La Rioja Alta continues to be one of the benchmarks for traditionally produced Rioja wine. Established in 1890 at the same spot where their head office sits today, their three Reserva Wine brands, Alberdi, Arana and Ardanza are named after the founding families, all three of which remain shareholders. The company still maintains traditional Rioja winemaking practices whilst embracing many of the new technological advances.
It is unusual for a great bodega of Rioja to own vineyards, but La Rioja Alta own 360ha from which they can source top-quality grapes, resulting in excellent fruit and richness throughout their wines. Tempranillo dominates the plantings, complemented with a small proportion of Garnacha and Graciano vines.
The company is renowned for the quality of its Reservas and in particular for its Gran Reservas, the 904 and the 890. The latter are produced only in exceptional years, are amongst the finest wines being produced in Rioja today.
They started the grape harvest with the Tempranillo and, 17 days later, picked the Graciano in Montecillo, the last plot harvested. All the grapes were placed in small boxes and taken to the winery in refrigerated transport to preserve their integrity. Alcoholic fermentation took place in tanks, taking 16 days for the Tempranillo and 18 days for the Graciano. Malolactic fermentation took place spontaneously and, in March 2013, the selected wines were transferred to four-and-a-half-year-old American oak barrels (made in-house) for 3 years. During the three years the wines were aged, they were racked every six months. The final blend was made in March 2016 and it was given a further three years in bottle to mature.
This is the first vintage of Viña Arana as a Gran Reserva (it was previously a Reserva) and it’s immediately apparent it belongs alongside La Rioja Alta’s other Gran Reservas 904 and 890, albeit one that fits the profile for slightly earlier drinking. The blend consists of 95% Tempranillo from 40-year-old vines in Las Cuevas, El Palo and Las Monjas in Rodezno, complemented with 5% Graciano from the Montecillo estate in Fuenmayor. The Graciano gives the wine an aromatic intensity and acidity, to carry the structure and elegance of the Tempranillo.
Dark-cherry red with a garnet-red rim. High aromatic intensity, with outstanding notes of ripe red fruit, red berries, wild strawberries and plum jam, leading to tertiary aromas from meticulous aging in oak: vanilla, cedar, tobacco, coffee, caramel and sweet patisserie notes. In the mouth, its initial freshness and structure, typical of this brand, predominate. Balanced, with soft, flavoursome tannins. Elegant, complex finish, where the ripe red fruit and balsamic notes provide a splendid end.
Plenty of aging potential, will age for 15 years. Drinking now too.