Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Vertical

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Bodegas Riojanas was founded in 1890 and is still essentially a traditional house. They did start using French oak as well as American in 1990. And 1964 was the last vintage in which they used all whole cluster–the very traditional Rioja method. The 1964 in this tasting was glorious–elegant, with youthful fruit still–ready to go 30 more years.

That’s the thing about Tempranillo from excellent vineyards and good vintages like the Monte Reals–they can go forever, retaining a lot of their delicious fruit for several decades, but putting on wonderful secondary and tertiary flavors of tobacco, mushroom and cigar box as well.

The original descendants of the Bodegas Riojanas founders, the Artacho and Frias families, turned the enterprise into a publicly traded company on the Madrid stock exchange in 1997. Bodegas Riojanas currently controls over 300 hectares, most of which is planted to Tempranillo, but with a larger proportion devoted to Graciano and Mazuelo than most other Rioja producers.

Like other traditional Rioja producers, Riojanas has typically produced not one but two top wines—one that is more powerful and hearty in style, and one that is more elegant, delicate and, for lack of a better word “Burgundian” in character. Confusingly, most traditional producers tend to bottle their bigger, more powerful wine in a Burgundy style bottle, with sloping shoulders, and their more Burgundian style wine in the square shoulder bottle typical of Bordeaux.

The Monte Real Gran Reserva is Riojanas’s classic, beefy, top cuvee, a blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano from the Cenicero Vineyard. The current blend is 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, and 5% Graciano. It’s the one in the Burgundy style bottle. Current vintages are aged for 24 to 30 months in American oak barrels, then aged in the bottle for at least 36 months before being put on the market. The Monte Real Reserva is 100% Tempranillo from the Cenicero Vineyard. It’s aged for 24 to 30 months in American oak barrels, then aged an additional 12 months in bottle.

Their more delicate, “Burgundian styled,” top wine is the Viña Albina, sourced from limestone vineyards and seeing less skin maceration than the Monte Real. The Gran Reserva version of the Albina, produced in excellent years, is 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, and 5% Graciano from the Cenicero, Sonsierra and Villalba de Rioja vineyards. Like the Monte Real Gran Reserva, it’s aged for 24 to 30 months in American oak barrels, then aged in bottle for at least 36 months. The Reserva is a similar blend, but aged for less time in bottle. We had a chance to compare a couple of Viña Albinas (1991 and 1987) to the 14 Monte Reals in this unusual vertical tasting.

The Rare Wine Co.’s Mannie Berk collected all of these bottles from cellars in Spain–from restaurants and, I believe, also some direct from the winery, which has some older vintages for sale.

We started with a comparison of the 2001 to a very modern style Rioja, from Bodegas Altanza, which uses French oak and goes for a more concentrated, fruit-rich style. Both were good, but the 2001 Monte Real has a much longer life ahead of it.

My favorite Monte Reals were the outstanding 1964, from Rioja’s “vintage of the Century,” and the 1982 (which has another few decades ahead of it). The two Viña Albinas were also excellent.

The Rare Wine Co. only has a couple of these in stock at the moment, but will hopefully be getting in more.

THE RARE WINE CO. BODEGAS RIOJANAS MONTE REAL VERTICAL DINNER – Piperade Restaurant, San Francisco, California (1/25/2013)

2001 Flight

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  • 2001 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color, appealing, spicy dried berry, dried cherry, ripe berry, black raspberry, oak spice nose; tasty, maturing, velvety textured, rich but balanced, dried berry, spicy dried cherry with integrating French oak palate; should go 40+ year; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)
  • 2001 Bodegas Altanza Rioja Lealtanza Reserva Miro – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Lightly bricking dark red violet color; mature, black tobacco, ripe black fruit, tart berry, French oak nose; rich, tart black currant, tart plum, blueberry, tart cherry palate with firm, sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (92 points)

1990s Flight

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  • 1995 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color; light brett, tobacco, dried berry, charcoal nose; tight, muted, tart berry, dried berry, spicy tart plum palate; needs 4-5 years yet; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
  • 1994 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked very dark red violet color; aromatic, very appealing, dried berry, anise, light incense nose; very tasty, maturing, dried berry, tart berry, anise palate with ripe fruit; needs 4-plus years and should go decades; medium-plus finish (93 points)
  • 1991 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium dark red violet color; very appealing, dried cherry, dried berry, spicy black fruit nose; tasty, dried cherry, dried berry, black cherry palate with well integrated oak and firm, sweet tannins; needs 2-3 years yet and should go 30 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 points)
  • 1991 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Viña Albina Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color; appealing, ripe cherry, vanilla, dried cherry, cherry compote, cherry syrup nose; silky textured, rich but poised, ripe cherry, tart raspberry, dried cherry palate; long finish (94 points)

1987 Flight

  • 1987 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color; very appealing, tobacco, dried berry, charcoal, anise nose; tasty, mature, dried berry, dried cherry, raspberry palate with tart cherry syrup core; medium-plus finish 93+ points (w/ 10% Garnacha) (93 points)
  • 1987 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Viña Albina Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium dark red violet color; very appealing, mature, dried berry, licorice, toast, sandalwood nose; delicious, dried cherry, dried berry, baked raspberry, sandalwood, light ginger caked palate; long finish 94+ points (w/15% Mazuelo) (94 points)

Early 1980s Flight

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  • 1983 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium red violet color; appealing, mature, boysenberry preserves, strawberry jam, sandalwood nose; tasty, mature, strawberry preserves, baked cherry, tart cherry preserves from a very ripe year; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 points)
  • 1982 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color; very appealing, dried cherry, dried tobacco, charcoal, light anise, spice nose; tasty, dried cherry, ripe raspberry, ripe cherry palate with amazingly youthful fruit; should go 30+ years; medium-plus finish 94+ points (94 points)
  • 1981 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking medium dark red violet color; mature, tobacco, brett, dried mushroom nose; mature, brett, tobacco, dried shitake mushroom, woodsy palate with firm tannins yet; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)

1970s Flight

  • 1978 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium red violet color; mature, dried tobacco, charcoal, toast, dried shitake mushroom nose; mature, dried mushroom, porcini, tobacco, toast palate with firm tannins yet; will go 15+ years; medium-plus finish (93 points)
  • 1976 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium red violet color; appealing, mature, dried tobacco, dried porcini mushroom, light beef bouillon nose; tasty, mature but poised, elegant, dried tobacco, dried mushroom, dried cherry palate with firm tannins and structure; will go 10-15 years yet; long finish 93+ points (93 points)
  • 1975 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked, slightly cloudy, medium dark red violet color; mature, light stewed beef, distant ripe cherry, red currant, green tobacco nose; mature, firmly textured, tart cherry, red currant, light green herb palate with firm, sweet tannins yet; will go 15-20 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 points)

1960s Flight

  • 1970 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium dark red violet color; mature, dried mushroom, shitake, porcini, dried tobacco nose; mature, tart red currant, tobacco, dried mushroom, toast palate; medium-plus finish (91 points)
  • 1964 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricking, slightly cloudy medium dark red violet color; very appealing, tobacco, dried cherry, light ginger cake, toast nose; very tasty, elegant, appealing, richly textured, tart cherry, tart raspberry, raspberry coulis palate with lift, layers and youthful fruit; will go 30 more years; long finish 96+ points (96 points)
  • 1967 Bodegas Riojanas Rioja Monte Real Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
    Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real vertical dinner – bricked medium dark red violet color; mature, toast, caramel, light brett, light ripe red currant nose; tasty, mature, dried mushroom, sweet tobacco, tart baked cherry palate; should go 5-7 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 points)
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