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2007 Viña Ardanza, Reserva, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
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La Rioja Alta continues to be one of the benchmarks for traditionally produced Rioja wine. Established in 1890 at the same spot where their head office sits today, their three Reserva Wine brands, Alberdi, Arana and Ardanza are named after the founding families, all three of which remain shareholders. The company still maintains traditional Rioja winemaking practices whilst embracing many of the new technological advances.
It is unusual for a great bodega of Rioja to own vineyards, but La Rioja Alta own 360ha from which they can source top-quality grapes, resulting in excellent fruit and richness throughout their wines. Tempranillo dominates the plantings, complemented with a small proportion of Garnacha and Graciano vines.
The company is renowned for the quality of its Reservas and in particular for its Gran Reservas, the 904 and the 890. The latter are produced only in exceptional years, are amongst the finest wines being produced in Rioja today.
Gran Reserva 890 is named, rather confusingly, after the date of the creation of La Rioja Alta (1890). It is the non-plus-ultra of the family, a wine that slumbers patiently for 6 years in oak, then is allowed to rest in bottle for a few more years before its released to the suspecting market-place.
A high quality red wine grape that is grown all over Spain except in the hot South - it is known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it constitutes around 70% of most red blends.
Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a spicy, herbal, tobacco-like character accompanied by ripe strawberry and red cherry fruits. It produces fresh, vibrantly fruit driven "jovenes" meant for drinking young. However Tempranillo really comes into its own when oak aged, as with the top Riojas where its flavours seem to harmonise perfectly with both French and American oak, producing rich, powerful and concentrated wines which can be extraordinarily long-lived.
In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak - the exception being Vega Sicilia where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aged for an astonishing 7 years in oak and is unquestionably one of the world`s greatest wines.