2009 La Rioja Alta S.A., Gran Reserva 904, Rioja, Spain

It is worth bearing in mind, before you read the rest of this note, that this wine is £38.50 per bottle by the time you factor in duty and VAT.  I say this because, in terms of the world’s most respected brands and their own iconic wines, this is a small price to pay for such a legendary label.  2009 is a good vintage in Rioja and 904 is being released at exactly the right time in its life for us to be able to open and enjoy a glass and get our heads around its flavours.  Once you have done this, I am sure that you will put the remaining bottles back in your cellar for a further five years minimum.  While this is a more expressive release than the impressive 2007, it is also a wine with serious and unrealised potential.  Dense, raisiny, powerful and soaked in oak, this is a mighty Rioja.  The tannins seem to be at an arm’s length but don’t be fooled.  They are active and grainy and they will protect this wine for the long haul.  What impresses me more than the brooding fruit and the structured tannins is the stunning, cool, minty acidity.  It refreshes the palate, right on the back end of the finish, and gives this leviathan a welcome spring in its step.  Made from 60-year-old Tempranillo vines with the addition of 10% Graciano it spent five years in four-year-old American oak barrels and it doesn’t have its labels on yet because it will be shipped in March 2018. As far as old-style Rioja is concerned, this wine is the leader.  I have long since given up on most of the ‘old-style’ wineries because the brick red colour, horrible oak and medicinal tones which infest these wines are not remotely enjoyable.  La Rioja Alta manages to pack dense fruit into 904 and while it spends a very long time in oak, it doesn’t pick up any of the flavours which annoy me so much in the lesser brands.  I will be putting my hand up for a case.  18.5+/20 (2021 – 2035)   (£180 per 6 bottles in bond, www.goedhuis.com, www.armitwines.co.uk, £360 per 12 bottles in bond, www.farrvintners.com)

Scores – I have attached my scores out of 20 for every wine.  In addition to this I have included my score conversion chart for those of you who are into medals, stars or 100-point scores.  If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine which is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm.  One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance to the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes.

20 point score100 point scoremedal5 star
20100perfect gold5
19.598gold5
1996gold5
18.595gold4
1893high silver4
17.591silver4
1789silver3
16.588high bronze3
1686bronze2
15.585bronze2
1583no medal1
14.581no medal1
1480no medal1