2004 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890, Spain
The Gran Reserva 904 was named in memory of the La Rioja Alta SA winery’s foundation date.
In 1890, five Riojan and Basque families founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’ in Haro, Spain. Their first president was a woman: Doña Saturnina García Cid y Gárate. While Monsieur Vigier, a Frenchman, was the firm’s first winemaker. The Reserva 1890 (predecessor of today’s Gran Reserva 890) is the first wine he made.
To prevent consumer’s confusion with the actual vintage of the 1890 Cuvée wines, the number 1 was dropped and this Gran Reserva was eventually named 890.
The same story goes for the other Gran Reserva wine by Rioja Alta SA, the Gran Reserva 904.
Both Gran Reserva wines represent the finest expression of the winery’s savoir-faire. But the 890 even more so – rather expectedly perhaps given it wears the foundation’s date.
The 2004 Gran Reserva 890 is a blend of 95% Tempranillo, 2% Mazuelo from estate-owned vineyards in Briñas, Labastida and Villalba, and 3% Graciano from the Montecillo vineyard. This is the first 890 vintage where the winery uses Graciano grapes from this vineyard.
The selection of grapes at harvest follows a very drastic process. Only the best clusters are picked and taken to the winery in small refrigerated boxes.
After fermentation, the best batches only are selected, again, and transferred into winery-made (like home-made, but at the winery’s) American oak barrel for what’s probably counts amongst some of the longest barrel aging times of all dry red wines in the world: 6 years.
This 2004 vintage was therefore not bottled before March 2011, then stored in bottle at the winery for another few years, to refine further, before release.
So, to the interesting point: how good does this La Rioja Alta 890 Gran Reserva taste in the end?
As always, the answer is in the tasting notes:
The wine is of a bright red cherry color, quite dark but not so dense visually.
The nose also displays bright aromas of red fruits: strawberry and cherry, some fresh gooseberry too. Before swirling the wine, the whole smells like a basket of fresh berry fruit that would have just been thrown in a pan and is starting to cook and to show off its intense aromas.
Agitate the glass and the depth of the aroma profile is revealed. Beyond the fresh fruit that jumps out of the glass, there’s plenty of vanilla, dried herbs and spices: clove and nutmeg. Some delicate roasted white meat too.
In addition to all these aromas that make the wine smells deep but fresh, as a background layer, there are some warm and complex scents from the alcohol. If you manage to mentally put aside the wealth of fruit and spices, the wine actually reminds of a Cognac or other fine brandy: warm, spicy and complex.
Like all Rioja Alta SA’s wines, the palate surprises by its smoothness. As it smells intensely and feels rich on the nose, one gets to expect a tannic and big wine.
But the first impressions on the palate are driven by the acidity. The super-fine and silky tannins stay quietly on the background like they know it’s the best way for them to let you enjoy everything else. They only make themselves reminded towards the finish with a slight granulous drying feel.
Flavors in the mouth are very complex and spectacularly layered. Each of the few notes we had on the nose seems to become a whole family of flavors on the palate. This is accentuated by the fact that the wine opens up quickly every minute in the glass revealing each flavour progressively.
The fresh fruit detected on the nose here explodes in a firework of blueberry notes, with a touch of enjoyable grassiness, like gooseberry.
The spices and herbs are plethora but none too dominant. The herbal character in this wine is clear and obvious. Think about any spice in a good curry or a Mediterranean dish, and it seems to be there: clove, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, cumin, thyme, rosemary. The star anise notes sing louder than everyone else, a rather rare note in that intensity level in a red wine.
All these spices live with a certain earthy character which reminds of curcuma, but also root vegetables like carrot and pumpkin.
Obviously with 6 year’s barrel aging, oak flavors are there too with vanilla and toasted hazelnut. But really they are pretty discrete and perfectly well integrated.
If you’ve read this tasting note thus far, you’ve got the point.
This is an excellent wine that seems to deliver tens and tens of flavour layers to your senses with a perfectly smooth and mouth-watering palate, and enjoyably fresh acidity.
Fresh red fruits, all the spices in the world, and oaky notes have been combined here in a powerful but elegant wine that includes a certain warmth from the alcohol, to the benefit of your senses.
More savory than sweet overall, all aromas and flavors are well in balance to deliver a complex tasting experience.
A wine to experience…