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La Rioja Alta “904” Rioja Gran Reserva 2000

R2,950.00 inc. VAT
"Bright red. Sexy, oak-spiced aromas of raspberry, cherry compote and pipe tobacco. Smoky, sweet and penetrating, offering intense red fruit flavors that take a darker turn to cherry-cola with air. Closes sweet and long, with resonating spiciness, supple tannins and a whiplash of vanillin oak." - Josh Raynolds, Antonio Galloni's Vinous
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La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 Tinto 2005

R2,200.00 inc. VAT
I tasted the 2005 Gran Reserva 890 again, and I liked it better this time than in my previous review, even if I normally like the Gran Reserva 904 better than this bottling, as I find it better balanced. I tend to feel less energy in this wine, as it spends a very long time in barrel, six years in this case. 2005 was an excellent vintage, and they implemented some improvements in the harvest, introducing 350-kilo boxes and refrigerated transport to the winery, which they think provides better grapes and potentially better quality of the wines. The palate is medium-bodied, the tannins have mostly melted, and it has lively acidity that lift the wine up. This is a very classical and polished Rioja. 57,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in March 2012.
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La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2011

R975.00 inc. VAT
The 2011 Rioja Gran Reserva 904 has been one of my go-to cuvées since my earliest days as a wine lover. This latest release is a blend of 60-year-old Tempranillo from Briñas, Rodenzo and Villalba (89%) and the remainder Graciano from the Montecillo vineyard. Fully de-stemmed and aged for 54 months in American oak, it was bottled in November 2016. This is more reticent and less forthcoming on the nose compared to the Viña Ardanza, gradually unfolding to reveal enticing scents of raspberry, crushed strawberry, warm leather, terra cotta and a touch of meat juice. This needed more decanting than the Ardanza. The palate is beautifully balanced with fine-grained tannins, and ultra-smooth in terms of texture. Layers of red fruit laced with clove, sprigs of fresh mint and blood orange dovetail into a soy-tinged finish that you expect to fan out, though it declines; it needs maybe another 12–18 months to really show what it is capable of. Magnificent.
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La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Tinto 2011 Magnum

R1,890.00 inc. VAT
The 2011 Rioja Gran Reserva 904 has been one of my go-to cuvées since my earliest days as a wine lover. This latest release is a blend of 60-year-old Tempranillo from Briñas, Rodenzo and Villalba (89%) and the remainder Graciano from the Montecillo vineyard. Fully de-stemmed and aged for 54 months in American oak, it was bottled in November 2016. This is more reticent and less forthcoming on the nose compared to the Viña Ardanza, gradually unfolding to reveal enticing scents of raspberry, crushed strawberry, warm leather, terra cotta and a touch of meat juice. This needed more decanting than the Ardanza. The palate is beautifully balanced with fine-grained tannins, and ultra-smooth in terms of texture. Layers of red fruit laced with clove, sprigs of fresh mint and blood orange dovetail into a soy-tinged finish that you expect to fan out, though it declines; it needs maybe another 12–18 months to really show what it is capable of. Magnificent.
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La Rioja Alta Lagar de Cervera 2019

R290.00 inc. VAT
Straw-yellow with green hues; very bright. Very intense nose, with citrus rind aromas, accompanied by stone fruit notes such as apricots and the typical varietal aromas of albariño: ripe white fruit, apples and pears. Fresh entry, with great structure and breadth in the mouth. On the finish, it brings back the freshness and citrus aromas.
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La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi 2015

R330.00 inc. VAT
The classic Haro-styled red 2015 Viña Alberdi, sold abroad with the mention of Reserva and in Spain as Crianza, is a good introduction to the house style: balsamic reds with abundant notes of sweet spices and cigar ash, developed aromas of forest floor and a creamy twist making small concessions for a fresher and cleaner profile in the last few years but keeping the classic style. There are notes of ground tobacco and earth, and the palate is seamless and sleek, with polished tannins and a soft mouthfeel. There are 550,000 bottles of this wine, all produced from a single master blend. It was bottled in September 2018 after two years in American oak barrels.
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La Rioja Alta Viña Arana Gran Reserva 2014

R595.00 inc. VAT
Finally, there was the 2014 Viña Arana Rioja Gran Reserva, which comprises 94% Tempranillo from Las Cuevas, El Palo and Las Monjas and 6% Graciano from Montecillo. This was aged in American oak for three years and bottled in June 2018. Exhibiting just a modicum of browning on the rim, it offers crushed strawberry, field mushroom, clove and singed leather on the nose, hints of vine tomato and balsamic following with aeration. The palate is medium-bodied with supple, lithe tannins that lend this Gran Reserva its smooth veneer. Moderate in depth, it is classic in style and no bodybuilder. It remains rather understated toward the finish, offering soy-infused red fruit, sour cherries, orange peel, porcini and dried herbs. My parsimonious score reflects the fact that I found the balsamic trait to be accentuated and a little too pronounced with aeration.
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La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2012

R530.00 inc. VAT
Garnacha is an important component in the 2012 Viña Ardanza Reserva, where it represents 20% of the blend (the rest is, of course, Tempranillo). 2011 was a difficult vintage for Garnacha, so Viña Ardanza was not produced that year and they jumped from 2010, which had the mention "Selección Especial," to 2012, where it returns to the regular Reserva. The wine is a prototype of polished and aged Rioja with a ruby color with some orange and a developed nose with subtle aromas of decayed leaves, sweet spices and some cherries in liqueur even, quite complex and harmonious. The palate is velvety but rich, with resolved tannins and a fine chalky mouthfeel, sleek and elegant, terribly balanced. The flavors are pure and defined, and there is an overall sense of harmony that I like very much. Brilliant Ardanza! They produced no less than 600,000 bottles of this wine, which is remarkable. It has been in bottle since March 2016, so it's very approachable but should also age nicely in bottle. Drink or keep.