Rioja Tempranillo

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.

lan-lanciano

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!

lan-rioja

BODEGAS LAN CRIANZA 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #166538 | 750 mL bottle
Sale Price $ 13.95
(until Oct. 9, 2016)
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Lan, S.A.
Release Date: April 1, 2016

Tasting Note
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.

Tempranillo Alert

Bodegas LAN, founded in 1972, is an acronym derived from 3 provinces in the
Rioja designation of origin – Logroño (now called La Rioja), Álava and Navarra.
This winery’s picturesque 72 acre plot known as Viña lanciano, is a spectacular
horseshoe-shaped location along the meandering, vineyard-lined Ebro River. At
a higher elevation this area is also referred to as Rioja Alta, with a reputation
for producing somewhat lighter, fruit forward wines – resulting from the shorter
growing season and the character of its limestone, sandstone and alluvial soils.

Though La Rioja has ancient traditions of winemaking dating back to the period
of the Phoenicians, it was the King of Navarra and Aragon who was the first to
convey legal recognition on these indigenous wines early on in the 12th century.
Unlike many of the large producers in the region who source their grapes from
numerous independent growers with wide-ranging standards, LAN, as part of a
new generation of Spanish vintner, is producing a more distinctive flavour profile
from the closely managed harvests of its large, single vineyard.

Native to Rioja, grapes for this 100% Tempranillo varietal wine are hand-picked
and sorted, with initial fermentation begun in stainless steel tanks. The Crianza
designation attests to the young wine then being aged in a novel construction of
wooden casks (which combine American Oak staves with French Oak tops) for
12 months, followed by at least another year in the bottle. This current bottling
has 3 yrs. of cellaring at the Bodega and though it offers less complexity than a
Reserva grade, it has serious credentials for a $16.00 offering.

Unlike the perennial and immensely popular DéClassé recommendation of the
2006 thru 2009 vintages, the 2010 release has been ordered by the LCBO in
sufficient amounts so as to qualify for its ‘Vintages Essentials’ listing – happily
making it available throughout the better part of this year!

LAN

LAN CRIANZA 2010
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #166538 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 15.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Lan, S.A.
Release Date: Mar 1, 2014

Tasting Note
Layered aromas of red fruit, vanilla and spice. This medium-bodied, lively red has
a smooth balance of light tannins and alcohol. Try pairing it with grilled chicken
salad with Arugula and lemon pepper dressing or leg of lamb and pork loin with
roasted beets and goat cheese salad.