2006 Bodegas Corral "Don Jacobo" Rioja Crianza - Rioja, Spain
Big News: October is Rioja month at ELS! We kicked off the month by co-hosting a Whole Pig Roast and Rioja tasting event this past Saturday with Luis Moya and his team from Vinos Unico (the importer and distributor of these great wines). The event was very successful by all accounts – the weather even cooperated (I guess those Novinas (little prayers) paid off. Thanks Mom!) - so we’re talking about making it a quarterly event! Stay tuned. We’re also featuring a flight of wines from the Rioja region at the bar this month (a white, a Crianza, and a Reserva), so check it out too. But wait, that’s not all! This month we’re also featuring a wine from Rioja in each of our wine clubs this month. “So what’s all the hype about, Mike?” you’re asking. Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that I was so impressed with the quality and classic flavor profiles of the wines from these historic, family-owned wineries that I wanted a forum to showcase them. The other is that I try and take the season and weather into account when deciding on club candidates, if possible, and since we are moving into Fall, with its cooler weather and requisite heartier fare and seasonal foods, I figured it was perfect timing for these delicious reds!
A Bit About Rioja
Depending on the ageing process, Rioja wine can be put into one of four categories, identified by different back labels or seals, which the Control Board issues to those wines that meet quality and tipicity requirements:
Young (Joven) wines: Wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruitiness.
Crianza wines: Wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in casks and a few months in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum cask-ageing period is 6 months.
Reserva wines: Selected wines of the best vintages with an excellent potential that have been aged for a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year in casks. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in casks.
Gran Reserva wines: Selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least one year in casks.
The back labels or seals that should accompany every bottle of Rioja wine that is sold constitute a document that guarantees the ageing category as well as the origin, vintage and quality of the wine. The characteristics of each vintage determine the amount of wine that winemakers will assign to each ageing category -Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Rioja wines are elegant, original and have the unmistakable character of great wines, something which is only possible when grape varieties, vine-growing methods and winemaking procedures have been honed over time. Given the diversity in winegrowing offered by the Designation, it has been a traditional practice by the bodegas to blend different grape varieties and wines, from different vineyards and towns, seeking the complementary elements that will intensify their respective properties in the end product. This is undoubtedly the best-known kind of Rioja, although bodegas are increasingly offering a variety of styles with wines of high fruit concentration that aim to express the traits of specific vineyards.
With Tempranillo as the main element, Rioja reds are characterized by being very balanced in their alcohol content, color and acidity, by having a body and structure offset perfectly by a gentle and elegant flavor and by being mainly fruity in nature when young and more velvety when aged. These characteristics make Rioja Wines highly versatile when combining with the most varied foods. This, together with the fact that it is a user-friendly, easy-to-drink wine, constitutes one of the keys to its success.
Don Jacobo was started over 100 years ago in Spain’s Rioja region by Saturnino Daroca, a returning veteran of Spain’s Carlist wars. Wanting to start a new peaceful life he bought a house and wine cellar from the local monastery in Navarette and planted vines on land he owned nearby. After his death, his daughter and son-in-law Martín Corral took over the family business. It was their sons Gregorio and Florencio who expanded the business to the next level and reached a broader Spanish market and also starting to export in the international market in the EU, US and Canada. In 1974 the winery was expanded and a new bodega was built in Navarette. The bodega is literally on the route of the Camino de Santiago. For 1,000 years Catholic pilgrims travelled along this route to reach St. James tomb in Galicia and pay their respects. In Spain the original road is known as Ruta Jacobea or Way of St. James, this is where the name Don Jacobo comes from.
Wine Type - Crianza
Rioja Crianzas are younger and intended for early drinking. Crianzas must be aged at the winery at least two years, one of which must be in oak barrels, before they can be sold. Red Rioja is made largely of Tempranillo, though it is usually blended with some combination of Garnacha, Mazuelo aka Carignan, and Graciano.
An easy drinking style, Crianzas tend to emphasize fresh fruit above all else and spend less time in bottle than Reservas. Big aromas of strawberries, cherries, with varying degrees of toasty/vanilla flavors and aromas from the oak but in general fruity and clean on the palate, super quaffable. Crianza is Rioja’s everyday wine.
Region: Rioja Alta, Spain
85% Tempranillo Spain’s principal native red grape, used in Spain’s best wines often as a blending component, it has long aging potential
10% Garnacha, (Grenache) one of Spain’s most widely planted red varietals, also often blended,
5% Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano
Vineyards: 40 hectares of sustainably dry-farmed estate owned vineyards planted near Navarette in Rioja Alta with additional vineyards leased out to experienced family growers under long term contracts.
Soil: A combination of chalky clay and iron rich alluvial soils.
Harvest: Hand harvested.
Maceration/Fermentation: Fermentation is done in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks.
Aging: 14 months in American and French barriques. Bottled in February 2010.
Alcohol Volume: 13.5%
Winery Tasting Notes
Medium ruby color with a nose of dried red fruits, baking spices, plum compote, raisins and figs. Dried cherry and raspberry on the palate with a touch of vanilla and sweet tobacco. Medium body, soft tannins, nice structure and lengthy finish.
SILVER MEDAL WINNER at The International Wine Challenge 2010 and The International Wine and Spirits Competition 2010 in the UK.
Food Pairing Suggestions
Classic pairings are with lamb just about any way - braised, grilled, roasted, sauteed or stewed. Game birds especially roast quail, duck or pheasant. Vegetables and mushrooms too. Crianzas’ fruity freshness makes them a perfect match for aged sheep’s milk cheeses like Manchego, acting almost like a schmear of fruit jam on top of a buttery, slightly piquant cheese.
2009 Mapema Malbec - Mendoza, Argentina
I know we had a wine from Argentina in last month’s Club (the La Siesta Cabernet) and though I try to mix things up a bit and not have wines from the same region in consecutive months, I don’t let that prevent me from including a great wine if I come across one. As I mentioned above, I tend to consider the season when choosing club wines. Maybe it’s because of all the Halloween decorations and commercials that I’ve been seeing for the past several weeks, but I’ve been making the psychological preparations for transitioning from Summer to Fall (which is always difficult for me), so bigger, bolder reds have been coming to the forefront of my mind (which helps make the transition). I’m a big fan of Malbec from Argentina – they offer such intensity of flavor and rich body, yet the high elevation (and cool temps) retain perfumy aromatics and underlying acidity which keeps the wines from seeming “heavy.” This is a great wine to enjoy on its own – or with the hearty foods of Fall/Winter.
Winery & Winemaker Background
We hear a lot about terroir and soils, but there is no substitute for a great team in winemaking, from the guys who prune to those who clean the barrels. Mariano di Paola has known this for decades, and as one of Mendoza's "Deans of Winemaking", he has built a long history of collaboration. Mapema started with two of Argentinaʼs most respected winemakers, Mariano di Paola and Pepe Galante. Their collaboration yielded a limited range of inspiring wines created from prime growing regions in Argentina. They joined forces with one thought in mind: take the expertise and experience of two seasoned winemakers, search out the best possible grape sources in Mendoza, and make superior wines from each harvest. Their philosophy is that the winemaker's role is to preserve the fruit's full spectrum of flavors and aromas by the most gentle and natural handling of the wines.
Mariano di Paola and Pepe Galante combine two ʻMaʼs - from Mariano and one ʻPeʼ - from Pepe to make Ma-pe-ma. Depending on which of these two good friends you ask, you will get a different explanation of the nameʼs origin. Mariano says he is so important that he should be listed twice. Pepe says it takes two Marianos to equal the talent of one Pepe.
Pepe Galante had been the head winemaker at Catena Zapata for 30+ years and is also a university professor of viticulture and enology at Juan Augustin Maza University in Mendoza. Since 1995 Mariano di Paola has been the head winemaker at Bodega La Rural, which is the domaine and home-base of the more famously known range of wines known as Rutini. Mariano makes sure his team enjoys lunch with him every day, including regular tastings of his high-end wines, and he makes sure they have wine for their homes at the end of every month. After all, theyʼre the ones who help make it happen! His Christmas parties are legendary and include everyoneʼs extended families (up to 400 people some years!). The latest news with Mapema is that, as of September 2011, Pepe has sold his share of Mapema in order to embark on a new wine venture with his family. Mariano de Paolo continues to produce Mapema wines.
2009 Vintage 100% Malbec - a ripe and forward varietal with kirsch, cocoa, mint, exotic woods and cherry notes riding along rich oak tannins.
Vineyard Location: La Consulta - San Carlos Average Vineyard Elevation: 3,200 feet
Average age of Vines: 83 years
Harvest Method: Hand-harvested
Oak Regimen: 12 months in 50% new and 50% 1-year French oak barrels
Total Cases Imported: 2,500 cases
Winemaker Tasting Notes
Intense purple color with shades of violet. Heady aromas of kirsch, cocoa, mint and exotic woods make you want to keep inhaling deeply. Red & black cherry flavors coat the palate, and the oak tannins frame the intense fruit flavors, keeping them from taking over the place! This Malbec is as good on the second day as it is on the first—if you can avoid finishing it! It is a great example of “cool weather” Malbec—it has all the spicy/ fruity character of the grape, but it also has a deeper, more serious side. Reviews/Ratings
“Fragrant black cherry and black raspberry, oak in background, touch of balsamic, lots of fruit. 90 Pts - Wine Advocate
“A superflashy style, boasting lots of melted licorice, fruitcake, fig paste and black currant preserve flavors, which all stay pure and focused on the creamy, lengthy finish. A hedonist's delight. Drink now. 2,800 cases imported. 91 Pts -Wine Spectator
“Good full saturated medium ruby. Musky aromas of liqueur-like currant and plum, dark chocolate, caramel and roasted nuts. Can't quite equal the 2008 version for clarity or complexity, but this is silky, smooth and easy to drink, and not overly sweet. Finishes with broad, dusty tannins and notes of mocha and burnished oak.” 88 Pts - International Wine Cellar
Food Pairing Suggestions
Best with meats such as pork (grilled or roasted loin), grilled hamburgers or steaks, and lamb prepared any way you like. Good with goat, too.