A wine and images from Elciego


The hotel of Marqués de Riscal provides modern counterpoint to the sixteenth century Church of San Andrés in Elciego

Today’s review wine hails from Elciego in the Rioja Alavesa, and, judging by the address, basks in the reflections of Frank Gehry’s temple to wine. I spent a morning at a local festival of wine in Elciego back in September 2015 and tasting this wine certainly took me back there. The atmosphere was phenomenal, the food sublime and, the wine was free flowing if you could fight your way to the stalls. I may well have tried something from Valdelana back then but the festival atmosphere was no place for writing notes. Great wine captures snapshots in history, people, and places: I could not help but share a few images of my time in Elciego to set the scene.


Stalls at the festival had a wide range of local produce and pintxos


The main square in Elciego on the day of the festival

Valdelana, Rioja Crianza, 2011

Tempranillo 95%, Mazuelo 5%

This Rioja Crianza was picked up from Vinissimus for a good price about a year ago.  Being a Crianza this spends 12 months ageing in barrel using a combination of 50:50 french and american oak.  Following this it spends another 12 months ageing in bottle.


The glorious church of San Andrés in Elciego

Tasting note:

Rustic, a little rough round the edges, but you know what? This really reminds me of a summer evening in the Rioja Alavesa. If this was on the side with sauteed mushrooms, cured meats and olives I would be feeling right at home. High acidity, moderate tannin. The fruit is slightly off ripe but with a deep richness. It reminds me of the cacao in the darkest chocolate but it would be improved if softened. I was not expecting it but this surprisingly softened and opened on day two. No score documented at the time of tasting.



Vina Real, Gran Reserva, Rioja, 1970

This New Year’s Eve I finally got round to tasting a previous “Wine Of The Week”: Chateau St Pierre, St Julien, 2011. This was enjoyed at a local steakhouse over a hearty meal. I have mostly drunk older Bordeaux recently, but tucking into this was a revelation. Being young this was rich and sumptious, with plenty of tannin but never felt over the top. Blackcurrant dominates the palate with pencil lead coming through on the finish and rounding out an elegant wine. 92/100 (DT).

The main event on New Year’s Eve was a venerable bargain picked up at a local wine store. The shop had recently purchased a cellar and were moving on some loose older bottles at keen prices. Having visited CVNE last August I couldn’t resist taking the gamble on a bottle of the Viña Real Gran Reserva 1970. By the time this had got home from the store the 7 had fallen from the bottle so you will have to take my word on this one!


Excuse the quality of the photo – it was NYE after all

Viña Real, Rioja Gran Reserva, 1970

For me this was a classic Rioja Gran Reserva. Dead traditional (unsurprising at 46 years old) with a light body and high acidity. Held up to the light the wine was almost orange, whilst in the glass it appeared garnet with browning as expected for the age. The Gas Man noted sherry like aromas but i could not discern any obvious oxidation. There was still a slight grip from silky tannin with a satisfying silky mouthfeel. The fruit is pretty barren on this although there is a distant memory of strawberries, underlying metallic notes and a complex, if slightly hollow, palate. Rounding out the palate are sois bois, leather and dried meat, with lemon juice coming through on the finish highlighting the high acidity.

The more I drank this the more i come to enjoy it, and it was probably better after an extra 30 minutes air in the decanter whilst watching the fireworks. This wine was rather austere but given the age it was a total steal. Beware there is likely considerable bottle variation on this – we may just have been lucky!

Score: 93/100 (DT)