A broker with the best Rioja vineyards becomes the maestro of Rioja Reserva.
This is what we knew before we tasted: Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza is “one of Rioja’s benchmark estates” according to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, which lavished 93 points on this sumptuous, modernistic Riserva release. Remírez has also netted a perfect score from Parker’s publication, along with comparisons to Gérard Perse (the visionary operator of Saint-Émilion’s Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Pavie). Then, in our weekly judging panel tasting, Sur Lucero MS uncorked a bottle of this 2009 Remírez de Ganuza Reserva Rioja. He poured, and told us this: “Fernando farms some of the best vineyards in the Cantabrian Mountain range, and his perfect barrel-aging program is what draws the comparisons to Château Pavie. The Tempranillo and Graciano vines are 60 years in age on average, some as old as 96!” As we tasted, the immense old-vine concentration just came alive — bursting with compact red-fruit notes and our collective agreement effused that this is Rioja at its richest, most voluptuous, and most age-worthy. Here’s what we suggest: Don’t miss this.
A larger-than-life character, Remírez originally rose to fame in the region as one of Rioja’s best wine brokers. His decades of deep local expertise came in handy when he decided to establish his own bodega in 1989 and invest in some 130 acres of Rioja Alavesa’s most elite vineyards. The Cantabrian Mountains help moderate daytime highs, as do the cooling breezes off the Ebro River. Both help to stretch out the growing season, allowing late-maturing Tempranillo to ripen slowly and incrementally. Remírez’s state-of-the-art winery, located in the dusty, medieval village of Samaniego, is the perfect metaphor for his winemaking, embracing both tradition and innovation.
Around 200 miles south of Bordeaux, Rioja in 2009 was treated to conditions that were strikingly similar to those that led to historic quality on either side of the Gironde. In both regions, warm, dry weather resulted in rich, ripe, mouth-filling reds with dark, hedonistic flavors. Boasting the fine structure of a Left Bank Bordeaux, as well as the wild-berry intensity of Tempranillo, lay this down if you have the patience or enjoy its opulence now.
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