Wednesday Wines – Episode 23

Episode 23 – 2nd September 2020

Two Spanish reds this week and both are utterly brilliant and epic value, too.

2019 Juan de Juanes, Garnacha Tempranillo Syrah, Valencia, Spain (£9.99, www.virginwine.co.uk).

There is some sort of wine revolution happening in Valencia and this stunning red sums up the excitement I have for this excellent region and its creations.  Great wines taste of their postcode first and foremost and Juan de Juanes could not be made anywhere else in the world.  In addition, delicious reds must have fruit notes that are measured, balanced and harmonious and this tri-varietal blend is pinpoint accurate with its flesh, perfume and core of earthiness which, in turn, supports the more flamboyant flavours.  But what catches my interest more than the obvious perfume and taste is that this multi-layered wine is not in any way heavy, weighing in at a restrained 13.5% alcohol.  This is very smart winemaking and I am certain that you will be amazed by the energy and verve found in this modern Spanish gem.

2014 Viña Arana, Gran Reserva, La Rioja Alta, Rioja, Spain (£35.08, bottle; £70.16 magnum, www.armitwines.co.uk).

Do you have any old pairs of shoes which cost a little more than they should have done, but feel and look amazing on the rare occasions that you take them out for a spin?  I do, in fact, I have a few pairs that I wear a handful of times a year, but which have only been allowed out on truly memorable occasions.  This odd intro segues, at least in my mind, into nostalgic wine flavours.  There are a good few world wine styles with which I like to reward my palate every so often.  Not everyday wines – these are the complete opposite.  These are, more often than not, costly treats, which fire up the neurones and make for excellent dinner party conversation.

My featured wine is a classic in this regard.  I drink very little Gran Reserva Rioja and most well-known producers’ wines are a little too stewed and medicinal for my tastes.  By contrast, I relish the opportunity to taste the wines from La Rioja Alta the label design alone fires up my taste buds as I hurry to grab a corkscrew.

2014 Viña Arana is a grand creation.  The vintage itself was spectacular, that was until just before harvest when all manners of adverse conditions sent the viti-teams into a spin.  It is interesting to note that pressured harvests with strict selections often make for amazing wines.  As it turned out the fruit was so special that it gave rise for the second only vintage release for Arana GR!

This wine is made from 94% Tempranillo from Las Cuevas, El Palo and the Las Monjas vineyards in Rodezno, balanced with 6% Graciano from the Montecillo estate in Fuenmayor.  Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks.  In April following the vintage, the wine was transferred to old American oak barrels (made in-house with an average age of 4½ years).  The parcels remained in barrel for three years, with a traditional racking every six months.  In April 2018, the final blend was determined and the wine was bottled in June 2018.  There was a further two years of bottle ageing until this wine was released a couple of weeks ago.

La Rioja Alta acolytes will know that there was not Gran Reserva 904 made in 2014.  There was no 890 made in 2014 either.  This means that 2014 Viña Arana Gran Reserva contains all of the first tier fruit from this illustrious estate!  It is worth underlining that this wine is one of the most rewarding and classically-shaped wines I have tasted from this property in a long while and the fact that bottles only cost £35 (and there are epic magnums available, too) makes this release an even more compelling proposition.

Slip your palate into a glass of this wine and you will find that this is vinous nostalgia of the highest level.  It is the epitome of historic Rioja and this flavour put this country on the map.  Drinking now but with a good decade ahead of it you must, I insist, only drink this superb creation if you are wearing the appropriate footwear!