Sunday, November 8, 2015

2001 Rioja - Strong, Beautiful Wines With Many Years Left

I recently attended a 2001 Rioja tasting, a vintage widely heralded as “historic.” Grapes struggled through early problems with an April frost, lots of summertime heat and the lingering effects of a drought. However, the resulting wines are beautiful – a bunch of rich and concentrated wines packed with life and power for the cellar. Most of these wines will be better with four or five years or a whole lot of air, as many of them showed best at the end of the night after starting off hesitantly. Yet, at 14 years in, lots of these wines showed elegance and complexity.

Pale ruby color. I get a nice mix of wild red berries, dusty earth, wet leaves. Fresh acidity on the palate, this has a tart approach (complemented by tangy red berry fruit), but the wine shows plenty of dusty tannins. An interesting blend of earth, tobacco and pickling spices, a crisp and refreshing finish. Expressive, refreshing, showing nicely but some cellar potential for sure. (88 points)

2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Deep nose of rich plums and earth, with time all sorts of spicy tobacco and floral notes come out with a real sense of elegance. On the palate the tannins are firm and the acid is ravenous. Almost abrasive at first but settles down and shows all sorts of elegance. Fleshy red cherries, plums, some currant jam notes, full of dusty earth, tobacco and spiced coffee complexity. Opens up with air and develops all sorts of nuanced spice and deep floral tones. Plenty of time to go in the cellar, so I’ll hold onto my sole bottle for four or five years. (92 points)

2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Smooth and ripe on the nose, rich, velvety waves of cherries, rose petals and vanilla. Juicy with smooth yet structured tannins, the bing cherry, red apple and tangerine fruit maintains a fresh vibe. I get lots of peppercorns and tobacco and an earthy-vanilla finish. More “hedonistic” than the first two wines, but this is, at heart, a bright and vibrant wine. (91 points)

2001 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
Smells of red apples, jammy cherries along with some sweet violets, vanilla and earth. Tart acid bounces off firm tannins, this was closed at first but evolves significantly. Lots of tobacco, campsite, wet leaves, oak shavings, vanilla, dried flowers and baking spices. Complex waves of red fruit flow in. Despite the boldness the elegance underneath comes out with air. No rush at all on this one. (91 points)

Initially this wine and the Imperial were quite shut down and it was difficult to tell them apart. But this opens to show a bit more red fruit, but still lots of dark earth and violets. Fleshy berries on the palate with tangy acid and some real firmness to the palate. Complex earthy and smoky elements come out, but this wine needs a whole lot of air and/or cellar time to really show its stuff. (90 points)

Takes more time to open up, but by the end of the night this was in stellar shape. Deep aromas of plums, currants, earth, roses and violets, smoky earth. Bright acidity, great structure, compact at first but smooths out and opens up beautifully. Juicy red currants and red apple fruit is laced with tobacco, olive, earth, roasted coffee, vanilla and violets. Really starts rocking after a few hours and some heavy swirling. I’d love to taste this again in eight or ten years. (93 points)

2001 Faustino Rioja I Gran Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
Beautifully fruity aromas (juicy black and red cherries) along with tobacco and white pepper. Refined but structured tannins, medium acid, the wine is quite velvety and silky despite the firmness. Juicy raspberry and cherry fruit, which tastes pure and bright, with an impressive complexity of smoke, cedar, potting soil, dried rose and spice potpourri elements. A rich style but so much besides instant gratification going on here. (92 points)

2001 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Baron de Chirel Reserva - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja
Much darker color. Initially a bit musty on the nose (“like dune sand and library dust” – I’m not sure either but that’s what I have written down). Shifts to a rich, dark fruit profile with lots of bay leaf and chewing tobacco. Firm grip on the palate, medium acid, the currant and dark plum fruit is rich and smoky. I was pulling out all sorts of interesting but quirky elements of tree bark, anise, animal hide and campsite. Finishes firm and sooty. This wine has a significant percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, which really makes it stand out against the other wines in the tasting and offered an interesting comparison. One to revisit in five or six years. (90 points)

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