Tasting at Roda

Roda TastingNot much has really changed in the bodega at Roda, so we did a quick tour around the bodega and followed by a longer tasting.  Strangely we could not walk across the main walk way as the Consejo Regulador had decided that the flooring material was not up to code and it had it be replaced. The guy doing the work had an impossibly small sander to do the 60 square meter walk way. Very odd, but it wasn’t the only weird activity we heard about from the guys who regulate the wine trade in Rioja.

Anyway on to the tasting. When prompted for which back vintage I would like to taste, I replied with 98 Roda I. An odd choice really, but its the only Roda I haven’t tasted, it turned out to a winner. The highlight was tasting the 05 Roda and Roda I, both are excellent and I also got the chance to compare with 04 vintage of Roda I.

Roda I 1998 - This is looking quite young, fresh dark cherry fruit with well integrated wood and tannins. The nose is very expressive and the wine is ready to go straight out of the bottle. Very elegant and highly drinkable. Drink now and over the next 5 years if you have some.

Roda 2005 - Possibly the most elegant and perfumed Roda to date. An excellent nose of layered red fruits, dried herbs and flowers, with a bit of mocha coffee and cinnamon. The palate is a little closed at the moment, but shows good structure and super silky tannins.

Roda I 2004 - This is a fairly ballsy wine, loads of dark cherry fruit with some violets and the usual coffee and spice. This stands out as a very structured wine with loads of fruit, very long term wine. More mineral and lean on the palate. Excellent wine.

Roda I 2005 - As with Roda, this is highly perfumed with plush fruit. Violets, roses and dark fruit, earth and spice. Very sexy and silky with huge length. Still quite structured in the mouth, but more generous with fruit and more balanced. This is more my speed, but both the 04 and 05 are excellent and people with love one or both of them.

Roda Cirsion 2006 - Now this stuff is excellent, highly perfumed and ready to go. Reminds me of Rockford Basket Press Shiraz. Loads of juicy fruit and wild herb notes, violets and plums, cherries and minerals.

Roda Cirsion 2007 - This had only been bottled a couple of weeks earlier and wasn’t showing it’s best. However, you wouldn’t really notice that 2007 is a lesser vintage, concentration and balance with out being over extracted (which is common in a number of high expression wines from Rioja)

We finished off with a tasting of their two oils, both are excellent, if you haven’t tried them, go out and grab some. Overall, thi.ngs are Roda are travelling along nicely, however as I just found out, things are getting better with the addition of a Ribera del Duero property to the fold. The new estate will be developed along similar lines, however I believe that all of the fruit will come from the 22 ha of vines on the new property (which is more the way things are done over there). Stay tuned for updates.

Back home again

rioja-4We arrived back home yesterday morning, with a few hairy connections and the the long flight back from London complete with all singing and whistling Swiss backpackers filling the cabin.  I’ve got loads of notes (even though I managed to loose one notebook somewhere), photos, tasting notes and food stories to write up and sort through. Lots of gossip too (Like that  Roda have bought some great vineyards in  Ribera del Duero and should release something in a couple of years…)

Looking back on the trip, I think the main things that I’ve taken home with me is the passion of the growers, the spectacular secenery and amount of diversity the place has. But like most travel, its the people that I’ve met along the way that made the trip worthwhile and allowed me to get into what Rioja as a place and wine is all about. So a big thank you to everyone who had us in for a poke around their vineyards and bodegas, tastings and some seriously good jamon. Also a big thanks to the importers here in Australia who set up a lot of the visits for us.

I’ll organise a gallery of photos in the next week or so, with a lot more to go up over the coming weeks.

Observations in Rioja

rioja deliDriving around Rioja for a couple of weeks has given me the opportunity to see a lot, taste a lot and get a good feel for what is going on. A lot has changed in the 3 years since my last visit to Rioja, just about all of it for the better:

  • Wine tourism is a huge focus for both the region and the bodegas. Every second bodega we visited is planing either a hotel,  a spa, a restaurant or a new architect designed bodega. There are road signs everywhere now, so its much easier to find those out of the way bodegas and hotels. The guys are doing a great job in making it easier for tourists to come and see what Rioja is all about. This is a big turn around from 3 years ago. However, you need a good deal of Spanish to make the most out of the trip.
  • The whole traditional v’s modern thing is a bit of a non event, people are trying to make the best wines that they can, in a style that suits their view of what Rioja is.  I talked to a number of winemakers who make very modern wines who go on to priase the very traditional wines of Lopez de Herrida for their unique style, yet say nothing of  ‘supermarket’ producers who don’t seem to have a style.
  • Rioja is changing a lot at the moment and will continue to as the older growers pass their land onto the younger generation. This is leading to very small bodegas that produce a couple of barrels worth of wine a year, where the watch word is quality, not quantity. There are loads of very high quality vineyards that are not being used to their full potential at the moment, so this will only increase as time goes on.
  • The quality of the food in the region is very high and is very consistent. Opposed to more touristy regions such as San Sebastian, you can find good food just about anywhere here. New restaurants have popped up all over the place and the quality of the local produce is outstanding (as it always has been). The photo on this page should be enough for most foodies to get on a plane.
  • Biodynamics and Organic methods are gaining popularity with the smaller producers, even some of the larger ones are getting in on the act.
  • Vintages: 2004 and 2005 are spectacular, but both very different. As a broad brush statement, 2004 is more structured and tannic, 2005 is more elegant with lush fruit and more typical Rioja structure. 2006 is very good as well, just lacking some of the high notes of  04 and 05. 07 and 08 are years to pick by producer. Most of the stuff I tasted from barrel looked very good for both years, however both years were quite good for whites.
  • As much as I love drinking and aging the wines of Ribera del Duero, I think Rioja is the most spectacular and livable wine region in Spain (maybe Jerez should get a mention here as well).
  • PR and media awareness is really front of mind here. Not that I would really class myself as media, many of the people I talked to regularly read the site (one winemaker took me to task on a review!). This may be an old region, but they are definately onto the new media thing.

Rioja Update

rioja-updateIt’s been an amazing week, I’ve tasted hundreds of wines from bottle and barrel, met some great people and been able to get a real feel for Rioja. It’s only been a week and I feel like I need another month or two.

The Internet connection is a bit dodgy here, so just a short update. We spent an amazing day with Pablo from Compania de Vinos de Telmo Rodruigez. These are ‘crazy guys’ as the Spanish say, but in the very best way. Their vineyards are spectacular, the photo is of the small bodega they use for Altos de Lanzaga and a few other small vineyards that will see some very interesting wines on the market at some point.

Lots of other storys to tell, but they’ll have to wait. I have a couple of visits today and then off to San Sebastian for a break…I think.

Rioja – Day 1

La Rioja day 2The first day of bodega visits today, very hectic but also very rewarding. We’ve been hampered by the bad weather, missed connections and cancelled flights, so we got to Rioja later than expected and have had to cram some visits in (or in today’s case miss one).

Regardless of travel woes, its great to be back in Rioja. I have forgotten just how lively and vibrant the place is, even in winter. The weather is spectacular, sunny but freezing cold. Perfect for walking around, taking photos and eating the odd bit of jamon. Highlight from today were lunch with the guys from Artadi and visits to all of the Eguren bodgeas (all 3.5 of them, one is still under construction). The low light was missing an appointment at Marques de Riscal, very poor form on my part. Tomorrow is Muga, Tondonia, Roda and Ramon Bilbao which will be a bit easier all being in walking distance of each other…

The photo is a view from the Vinos de Pagos bodega over the El Pundito vineyard to Paganos.

On a much sadder note, it is very strange to be over hear enjoying myself while fires are still raging not far from home. There is another post on the front page about the Australian Wine Trade Bushfire Raffle, I encourage anyone who hasn’t donated yet to buy a couple of tickets and if you win send the wine to your local CFA station. Those blokes (and girls) deserve a bloody good drink.

Australian Wine Trade Bushfire Raffle – Now Open

Bert at Winestar (with the help of many others I’m sure) has done an amazing job on organising this. I couldn’t put it any better so, I’ll let him do the talking:

Please go to http://www.winestar.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?t=20182 for the latest
information - particularly for wine and mainstream media outlets or for those
forwarding to friends.

Dear All

The final communication about this.

The events of the past week have touched all Australians and hit home hard for the
wine industry with the tragic death of Rob Davey (of Rob Davey Wine Merchants) his
wife and two young daughters. A number of wineries in Victoria have also suffered
significant property and stock losses. The Australian Wine Trade responds with
generous donations from wineries big and small, including many affected as well as a
number of key online retailers that have supported the cause. All that remains is
for people to buy tickets and spread the word. I appreciate many of you have already
given to the cause, but if you can find it in your heart to give a little more, and
maybe even win some great wines, please do.

I ask that all that have pledged wine, please do not send until advised to do so.
Prizes will be sent direct to winners when they are known

With the haste that this was organised, I appreciate many of you wanted to give but
were unable to due to our time frame. The request now is to support ticket sales and
also let as many people as possible know about this industry effort. Media, website
links, forums, newsletters, word-of-mouth - anything. 

There are no 'paper-tickets' per se but we have arranged 13 of the bigger online
retailers to sell tickets and email all buyers their 'ticket number'. It is
impertaive this email does the rounds.

Full details of time of draw at the link above shortly but it is hoped to have
someone of note draw the prizes.

For now, I cannot express my gratitude enough to those that have contributed. Thank

Bert Werden | WineStar | p: 1300 01 WINE | f: 03 9379 6069 | m: 0411 106 652 | e:
bert.werden@winestar.com.au | w: www.winestar.com.au