The March 2019 Decanter (www.decanter.com) is out. Which is good news, because it's a rather good one. Especially if (as we do) you like Spanish wine(s). It's a Spanish Special. From the cover, Decanter are leaving us in no doubt of that ...
We at Exel particularly like the March edition as we can show off one of the super-top-headliners that promises, comfortably, to be one of our most popular wines all year.
It's the Olarra Cerro Añon Gran Reserva 2010, which - with an Outstanding rating and 96 points - tops the extensive Rioja panel tasting of the 2010 vintage - a quite superb year, as it has emerged - and does so at just £14.95 a bottle.
There's a lot to say about this one - and about its excellent (and brilliant value) younger siblings - so that's what we've done on another page, which you may like to head to. You don't see 96-point Riojas for fifteen quid every day of the week, after all.
But if you want to buy the blessed Rioja without any more information, just click the bottle below!
We've far more to offer from this edition than just the Cerro Añon(s)... 22 other wines, in fact, albeit only three that aren't Spanish. Some are long-established favourites of ours, others recent award winners elsewhere. Let us explain....
The wines featured this month - and that we list - appear at the foot of this page. The reviews for each wine from this current Decanter appear on each product page (although they may still be being uploaded as you read!).
1) The Rioja 2010 review concerns itself only with a) that vintage and b) wines of the UK-ever-popular Reserva and Gran Reserva categories (ie aged over a year in oak and three years in total before release). There are two Outstandings, one of which is pricey and not available within these shores. There are an impressive 34 Highly Recommendeds (90+ points).
Notwithstanding the Outstanding Cerro Anon above, two other wines stand out - both already big-sellers wih Exel customers in 2018 - being
- the Finca Nueva Reserva - recipient of a Gold medal and 95 points in the 2018 DWWAs - whose "delightful Mediterranean nose" and "seductive palate" land 93 points and attract remarks of "classy", "stylish and harmonious". We knew this, as did many of you: this is a superb Rioja at the price (£16). It runs the risk, in this company, of becoming a case-filler for the Cerro Añon. But it's way better than that. This particular blog writer may even prefer it slightly to the Añon, truth be told.
- the Ramón Bilbao Gran Reserva - which scores 93 points. "Powerful, dark and brooding" and "impressive, modern and polished" say Decanter. I got to try this one (see below) in Haro last January, and I'd not disagree: it has a "punch" beyond that of almost all Gran Reservas I've ever tried. NB: We have now run out of the 2010, as have both the importer and Ramón Bilbao themselves! However, the 2011 comes from a vintage also rated "excellent" by the Rioja Consejo Regulador, and held in high esteem by the pundits (Decanter, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator); so, although not the vintage on test, one should not (for one moment) discount it. Personally, I regard the 2011 as more approachable and fuller; the 2010 as the better long-term ager. Both the 2010 and 2011 GRs scored equally well (91) with Spain's leading reviewer, Penin.
Beyond these three above, we offer non-2010 versions of 4 more Highly Recommendeds from La Rioja Alta (two of these), Roda and Sierra Cantabria. In some cases here (and many across the review more widely), the 2010 vintage is simply not available any more: we're never sure how or why these wines ever make it to the tasting panel.
2) The other main panel tasting is of the increasingly-recognised Spanish red variety of Mencia, from a number of regions (mainly scenic Bierzo...
... but also Ribera Sacre and Valdeorras).
This is perhaps not a variety for fans of Monster Reds: it has a precision, poise and elegance that makes it more cru Beaujolais than Ribera del Duero (say). Whether you're thinking of trying Mencia or an old hand, the 91-point Ronsel do Sil and the 90-point Black Mencia from the fascinating Cuatro Pasos (you must check out the origins of this name, especially if you like bears... yes, bears) are definite 'must-try's.
3) An article of 40 Best Tempranillos exposes some pricey-but-wonderful gems: the 2009 Rioja Alta 904 (Gran Reserva) (97 points), the 2011 Roda I (95 points) <NB: very little 2011 left in the UK, although the 2012 has now arrived> and the awesome Pago Negralada 2015 from Abadia Retuerta (92 points - I tried this in Ribera last year, and it quite one of the most wonderful and intense Tempranillos I've been lucky enough to taste - 92 is a bit harsh, in my view).
4) Other Spanish regions:
- Rueda makes a feature, and both Ramón Bilbao's and Protos's (we love this) Verdejo(s) are listed; both are complexified sobre lias (lees-aged) versions - rather explaining their scores - but still fantastic value at £11-£14;
- Hot Toro is emerging as a new home to very impressive (if heady) Tempranillos à la Ribera del Duero, and at superb prices. Exhibit A, Your Honour: we've long sung the praises of the two wines featured this month from Vetus: the Flor de Vetus (2015 - 90 points) and the classic Vetus proper (2014 - 91 points... in its very masculine bottle).
5) Finally, it's not (quite) all Spain:
- Jean-Claude Lapalu's Brouilly 2017 sneaks in in an article on Vielles Vignes (old vines, if you must);
- de Wetshof’s Bateleur Chardonnay gets the Spurrier's World treatment, although we (obviously) can't get access to the 2016 vintage he tried (can anyone?) and offer the 2014; and
- the enticing and fascinating Akarua Brut NV ‘Kiwi Fizz’ (how denigrating that term is; traditional method, this, two-thirds Chardonnay, one-third Pinot Noir) finds itself into 91 points and among the recommended Weekday Wines (you’re having a good week if this is being uncorked ...).
** Available in two different label formats - the wine is identical! Currently on purple label at the moment! **
Awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).
Awarded a Gold Medal and 95 points at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards (click link for details - but note that the price stated there is vastly incorrect!).
The region of La Rioja lends its name to Spain`s most widely recognised wines. Much Rioja is blended from three districts; Alta and Alavesa to the north and the hot dry Baja district to the south, and uses Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo red grape varieties and the diminishing influence of extended ageing in oak barrels.
Finca Nueva was bought by Miguel Angel de Gregorio in 2004. He is also the owner and winemaker of the renowned Finca Allende. The vines for Finca Nueva are planted on limestone rich soils which brings a finesse and mineral character to the wines. They use sustainable viticulture practices in the vineyard as Miguel says "we do not govern the terroir, the terroir governs us". They do not use any kind of herbicide or synthetic chemicals and keep carbon emissions low.
This intense and concentrated Reserva spends 24 months in French oak barrels. Deep ruby in colour with a pronounced nose of black cherries and cedar wood. The palate is rich with notes of ripe blackberries, cherries and plums combined with dark chocolate, coffee and graphite. Characterised by soft tannins and a very long finish.
The 2010 vintage was awarded 93 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).
The 2010 vintage was also awarded 92 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2017 edition review of Premium Rioja (see blue link below).
Exel note: it's worth saying that, for all the fame of the 2010 harvest, 2011 was also regarded as a wonderful year: rated Excellent by the Rioja Consejo Regulador and rated 93/100 by Wine Enthusiast. The 2011 has only recently been released and has yet to come under test in the UK. Both the 2010 and 2011 scored 91 with Spain's leading reviewer, Penin.
Established in 1924 and based in Haro, Ramón Bilbao has 180 vineyards spread across Rioja. Today, it is the fastest growing winery in the region and has firmly established itself as one of Spain’s most exciting and innovative producers. Born and bred in the region chief winemaker Rodolfo Bastida is a man who likes to push the boundaries and believes the future lies in trial and exploration.
To see an excellent fiche technique for this wine from the winemakers at Ramon Bilbao, please click on the blue link below.
** LAST FEW BOTTLES OF THIS VINTAGE! **
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition article on The Top 40 Tempranillos (see blue link below).
Awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their January 2019 edition article: The Most Exciting Wines of 2018 (see blue link below).
Roda was founded in 1987 by Mario Rotllant and Carmen Daurella. They arrived in La Rioja with the firm intention of creating a project able to provide the world of winemaking with something new. This is where their fascinating, ambitious, exigent and unprecedented adventure began. Bodegas Roda is located at the edge of the river Ebro, in the Railway Station District (Barrio de la Estación) in Haro.
Roda uses bush vines that are over 30 years old and yields are limited to 1.5 kgs per vine to encourage phenolic maturity which results in depth and complexity on the palate. The 14 Tempranillo vineyards used to produce Roda I are located near Haro, the historic heart of La Rioja Alta. Aged in French oak barriques for 16 months (50% new and 50% second use) and 36 months in bottle prior to release. The “high” temperatures in March and April caused an early budding of 15 days compared to 2010. During the month of July, the temperatures dropped, the average monthly temperature of 19ºC, and the differences with 2010 were reduced to one week at veraison. The low rainfall in the summer months and the high temperatures of August and September, with a lower production of the vineyard, made that the harvest come early, between 15 and 20 days, compared to 2010.
This wine was made using 91%Tempranillo and 9% Graciano.
High layer with dark red background. The Roda I 2011 has a beautiful nose, intense with black fruit and reddish details. The plum becomes the protagonist among cherries and sweet spices. There are waves of aromas that rise from the depth leaving memories of earth and minerals. The wood is almost imperceptible among the spices. The mouth is wide, powerful and delicate at the same time. Very cozy and pleasant, combining sweetness and freshness. The tannin is very fine and you can feel, between the silkiness of the black plums, the chocolate notes and the memory of a cigar box.
The 2010 vintage was awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below). The 2010 is categorically depleted in the UK!
Founded in 1957 by Guillermo Eguren, Sierra Cantabria is nestled in the heart of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, a town of great winemaking tradition, situated in a unique location between the River Ebro and the Sierra Cantabria mountain range. The Sierra Cantabria mountain range (1,200 m. of altitude) and the river Ebro (350 m.), create a special microclimate with Mediterranean and Continental characteristics - providing mild winters and gentle summers- unique for vine cultivation. On the other hand, the summer thermal jump (intense heat during the day with fresh night temperatures) creates an increase in the level of polyphenols, normally associated with excellent quality wines.
Tempranillo (100%) from vineyards over 30 years old. Tradition harvesting with 100% destemming. Fermentation for 8 days with native yeasts and under temperature control between 28ºC and 30ºC. Maceration sfter fermentation on the skins for 14 days. Racking twice a day until fermentation is finished.
Ageing: In French (50%) and American (50%) oak barrels of 225 litres (barriques) for 18 months in barrels that are 20% new, 80% used (these, never more than 3 uses previously). Bottled unfiltered.
Intense cherry and toasty nose of oak with light traces of fine reduction with aromas of tobacco and cedar. Ripe fruit with varietal expression and light floral traces (petals). Dense, sweet and polished, this is a beautifully nuanced wine with very fine tannins.
Awarded 90 points and Highly Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of 2010 Riojas (see blue link below).
For the production of this Gran Reserva, the best grapes from the oldest vineyards were hand-harvested. Following the harvest, the best bunches were selected in the winery. The grapes then underwent a slow and controlled alcoholic fermentation with periodic pumping over to extract colour and aromas. Following this, the wine remained in French oak barrels for 26 months.
Beronia Gran Reserva 2009 shows a powerful and deep maroon colour. On the nose, it is intense and complex with dried fruits (such as dates) standing out over a base of chocolate and sweet spice from the French oak. On the palate this wine is silky and meaty with pleasant tannins, giving structure and complexity. This wine shows great personality with body, elegance and intense flavours.
This Gran Reserva is best when decanted before serving due to the long time it has spent ageing in the bottle. It is ideal when served with red meats, game, mature cheeses and also with chocolate desserts. Drink it now or you can keep this wine until 2024 before opening it.
Awarded 89 points and Recommended status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition review of Rueda (see blue link below).
The guiding philosophy of Protos is "Quality above all". For this reason, the whole process leading to the production of their wine undergoes an in-depth analysis. The vineyards are controlled exhaustively by both technicians and experts throughout the growth cycle, yielding a production of the highest quality. This also gives them in-depth information about all the grapes to be used before they reach the winery.
Harvesting for this wine is done at night, is 100% manual and the production was gathered in 20-kilo boxes; the grapes are then spread over sorting tables. This allows them to guarantee that only completely healthy, whole grapes reach the fermentation tanks. After fermentation this wine spends a further 3 months resting on its fine lees (indeed, this new 2017 vintage is now labelled, as per the photo, as a sobre lias).
This wine has a greenish straw colour and is bright and clean. The Protos Verdejo is powerful yet fruity with green apple, citrus and tropical fruit aromas as well as white blossoms, fragant herbs and fennel hints. The flavours are very fresh, with good acidity, fruity, well balanced flavours. It is a complex wine, with a long finish.
The 2016 vintage of this wine (not in the UK for a while, we learn) was awarded 95 points and Outstanding status by Decanter (www.decanter.com) in their March 2019 edition's Spurrier's Fine Wine World (see blue link below).
The name De Wetshof has been synonymous with the production of fine wines in South Africa since the 1970’s. As the first registered wine estate in the Robertson Wine Valley, De Wetshof has become known internationally as South Africa’s eminent Chardonnay House due to the pioneering role it played in introducing this noble Burgundian grape to the country. The De Wet family’s winemaking heritage can, however, be traced back to 1694 when the first De Wets arrived at the Cape and immediately made a mark on the South African wine industry. Today, De Wetshof is one of the few third generation wine estates in South Africa. Here Danie de Wet, proprietor and cellarmaster, is assisted by sons Johann (viticulture and marketing) and Peter (winemaker).
This wine is a reflection of Danie de Wet`s personal taste combining great depth and length of flavour with elegance and finesse. An in depth knowledge of his specific vineyard plots allows him, in conjunction with barrel selection, to craft one of the best Chardonnays made in South Africa. Full spectrum of Chardonnay flavours explode in the mouth, with tropical and stone fruit flavours tempered with fresh zingy lime acidity and a creamy textured finish.
To see more detailed information on this wine from the UK importer, please click on the blue link below.