Muga Reserva Rioja 2006

Origin: ,

Colour and type: ,
Main Variety:
Contributing varieties: , ,

Muga Reserva Rioja 2006

Muga Reserva Rioja 2006

Another day at the library, but somehow not nearly as productive as the past few days.  I think it’s that all the grapes are pretty well noted, and just not quite memorized and I’m having a hard time moving on to the next bit of study.  The WSET Diploma Unit 3 Exam is just days away, so now is the time for real cramming, and I’m certainly feeling the pressure, but at the same time it’s so easy to do other things and to get distracted.

I still have half-bottles of everything we tasted a couple of nights ago, and had intended to write up proper notes for the inexpensive Burgundy, the Beaujolais Villages and the Barola, but rather than tasting the same wines yet again, we had a bottle of the Muga Reserva Rioja 2006 with dinner and I’ll write about that instead.  The other wines may have improved over the last couple of days or they may be worse for wear, but I’d rather taste something a bit more like what I’m likely to encounter under exam conditions.

So Rioja – easily the best known Spanish wine region, though I think many people would be hard pressed to put it on a map.  Then again, I was the same way with Bordeaux for a very long time.  It’s in the north, roughly in the middle, but set back from the coast by about an hour and a half’s drive.  If you have a leisurely start in the morning in Bilbao, you can have a fine lunch in Rioja without any trouble.

Red wines of Rioja may be made from four grapes – Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano.  Tempranillo is the most widely planted by far, and most red Riojas are blends dominated by it.  The back label on this bottle puts the blend as 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, and the remaining 10% a combination of Mazuelo and Graciano.  Also to use the term reserva, a wine must be released three years after vintage, with at least one year in oak.  This wine had two years in a mix of French and American oak.

The use of oak is one of the ways to spot a Rioja, in that classically it can show signs of oxidative maturation.  Essentially, barrels let in some amount of oxygen and that interacts with the wine.  Corks in bottles do as well, to a lesser degree.  So often for Riojas you’ll get secondary characteristics earlier than you might with other wines, including a browning of the wine slightly.

Unfortunately for a novice, this wine shows little of that.  While there’s a bit of dried fruit and spiciness, I would not say this has had particularly oxidative maturation.  The colour still bright for a five year old wine, and it’s showing no signs of too much air getting to it.

Appearance

Clear and  bright, medium-plus garnet, with quick legs.

Nose

Clean and developing, with medium intensity of sweet spice, vanilla, dried strawberries and tart plums.

Palate

Dry, medium acidity, medium body, medium tannins, medium-plus alcohol, medium-plus flavour intensity of strawberries, vanilla, pomegranate, and black pepper with a spicy finish.  Medium length.

Conclusions

This is a good quality wine.  There’s nothing out of place with regards to balance – the intensity and alcohol are somewhat more prominent than the acidity or tannins, but I think that’s just a stylistic decision that works well.  I would have liked more complexity – the flavours were intense enough, but I struggled to identify specific descriptors.  Still, the flavour profile was pleasant if somewhat simplistic.  The length was adequate – neither long nor short.

So I’m guessing this is the new style.  Much of the course material, for Spain in particular, describes regions having a traditional, sometimes rustic, way of making wine, which usually involves old wooden fermentation vessels and hot ferments, as well as either no time in barrel or no new oak.  Then they also mention a new style, which is much more modern, with stainless steel, temperature control, much more exacting in terms of technique, and quite often new oak.  I’m thinking this is relatively newer in style, in that it’s fresh and clean, though lacking slightly in character.  I know it’s a Reserva, but I’m sure Muga has one or two wines in their portfolio that are a step or two above it in quality.  All in all, a good wine.

Viña Arana Reserva Rioja 2001

Origin: ,

Colour and type: ,
Main Variety:
Contributing varieties:

 Viña Arana Reserva Rioja 2001

Viña Arana Reserva Rioja 2001

Today’s assignment is to read through the past examiners’ reports, which go back covering about a dozen incarnations of the exam I’ll take in January.  There are three main points to this exercise.  First, the questions are included, and exam questions tend to have a way of being recycled.  For the sparkling wine section, one of the questions on the exam (cremants)  I took had been asked just a few years prior.  Second, example answers from students are given, both good and bad, so it’s nice to have an idea of what you’re expected to know and even how much they’d like you to be able to write in the time allotted.  Third, the comments from the examiners, usually along the lines of how disappointed they were that students weren’t able to specify such and such are very helpful indeed.  If you get a repeated question and the examiners were keen that students mention say the amount of rainfall for a region in question, it really pays to make sure you include it.

However, I still have some ways to go.  I’ve downloaded all the reports, and quickly gone through them and pulled out the questions as well as the pass rates for each.  The next step (other than obviously reading them all in great detail) is to go through and pull out keywords.  For instance, Tannat and Malbec came up as varieties three times, while Furmint, Torrontés,  and Pinotage came up a couple of times each.  Maipo Valley, Walker Bay and Casablanca Valley each had a couple of questions. AWRI and UC Davis each had a question.  That’s not to say that I’ll only study things that have been on past exams, but rather I’ll be sure to have some reasonably pat answers should those turn up again before I start to commit to memory the properties of Malaga Blanc, a popular table grape in Thailand, but also used to make wine there.  (And of course having said that, Malaga Blanc is not taking up valuable space in my memory that really should contain something more useful.)

When I wasn’t studying, I was out having lunch around the corner, and with it some wine.  The wine for today is Viña Arana Reserva 2001, a red blend from Rioja DOC in northern Spain made by La Rioja Alta group.  The nearest I’ve been to Rioja is Bilbao, and it was before I was especially interested in wine, so I have no firsthand knowledge of the region or this producer.  Red Riojas are typically Tempranillo dominated blends, and this one is no exception with Tempranillo making up 95% and Mazuelo (which I know better as Carignan) making up the remaining 5%.  As a Reserva, this wine would have spent a minimum of a year in oak and not been released until it was three years old.  In fact, this particular wine was in American oak for three years.

I typically enjoy wines that can age more when it’s been cellared for at least a few years, and when I have an opportunity to have some that’s a decade or more old, I generally look upon it as something of a special treat.  As such, I was really looking forward to this wine.  It showed promise, in that it was garnet in the glass, going a bit brown toward the rim, but with lively flavour on the nose.  The palate was soft, with dried fruit and a number of developed characters, but somehow it just didn’t live up to my hopes.  With so many wines being made in a “drink now” style, I always expect something special from a wine that’s been put away for a decade, and while this delivered just what I expected from a Rioja, there wasn’t anything overly special about it.  Nothing wrong with it, mind you, but I think I would have enjoyed it more without the expectations I had when I ordered it.  But here’s the note.

Appearance

Clear and bright, with a medium garnet colour going brown toward the rim.  Slow legs.

Nose

Clean, with medium intensity, fully developed.  Dried red fruit, potpourri spices, orange peel, tobacco, and bitter chocolate.

Palate

Dry, with medium acidity, medium intensity, medium-minus velvety tannins, medium alchohol, and medium body.  The palate had chocolate, tobacco, dried red fruit from cherries to cranberries, with some vanilla.  The length was medium with a chocolate/cranberry finish.

Conclusion

I thought this was a good quality wine, despite wishing it would turn out to be very good.  It was certainly balanced, with mediums almost across the board, but in that it lacked intensity.  There was a fair amount of complexity, in terms of fruit, spice and developed notes, but they were all slightly faded.  It was as though any freshness had gone, taking most of its intensity with it, which showed in its length of only medium.

It was, however, a very typical Rioja Reserva, from the brick to brown colour in the glass and the dried fruit and American oak on the nose and palate.  I’d be pleased to find this on an exam as I don’t think I’d have any trouble picking it.  At $80.00 in a restaurant it’s not what I would term a value wine, and I expected a bit more from it.

Readiness to drink – I think it should be drunk now and will decline given more time.  The tannins are so soft already that they need no more time, and the intensity is likely to dwindle.