Rioja Alert

Hilltop monasteries and other now-tumbled stone fortifications built-up over the centuries, lie littered about and imbued into these richly historic lands of North
Central Spain. Sharing a border with the former Franco-Spanish, medieval
kingdom of Navarre, the regional identity of Rioja is equally distinct on its side
of the modern boundary. Apart from holding a unique place in the diverse Spanish
cultural patchwork, its vintners are among the visible leaders of competitive and progressive wineries in Iberia.

The larger, designated wine denomination of Rioja is actually comprised of three
sub-regions: Rioja Baja, Rioja Alta and the source of this week’s DéClassé focus:
Rioja Alavesa; which in turn, is considered a part of so-called Basque country. In
this zone, the Sierra Cantabria ridge of mountains provide sheltering geography
for 350 h. of vines either owned or directly managed by Bodegas Luis Cañas.
The vineyards are widely distributed over 870 small, individual plots, so drawing
fruit evermore discerningly has been both the challenge and the key strategy
pursued by the vintner toward producing an expanding range of premium wine.

Once focused only on less-remarkable, bulk winemaking, the steady process of
upscaling quality by employing advanced production techniques has also been
influenced by the agricultural reality of prolonged drought. In the current period
of the last 5 growing seasons or so, this stress is condensing yields but is also
bolstering the layered character of the smaller grape clusters. Nonetheless,
impressively, this irrepressible Bodega still remains capable of producing more
than167,000 cases of fruit yearly – in a virtual desert!

This modern Rioja style blends 95% Tempranillo grapes with a small splash of
Garnacha (Grenache) to top up its fruitiness. Making up fully ¾ of all rootstock
planted in this storied region’s vineyards, Tempranillo’s name is derived from
the Spanish temprano meaning early and it does reliably ripen quite early. The
designation as Crianza means that it’s spent one year in oak casks and another
in the bottle prior to release. The use of mellowed, 3-year-old French barrels
coupled with the star grape’s naturally soft tannins, translates into a pleasing
mouthfeel. Albeit still youthful, this lively, medium-bodied red is ready-to-go and
may become somewhat more velvety as it settles. Though not really destined
for long-term storage, you can certainly dare to hold this well-crafted example
of the excellent 2011 vintage for at least several years. For those with less will,
be encouraged in knowing that Rioja’s 2012 harvest, also anticipated as very
good, is almost on its way – to replenish the empty slots on your rack.

Luis Canas

VINTAGES – LCBO Product #336719 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Luis Canas S.A.
Release Date: July 11, 2015

Tasting Note
With a complex mix of dark, red fruit aromas and flavours that features cherry,
raspberries and fig, try serving this to keep up with most anything prepared on
a charcoal grill, including beef tenderloin brochettes, Chorizo sausages or as an
apéritif with semi-ripe cheeses and spicy tapas.