 

The verdict

Actually, we hadn’t really taken much regard of the above when we excitedly carried out our blind, comparative tasting of the two vintages (see photo).

But that’s very much what we found on the ground.

Three of our tasters preferred the 2010; three preferred the 2011. Different wines as they were, I personally found it a hard call. It really does all depend on how you like your Rioja.

The now-vanished 2010 is the softer, lighter, more elegant wine. In any Rioja, there’s a balance of red fruit (eg strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants) and black fruit flavours (blackberries, blackcurrants) that’s a good measure of the ripeness of the fruit. The 2010 is something like 50/50 red/black. You’d also have to say it has some more complexity and a greater variation of age flavours: more than you’d expect from just the extra year on its side. It is, as Decanter told us last year, the epitome of a Gran Reserva.

The 2011 is a bigger wine. Some might say - and some here did - that it's more "exciting". That red/black mix is more like 20/80 here. It’s altogether a more fruit-forward, riper, fuller-bodied, high-octane Rioja. One might even say (NB: I doubt Olarra would) that it has a bit more of the New World about it. That extra fruit drive does come at the slight – and it is slight – cost of complexity and subtlety: the tobacco/leather/coffee/toffee tones are just a little more muted, although there is also more to come. This is a wine that’s probably going to be best in the next 4-5 years, but that’s always hard to judge. If anything, the 2011, I might argue, is perhaps how you might expect an exceptional Reserva to taste; it definitely has a lesser sense of "fruit fade" than is common with Gran Reservas.

So, if you like your Rioja bigger, fruitier and less.. well… leathery, the 2011 is definitely for you.

If you like the faded elegance of a classic, top, old Gran Reserva, then we’d have to say the 2011 does that less well than its predecessor.

That exact split in general preferences among out tasters very much rang out when tasting the two wines here.

Either way, the 2011 is/remains an exceptional Rioja at an exceptional price, just as the 2010 was before it. It would be possible to get all too locked up in inter-vintage comparison and the notion that, because Decanter only rated the 2010, it must be the better. But this, you will appreciate, is more a function of the snapshot way in which the panel tastings occur; they vary in what they choose to cover/review from year to year.

It’s not just Exel Wines that rate the 2011: the IWC gave it a Gold medal last year, and, now that the new vintage is out and about, we’d expect to see more – even Decanter – run into it.

 

How and when can you obtain it?

It's now with us in Perth.

Come with us on the continuing trail of this excellent Rioja, if you will.

Bodegas Olarra

Cerro Añon Rioja Gran Reserva, 2011

£15.50

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Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 (1x75cl)

** ALAS NOW ALL GONE -  WE NOW OFFER THE AWARD-WINNING, HIGHLY-RATED 2011 (click link for product page and here for our comparison of the two vintages). **

Awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

"I bought six of these and unfortunately I have given three away to friends. We opened it last night and decanted as per the instructions of your shop staff. The wine is truly spectacular and I am working out how to break in to my friend's flat to steal back the wine I gave him. I have never been moved to comment on a bottle of wine by email. Thank you for the spectacular experience. Another 6 please. I won't be as generous with the next lot!"

- regular (anonymous) Perth customer [who ultimately bought another 12]

In case you missed it reaching this page, here's our article on the Decanter review and this wine.

Bodegas Olarra was created in 1973. Situated on the outskirts of the city of Logroño in Rioja Alta, their winery – a Y-shaped building designed to make optimum use of the space for both production and ageing of the wine – is known as “the Cathedral of La Rioja”. From the beginning, the winery has known how to combine the traditional methods of production and ageing with the most advanced modern techniques of viticulture and vinification. A favourable geographic location, gives the vineyards all the ingredients to produce good fruits. Indeed the clay and chalky soil is watered by the rain and the Ebro river. This area also benefits from warm sunshine and the influence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. In 1978, Bodegas Olarra achieved their first Gold medal for a Cerro Añon wine in the tenth International Wines and Spirits Competition in the UK. Numerous awards followed from then on, proof of the outstanding quality of their wines.

Grapes for the Gran Reserva are drawn solely from Olarra vineyards; these are located primarily in Rioja Alta, but also in Rioja Alavesa to a lesser extent. Vines in these vineyards are all grown in the traditional way. The average age of the vines is over 30 years. Most of the vineyards sit on a clay-rich soil in Rioja Alta and on limestone-clay soils in Rioja Alavesa.

Harvests took place later than usual in 2010, well into late October, when the fruit was considered to have reached full ripeness; this slower, steadier ripening accounts for much of the quality of this harvest (generally) and the 2010 Gran Reserva (in the specific). Subsequent selection ensured that only grapes in healthy shape made it through to the vinification process. 2010 was a great year in the history of the quality of grapes on the Olarra estate. 

Tempranillo 80%, Mazuelo 10%, Garnacha 5%, Graciano 5%.

Fermentation and maceration lasted for a total of 19 days and were performed in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature of 28ºC. Later on, the wine was racked into new French (Allier) oak, 225-litre casks/barricas where the malolactic fermentation took place, followed by a stay on the lees for a little over two months, with regular batonnage.

By the end of that winter, the wine was already being racked into new oak barrels, where it remained for a further six months. After this, the rest of the oak ageing - up to the total 27 months - was conducted in different barrels again: Allier and American (Missouri) oak, all with a medium toast, and with different ages spanning from brand new to 5 years. After fining with egg whites, the wine was bottled and stored in Olarra's bottle cellar for 45 months, before it started to be released.

The Gran Reserva 2010 shows a deep red colour with shades of ruby on the rim of the glass. On the nose, at the time of original release, it revealed a delicate balance between ripe red berry aromas and those of spices and smokiness. Over time, this developmental bouquet has grown more complex, showing aromas of leather, tobacco, coffee beans and raisins. On the palate, it is full and round, thanks to its long period in the bottle. Mouthfeel is as firm, elegant and smooth as one should expect from a great Rioja Gran Reserva, with a surprisingly long and fresh finish.

ABV = 14.0% (NB: the figure stated in the Decanter review is incorrect, based on the value stated on the bottle).

£14.95

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 (1x75cl)

** IN STOCK! ** 

** THE CERRO ANON RESERVA IS ALSO AVAILABLE AND HIGHLY RECOMMENDED **

Awarded 95 points and Gold status at the 2019 IWC (International Wine Challenge) in May 2019.

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 - IWC 2019 Decanter review

The 2010 vintage was famously awarded 96 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2010 - March 2019 Decanter review

Of the 2010: "I bought six of these and unfortunately I have given three away to friends. We opened it last night and decanted as per the instructions of your shop staff. The wine is truly spectacular and I am working out how to break in to my friend's flat to steal back the wine I gave him. I have never been moved to comment on a bottle of wine by email. Thank you for the spectacular experience. Another 6 please. I won't be as generous with the next lot!"

- regular (anonymous) Perth customer [who ultimately bought another 12]

In case you missed it reaching this page, here's our article on the Decanter review of the 2010 and and the Cerro Añon Gran Reserva overall.

Crucially, you may wish to know how the 2010 and the 2011 compare; customers of the 2010 are naturally asking, "is it as good?We carried out our own tasting and assessment and you can find the results here.

Bodegas Olarra was created in 1973. Situated on the outskirts of the city of Logroño in Rioja Alta, their winery – a Y-shaped building designed to make optimum use of the space for both production and ageing of the wine – is known as “the Cathedral of La Rioja”. From the beginning, the winery has known how to combine the traditional methods of production and ageing with the most advanced modern techniques of viticulture and vinification. A favourable geographic location, gives the vineyards all the ingredients to produce good fruits. Indeed the clay and chalky soil is watered by the rain and the Ebro river. This area also benefits from warm sunshine and the influence of the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. In 1978, Bodegas Olarra achieved their first Gold medal for a Cerro Añon wine in the tenth International Wines and Spirits Competition in the UK. Numerous awards followed from then on, proof of the outstanding quality of their wines.

Grapes for the Gran Reserva are drawn solely from Olarra vineyards; these are located primarily in Rioja Alta, but also in Rioja Alavesa to a lesser extent. Vines in these vineyards are all grown in the traditional way. The average age of the vines is over 30 years. Most of the vineyards sit on a clay-rich soil in Rioja Alta and on limestone-clay soils in Rioja Alavesa.

Tempranillo 80%, Mazuelo 10%, Garnacha 5%, Graciano 5%.

Fermentation and maceration lasted for a total of 19 days and were performed in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature of 28ºC. Later on, the wine was racked into new French (Allier) oak, 225-litre casks/barricas where the malolactic fermentation took place, followed by a stay on the lees for a little over two months, with regular batonnage.

By the end of winter, the wine was racked into new oak barrels, where it remained for a further six months. After this, the rest of the oak ageing - up to the total 29 months - was conducted in different barrels again: Allier and American (Missouri) oak, all with a medium toast, and with different ages spanning from brand new to 5 years. After fining with egg whites, the wine was bottled and stored in Olarra's bottle cellar for 43 months, before it started to be released.

See also the blue link below for Olarra's own fiche technique/technical sheet.

Bodegas Olarra Cerro Anon Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 - fiche technique

The Gran Reserva 2011 shows a deep red colour with shades of ruby on the rim of the glass. On the nose, at the time of original release, it revealed a delicate balance between predominantly black fruit and ripe red berry aromas, and those of cedarwood, spices and smokiness. Over time, this developmental bouquet has grown more complex, showing aromas of leather, tobacco, coffee beans and prunes. On the palate, it is full and round, thanks to its long period in the bottle. Mouthfeel is as firm, elegant and smooth as one should expect from a great Rioja Gran Reserva, with a surprisingly long and fresh finish.

ABV = 14.0%.

£15.50
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