7 de mayo de 2013

Rioja's Historic Wineries - Bodegas La Rioja Alta S.A.

The Sociedad Vinícola de la Rioja Alta was formed in 1890, when Felipe Puig de la Bellacasa leased the premises of a French négociant, Alphonse Viguier, in the Barrio de la Estación in Haro, joining forces with four other local growers. Its first manager, Mariano Lacort y Tapia, subsequently left the group to found his own firm, and his old stone-built bodega with its timber-beamed roof was acquired by Bodegas Muga to provide additional space for ageing its wines.

La Rioja Alta made its name with such classical wines as the "Cosecha 1890" and "Cosecha 1904", and the perennially popular "Viña Ardanza", named after one of the original shareholders, Alfredo Ardanza y Sánchez. The early history of the bodega has been meticulously recorded in the Diario de Bodega by a French cellar-master, Charles Gallait from the Cantenac region of Bordeaux, a fascinating account of harvests good and bad, day-to-day operations, and the bottling and despatch of the wines.

La Rioja Alta possessed 250 hectares of vineyard and also buyed in grapes. The wines were made in oak tinas and lined cement vats, and there were 23.000 barricas for maturing them. Average annual production amounted to 1 millions bottles. Standards have remained consistently hugh, and the wines are well-known in Britain, the largest foreign market, thanks to their judicious marketing by Laymont & Shaw of Truro, a pioneer in introducing the better Spanish wines to the United Kingdom.

The fruity and pleasant 3º año red "Viña Alberdi" has for a long been sold by Stainsbury's. The full-bodied and velvety "Viña Ardanza", aged for three and a half years in cask and two in bottle, is a firm favourite both with critics and the consumer, and the "Viña Arana", of about the same age, is a lighter and very stylish wine. With even longer in cask and bottle, the "Reserva 890" and "Reserva 904" are traditional well-made red Riojas with oaky nose and plenty of mature fruit.

The bodega also produced a traditional white Rioja, the "Metropole Extra", aged in oak, and the fresh youn "Leonora", cold-fermented, but still with a hint of oak and named in honour of the wife of its English shipper.

Wines tasted:
La Rioja Alta 1973 Gran Reserva - Edición Centenario: 1890 - 1990 - 92/100 p. June 2013
La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 1975 - 93/100 p. May 2013
Viña Ardanza 1986 Blanco Reserva - 94/100 p. May 2013.
Viña Ardanza Reserva Especial 1964 - 99/100 p. April 2012. 97/100 p. May 2013

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