Amy’s May wine blog…
For the month of May I have selected two contrasting styles of wine from two renowned producers from the region of Rioja, Northern Spain. Both wines are supplied to us by Field Morris & Verdin, agents of some of the finest domaines and wine estates in the world.
Viura . Vina Tondonia . Reserva . R Lopez de Heredia . Rioja . Spain . 1996
In 1877 Don Rafael fell in love with the region, especially the area around Haro of the Rioja Alta, having observed the unique combination of soil and climate that would offer up exciting potential for producing wines that have since become world famous. Known as the Bodega López de Heredia winery, his original vision is now the oldest winery in Haro and one of the first three bodegas in the Rioja region.
The vineyards are situated on the alluvial slopes overlooking the River Ebro on the cusp of the Alta and Alavesa wine sub-regions. Whilst equally known for their red wines I personally love the unique style of the whites from Viura and Malvasia grape varieties. They encompass all the charm, food friendly nuances and history that are often overlooked when considering the region of Rioja.
What underpins the distinctive house style is, of course, the use of oak. New oak is spurned and the majority of the barrels are sourced from America. The wines are matured in Bordeaux-size barrels, of which there are over 14,000 in the bodega’s labyrinthine like cellars. During this period, a very slow process of oxidation (esterification) takes place through the pores of the wood, this is the secret behind the stunning smoky and hazelnut quality attributed to this wine.
After 6 years of ageing in the barrel, the wine remains light and bright gold in colour. Aromas of lemon and pear are layered with a slight smoky quality with a palate of orchard apple and chamomile on the finish. Whilst superbly dry this wine is also remarkably fresh which would lead me to pair it with our pan-seared silver mullet with Provençal vegetable and green olive tapenade. The nutty flavour working well with the cured ham, the citrus fruits and medium body a perfect match for the meaty texture of the fish.
Rioja Tinto . Finca Allende . Rioja Alta . Spain . 2006
The history of Rioja is very much in connection to the history of Bordeaux. When Phylloxera hit Bordeaux, the Negociants came across to Rioja as they felt it bore some resemblance to the terroir of Bordeaux, hence why so many producers still use French oak in their winemaking today.
Rioja has witnessed a broad stylistic evolution over the years. The classic techniques, pioneered by producers such as Vina Tondonia, are distinguished by long oak barrel ageing. The modern style, represented here by Finca Allende, showcases the fruit and freshness of Tempranillo, keeping oak ageing to the legal minimum.
Located in the village of Briones, Rioja Alta, Finca Allende is regarded as one of the more modern producers. Founded in 1995 the estate has always taken a terroir-driven approach that’s quite refreshing in Rioja.
Enticing aromas of violets, earth and spice from the new French oak barrels, along with an array of rich red and black berry fruit, this would be my first choice to serve up alongside our new Sunday lunch special of roast leg of lamb, just in time for our long awaited spring. Alternatively the beautiful fine tannins of this Tempranillo would suit the rump of native breed beef, the rich full flavours being the perfect partner to this dish.