The wine trade in Spain’s La Rioja has both ancient roots and is in an evolutionary transition. Despite a wealth of archaeological evidence for Phoenician, Celtiberian, and Roman winemaking in antiquity, a millennium will pass before a written reference to viniculture appears in Spanish; the 11th-century Carta de población de Longares (Letter to the settlers of Longares). 150 years later in 1102, King Sancho 1st of Navarra and Aragon bestows legal recognition on the region, which births the signature, Rioja Wine. In terms of the relative quality and practices in modern times, local wine merchants and
bodegas have a tradition of marketing wines fashioned from intermixed grapes; supplied by approx. 20,000 growers; drawing from harvests throughout Rioja’s three designated sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alavesa. More recently, to better typify their individual output, bodegas are becoming selective in sourcing their grapes from single zones only. The underlying point is that the varied terroirs of these sub-regions produce discernibly different versions of so-called Rioja wine; it’s not a uniform styling, but it is a testament to innovation!
Here in North-central Spain, hilltop monasteries and other stone fortifications built up over centuries provide ample evidence of a storied land that shares a border with the medieval, Franco/Spanish Kingdom of Navarre. On its side of the modern boundary, Rioja’s cultural identity remains distinct and grounded in a 120km-long geography that straddles both banks of the famed Ebro River. As for the roots of its name, ‘Rio’ (river) was combined with ‘Oja’ (a tributary of the Ebro) to create the recognizable moniker that has achieved a global renown. For this week’s DéClassé feature of the Bodegas LAN Crianza 2012, the bodega’s name, LAN, is an acronym reference to the provinces that make up the larger Rioja DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada) – Logroño (now called La Rioja), Álava, and Navarra.
This winery’s flagship vineyard, Viña Lanciano, is a spectacular 72-Hectare plot that’s framed by a horseshoe-shaped bend of the meandering Ebro River. At higher elevation, Rioja Alta has a reputation for producing lighter, fruit-forward wines that result from a shorter growing season coupled with the character of its limestone, sandstone, and alluvial soils. For this entry-level bottling, that’s an accurate description for a blend that combines 95% Tempranillo (Rioja’s indigenous grape) with 5% Mazuelo (Carignan Noir) to boost its tannin, acidity, and colour. The Crianza designation attests to the wine being aged for 14 months in a novel construction of hybrid wooden casks that are made of American Oak staves with French Oak tops. This current offering has also undergone 3 years of cellaring in the bottle; well beyond the 1year mandated for a Crianza grade.
Unlike the perennial DéClassé recommendations of the 2006 – 2009 vintages, the immensely popular 2010 thru 2012 releases were ordered by the LCBO in sufficient amounts to qualify for its ‘Vintages Essentials’ listing; translating into yearlong availability. 2012 was a very good growing year in the Rioja DOCa, and though this example is not the most complex that you might have the chance to savour, it’s well made, balanced and more-than-worth the sale price sticker!
BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #166538 | 750 mL bottle
Sale Price $ 13.95
(until Oct. 9, 2016)
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Lan, S.A.
Release Date: April 1, 2016
With layered aromas of red fruit, vanilla and spice, this medium-bodied and lively red has a smooth balance of light tannins and alcohol. As an apéritif, try pairing it with semi-ripe cheeses and spicy tapas. With main courses, serve alongside an Arugula salad topped with grilled chicken/lemon pepper dressing, brochettes of lamb with roasted beets or herb-crust pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto.