La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 - A refreshing release!

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2019-06-10


Today we see the release of the 2010 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. At £195 per six and with years of maturation already in the bank, this wine represents terrific value, especially when compared to some of the recent en primeur releases from further north (Bordeaux). The 2010 has an absolutely massive Wine Owner’s Relative Value Score of 111, (see chart attached). Tim Atkin awards 97 points and comments “Savoury wild herb notes segue into a palate that's focused, balanced and graceful with the concentration and backbone to age. 2019-35”.

Purely from an investment perspective these wines only appreciate in price quite some time after release, when scarcity starts to kick in as demonstrated here with the excellent 2001 vintage (attached).

Conclusion: buy with a view to drinking but see what happens!

La Rioja 2018 Bordeaux en primeur - Wine Owners - Market price versus score


La Rioja 2018 Bordeaux en primeur - Wine Owners


Rioja was Spain’s answer to Bordeaux

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-09-14


Rioja was Spain’s answer to Bordeaux - incredibly high quality AND quantity produced from noble grape varieties (in Rioja’s case Tempranillo). 

Back in the 1950s and 1960s the large Rioja houses were making wine of extraordinary quality to rival their Bordeaux neighbours to the north. By the 1980s and 1990s many Bodegas had let standards slip (with a few notable exceptions) and the outside world turned away from Rioja, creating a self fulfilling downward qualitative spiral. Since the early 2000s the region has turned itself around, make serious investments, and more recent vintages have attained (or perhaps even bettered?) the heights achieved of their great post-war vintages. 

Rioja prices are still great value but the world is catching on, the positive cycle is established an the region’s future as a blue chip wine producing region is more or less assured.

The following shows the jump in the last 12 months of Rioja prices compared to the general Spanish Index (in which there is a hefty Rioja set of constituents as well). 

For the budding collector, without access to unlimited funds, Rioja is the obvious region to buy into on a 10-year view.


Rioja Rocking

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2018-05-02


There comes a moment in the evolution of every market where all the stars are aligned. Last week a bottle of CVNE Vina Real 1959 sold on an online auction for 905 euros.

One might well ask what this has to do with investing in (comparatively) young Rioja to make the best returns. What it confirmed to me was that the home market, Spain was back.

After several years in the doldrums the Spanish economy, at least for the wine drinking classes, was back on its feet.

What has also been noticeable is that recent releases have shown that wine makers felt able to increase prices by double figure percentages. Castillo Ygay for example has seen a 15% rise from the 2007 to the current release of 2009.

Other important factor is the considerable improvement in quality since 2001.

Wines that had consistently been receiving marks around the upper 80s and low 90s began receiving marks in the mid to upper 90s. I mention this not as a slavish follower of Parker; but as Maynard Keynes remarked investment is like a beauty contest where success is not necessarily about picking what one likes oneself but choosing what the crowd will like.

Secondly what is screamingly obvious is that Rioja is extraordinarily cheap in relation to French wines of a similar quality. Of course the market is much bigger, especially for Bordeaux, but like many markets the big returns come in the smaller markets. One only has to look at the Burgundy market over the past 20 years to see the truth in that.

Rioja prices have been suppressed by the fact that it is largely an internal market whereas Bordeaux is international.

Amongst specific choices Rioja Alta 904 and the even cheaper Vina Ardanza stand out as highly marked wines at very little purchase cost. Picking the best vintages of CVNE Imperial and Vina Real is also an inexpensive hobby. One only has to look back over recent vintages to see how rapidly all these rise in relation to their purchase cost over a 10 year period to see that returns of 200-300% are achievable. Given the Burgundy effect that could well prove very conservative…

My general advice is stick to the traditional names (making classically crafted wines) that are showing rising quality. Those in the know will note that I have not mentioned Lopez de Heridia: the reason for this most obvious of omissions is that I feel the market in their wines is so interesting as to be worth a further blog instalment.

Mike Armitage

Mike is a Wine Owners member and a long-term collector who started his cellar in the 1960s. Having witnessed the development of wine markets over the last 60 years, and a salesroom regular for several decades, Mike is well placed to spot opportunities.


Old school RIOJA dinner - Portland Restaurant, London

by Wine Owners

Posted on 2016-10-17


Guests gathered for a rather special evening of rare, older Rioja vintages at the Portland restaurant, a one-star Michelin restaurant serving food in an informal style of family-service.

The plates were delicious, and although a couple of the starters - buttermilk and smoked cod’s roe - worried the table in light of the venerable bottles, there was no arguing with the deliciousness of every plate served. The main course of beef was simply outstanding, served with melt-in-the-mouth heritage carrots and brown buttered cauliflower.

The wines were opened 90 minutes in advance, and with so many crumbling corks, insecurity got the better of us and we held off decanting until the last minute in most cases.

Starter course 1

Ygay Etiqueta Blanca 1970

2 bottles were served, one of which opened with a musty nose, the other was much more energetic with purer character.

It’s always worth leaving old bones some time in the glass to recover from the shock of opening, and sure enough, the musty character blew off, but without the zest and purity of the second bottle.

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Rioja Gran Reserva Especial 1970

By comparison the Castillo Ygay, bottled we think in the late 1990s or 2000s, and with a fresh cork to prove it, seemed rather clunky and thick. It was as if the extended barrel ageing has rubbed out its finer lines, leaving it smudged.

There was no arguing with the richer fruit, but where was the definition or class?


 

Starter course 2

Berberana Rioja Gran Reserva 1950

From a private cellar in Richmond, this wine was served from a decanter, having been filtered through muslin to strain a few pieces of crumbly cork that the operator of the Westmark cork puller had failed to pull out cleanly.

Arguably the star of the show, this ethereal wine showed intensity allied to a sense of weightlessness. It improved in the decanter over 2 hours and wowed the entire table.

Rioja GR Honorable Gomez Cruzado 1964

Similarly to the Ygay Etiqueta Blanca, a dustiness blew off with time in the glass to reveal pear drops and an earthy, more savoury character.

Bodegas Bilbainas 1964

Fruity and balanced with an alluring freshness and utterly delicious. A surprise since no one had encountered the producer. One to seek out and is very good value.

Main course

Vina Real CVNE 1964

This was the other wine that vied for wine of the night along with the Berberana.

Energetic, deep and pure. Burgundian texture with a brilliant complexity of fruit that carried though into a long and deeply satisfying finish.

CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva 1964

An absolute dog of a bottle, sadly. Devil’s juice.

Rioja Alta 904 Reserva 1964

A comparatively rich fruit profile on this wine compared to the other wines of the flight, but perhaps somewhat lacking in definition if we were to be critical. This less developed – perhaps worth revisiting in the future?



Cheeseboard

Corral Reserva 1987

Perhaps a touch of rusticity here, but with plenty to like, with a pungent, rose petal quality to the nose.

Corral Reserva 1991

Richer and less evolved than the 1987, this made an interesting comparison. Tasted on its own this would no doubt have seemed excellent, but slightly overshadowed by the context here I fear.

Plus a mystery wine served blind – 1988 Valbuena 5

Elegant and pleasantly evolved with remarkable balance between richness of the Douro fruit and a dry, firm structure reminiscent of cool climate claret, even down to a persistent saline note on the palate lending freshness. Certainly supports the reputation of the producer.




What we learned

1. The dinner challenged the blanket reputation of 1964 as immortal - it isn’t. Delicious though several were, they are not destined to remain so.

2. A common understanding is that Gran Reserva is better than Reserva, that is better than Consecha. Price follows the length of description it seems. Based on this tasting, the length of time aged in wooden vats does not necessarily improve the quality of the wine. The Etiqueta Blanco vs Gran Reserva Especial, both 1970, certainly supports this thinking. Th Etiqueta Blanco was the finer wine, by far.

It doesn’t help that definitions seems to have changed over the years. Our 904 1964 was a Reserva, and possibly all the better for it, whilst other bottlings of the same year are described (in a Bid for Wine auction a year ago) as Gran Reserva. More recent vintages of 904 are described as Gran Reserva.

3. You don’t need to just follow the wines of the biggest Rioja operations, such as Rioja Alta, Marques de Murrieta and CVNE. The least well known producers on this showing delivered very good value for such old wines.


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