Rioja Gloriosa

4/21/16 -

Old Rioja is a considerable bargain in the wine world (although maybe not for much longer). Prices of back vintages from classical Rioja producers such as CVNE, La Rioja Alta, and López de Heredia have risen dramatically in the past several years, reflecting wine drinkers’ realizations of their underlying quality. But there are a slew of other Rioja producers whose wines remain under the radar and remarkably affordable.

At a recent tasting of many bottles from the 1970s and 1980s, I couldn't help but delight at their remarkably consistent quality, but also how well they've aged (not only the gran reservas, but also the entry-level crianzas). And even I was surprised by how well these lesser-known Riojas stacked against more prominent ones in the tasting: a 1970 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva and a 1970 López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva!

The wines of Bodegas Montecillo (based in La Rioja Alta) were consistent crowd pleasers (gran reservas from 1987, 1982, and 1981, and a remarkably fresh 1973 crianza). And a bright and lively 1971 Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Etiqueta Blanca further proved the maxim that a quality-oriented producer often triumphs over a challenging vintage.

And fans of wine with age: these are ready-to-drink straight from the bottle, especially those from the 1970s!  -Jonas Mendoza

NB: The following reference books were invaluable in writing this article, and are excellent material for additional information on these and other Rioja producers: The Wines of Rioja (John Radford) and Finest Wines of Rioja and Northwest Spain (Jesus Barquin, Luis Gutierrez, and Victor de La Serna).

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