Hilltop monasteries and other 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, Rioja’s bodegas and vintners are visible leaders of internationally competitive and progressive winemaking in Iberia.
The larger designated wine denomination of Rioja comprises 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 hectares of vines either owned or managed by Bodegas Luis Cañas. The vineyards are distributed over +800 small, individual plots, so drawing fruit evermore discerningly has been both a challenge and the critical strategy pursued by this 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 climatic period, this stress on the vines is condensing yields, but it’s also bolstering the layered character of the smaller grape clusters. Nonetheless, this impressive Bodega remains capable of producing 167,000 cases of fruit, yearly, in near desert conditions!
Luis Cañas Crianza 2015 blends 95% Tempranillo grapes with a splash of Garnacha (Grenache) to top up its fruitiness. Making up 75% of all rootstock planted in this storied region’s vineyards, Tempranillo’s name is derived from the Spanish, Temprano, meaning ‘early’–which it reliably does. The designation, Crianza, attests that it’s spent a full year in oak casks and another in the bottle before release. Mellowing in 3-year-old French and American oak barrels, coupled with the 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 destined for long-term storage, you can undoubtedly dare to hold this well-crafted example from the 2015 vintage for at least several more years.
LUIS CANAS CRIANZA 2015
VINTAGES/LCBO – Product #336719 | 750 mL bottle
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD
Made in Rioja, Spain
By: Araex Rioja Alavesa S.L.
Release Date: October 13, 2018
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 and Chorizo sausages or as an apéritif with Spanish Mahón and Manchego cheese and spicy tapas.