La Rioja Alta: kicking the old school Rioja since 1890Wine & Spirit Events & News
Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world class quality.
The company owns 300 hectares of vineyards in different parts of the best zones of the Rioja Alta region. La Rioja Alta S.A. is specialized in red wines. The leading grape variety is the Tempranillo with small doses of Mazuelo and Graciano. The Vina Ardanza differs from the other wines with some 25% Garnacha in the blend. After vinification in the new ultra modern vinification plant near Haro, aging is in traditional Bordeaux casks, all made from American oak. Racking is by hand every 6 months with 8 teams working full time racking the 51,000 casks. There is no filtration prior to bottling and further long aging in bottle before release.
In short the wines are made in the traditional Rioja manner. The company is adamant about not using French oak, keeping the unique Rioja style which has been developed since the end of the 19th century. In spite of the varying amount of time in cask and bottle the wines all display a wonderful rich ruby colour, gorgeous aromas of oak, spices and fruit followed by a sensational feel on the palate, with a wonderful smooth texture, clean rich oaky/fruity flavours and a long lingering finish. All the wines are ready for consumption on release but will keep for many more years in bottle. This situation is almost unique in the world of wine and is the reason why so many restaurants list La Rioja Alta’s outstanding range of truly classic Rioja wines.
The Bodega was formed in 1890 as a partnership of 5 quality-conscious growers keen to exploit the export potential for well-made, ‘modern’ Rioja. At this time, French vineyards were ravaged by phylloxera, and connoisseurs were having to look elsewhere for supplies of fine wine. Rioja, with its excellent climate and soils, had already attracted attention, and experiments with Bordeaux-style vinification and barrique-aging were proving very successful. The region’s only real disadvantage was its remoteness, cut off from the lucrative markets to the north by the same mountains that ensured its favorable climate. This problem was solved by construction of the rail link to Bilbao, and it is no coincidence that Bodegas La Rioja Alta was established next to the Haro railway station in the same year it opened.
In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, and gained access to some of the finest vineyards in the Rioja Alta district. The luxury 904 bottling commemorates this important milestone in the company’s development. Since then Rioja has seen more bad times than good, and many producers have harmed the reputation of the region and its production methods, releasing sloppily-aged wines which were never good enough to support a long time in cask. But La Rioja Alta has never let standards slip, and continues to this day the tradition of careful long-aging that gives Rioja its unique character. These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release. -Michael Skurnik Wines
La Rioja Alta “Vina Alberdi” available for sale at the shop and online
Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, with temperatures controlled to a maximum of 30°C. The wines are then transferred into 100 year old large wooden vats, where they slowly undergo malolactic fermentation. After what can be as much as 9 months in vat, they are moved into 225 litre American oak barrels for extended cask ageing. While in barrel, the wines are racked every 6 months, ensuring not only sanitary control, but also a short period of beneficial contact with air.
rated 90 points by Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar
REVIEW “Dark red. Redcurrant, dried cherry and vanillin oak on the nose, with a smoky mineral quality in the background. Lively red fruit and rose pastille flavors are complemented by sweet vanilla bean and cola nuances. The oakiness fades away on the long finish, which is juicy, expansive and seamless. This wine’s lively acidity makes it refreshing and easy to drink now, but it really deserves patience.” - Stephen Tanzer (Oct 2010)