Rioja is a special classification of wines made in Spain, and the first one to receive DOCa (Denominación de Origin Calificada), the highest level, located north of Spain in the province of La Rioja. Viña Arana, Reserva 2008 is an excellent example of an ageing Rioja matured for upto 3 years before release, the quality of fruit going into this Rioja has been sourced historically from some of the best vineyards across Rioja and the evolution of the wine shows immense grace and finish.  While the acidity remains on the higher side, the fruit notes are very flavourful yet mellow combining ripened black plums and bing cherries, accompanied by the soft, light, smoke, pepper, cinnamon and vanilla from the oak. There are hints of tobacco at the end giving it that extra complexity. The body is medium and certainly not overwhelming but the wine possesses the polished silky tannic structure that makes it suitable to go with roasts such as turkey or chicken. Already 9 years old, the wine is still refreshing and vibrant and pleasant showing a further potential to be aged for another few years (can be enjoyed upto 2020-21). A very enjoyable Rioja with the perfect complexity, with subtle expressions to complement the spices and herbal roasts that will suitably go well with any festive occasion. Alcohol is also fairly modest (13.5% abv) which is very relieving, demonstrating the quality of the fruit and how well made the wine is. This wine was has been a super hit at our recent Thanksgiving Roast Turkey, Roast Chicken and a Vegan Nut Roast meal as well!

Viña Arana is one of three different blends of La Rioja Alta, comprising of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo (other two being Viña Ardanza, which has 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha and Viña Alberdi, that is 100% Tempranillo). All three names are taken from the families who founded La Rioja Alta. Founded in 1890 the winery was located in the old railway town of Haro, it is one of the oldest and most highly regarded Rioja winery. Now that they have exceeded the capacity of the old winery, the production has been moved to the town of Labastida which houses its own cooperage with around 45,000- 50,000 barrels, just a mile away from Haro, while the traditional location in Haro is still used for tourism and tasting visits. Surely a must to visit, if you are making a trip to Rioja. (Available from Waitrose and The Wine Society circa £20) 

La Rioja Alta winery in the town of Haro, Spain (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

La Rioja Alta winery in the town of Haro, Spain (Photo credit: Sumi_Sumilier)

2008 vintage was rated “Very Good” by the Rioja Board. Initially receiving out of pattern, rains and cooler weather in May and June, the latter part of the summer was intensively labelled as “Indian summer” and long periods of consistent sunshine which helped the berries ripen and gain fruit intensity. Although one of the more restrained years in terms of ripening, the wines show impressive acidity couple with fruit vibrance. The evolution of the wines over the last 9 years has equally demonstrated the quality of fruit, with Rioja growers focusing on lowering yields in particular during the latter part of the decade, which has certainly raised the bar for quality in Rioja wines.