March 2016

Rioja was the wine of the evening and not always as we know it!  There were 8 wines for us to try chosen from two of Rioja’s regions.  This included a Tempranillo Blanco to start the evening and a Rosado Rioja as well as some great reds.

Jeremy Sandham from Sandhams Wine Merchants of Caistor presented this evening alongside Loren Hardwick from Richmond Wine Agencies who have been established since 1822 and are based in Middlesex.  Both were knowledgeable  about the chosen wines and provided a very informative evening.

The Tempranillo Blanco was discovered in 1988 and is a mutation of the red Tempranillo grape.  However the Blanco was only permitted to be made in 2007.  In my opinion the wine which we tasted – Fincas Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015 was a little sharp and acidic. As  it is the first vintage of this particular co-operative (which was established in 1955) I look forward to seeing how this will develop.  This was priced at £10.99.  For me the Ramon Bilbo Rosado Rioja was a pleasant alternative to some rose wines I’ve tasted previously.  This 2015 vintage had a good year with temperatures reaching 50 degrees C.  The wine is salmon pink in colour and it had a subtle fruit flavour and was delicate and stylish.  The maker of this wine has been quoted as saying “Wine making is like painting.  You can take a big brush and a big pot of one paint to produce something bland and uninteresting, or you can take a small brush with lots of different pots of paints to create something with character and complexity” and this is what he’s done!  This wine comes with a very reasonable price tag of £9.25 per bottle.

The first red we tasted was a Ramon Bilbao Crianza Rioja from 2012 priced at £9.98  This is the wine of choice in Spanish restaurants and it is easy to see why.  It is a fruity modern Rioja made from 100% Tempranillo sourced from around the region, fermented separately, then blended and aged in new oak for 12 months and in bottle for 12 months.  It was very smooth with hints of spice and deep red fruits.  A very easy drinker indeed.

The three reds that followed were all very different indeed from their blends, where sourced to fermentation and ageing.  These were Ramon Bilbao Reserva Rioja 2010 priced at £13.28, Ramon Bilbao Vinedos Altura Rioja 2012 £11.95 and Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva Rioja 2008 £16.95. This particular wine is aged in oak for 30 months and then in bottle for 36 months before release.  It has won 4 gold medals including the International wine challenge!

The final wine of the night was the evenings winner with a score of 6.  This is the Ramon Bilbao Mirto Special Cuvee Rioja 2010.  This is 100% Tempranillo produced from 40 year old vines. It has spent 24 months in new French oak and will certainly age for a few more years yet.  Only 3000 cases were made of this vintage and it is priced at £37.58 per bottle.  I really enjoyed this tasting and thanks goes to both Jeremy and Loren for bringing some great wines for us to try.  I’m already looking forward to see what April has to offer!!

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