Carlos Serres Rioja Reserva 2017
Dried Cherries, Caramel, Toasted Coconut, Hickory Smoked Meat
"In my opinion, Rioja, particularly the Reserva bottlings, is one of the most under-appreciated and greatest value wines in the world. How many regions require the producers to hold back their wine for a minimum of three years before release, and they often sell for less than $30? For this reason, they are released when they have lost their youthful vigor and often ready to drink. They are also lighter than the other Tempranillo-based wines from Spain, such as Ribera del Duero, which makes them perfect for a wide range of cuisines.
The region of Rioja is located south of the Cantabrian Mountains in north/central Spain. Like all Spanish wine regions, the vineyards lie at high elevation, in diverse soils that depend on proximity to the region’s many rivers. The area is also divided into three sub-zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. As you might expect, Rioja Alta is situated at significantly higher elevation, lying west of the other two sub-zones. Due to their high elevation and limestone soils, the wines tend to be brighter and have more finesse. Rioja Alavesa lies east of Alta, often at equally high elevation, but in soils with more gravel. Vine density per acre is lower, and as a result the wines tend to be denser and more tannic. Finally, Baja lies at the lowest elevations where the grapes ripen easiest. The wines produced from Baja tend to be dense and a bit rustic. Many firms in the region own vineyards, or purchase grapes, from all three zones in order to develop additional complexity in their wines.
Our feature wine comes from the Carlos Serres winery, which was founded in 1896. It is one of the few remaining properties of that period, many of which were founded by French vintners escaping the phylloxera plague to the north. The winery lies south of the city of Haro, with 150 acres of vines, the average being more than twenty years old. Their November, 2020 wines are made only using estate grown grapes and all the vineyards lie in the Rioja Alta sub-zone. The grapes used to make the Reserva are grown in a single block, called Finca El Estanque, where the vines are at least 40 years old.
Although this is a very old estate their winemaking is thoroughly modern. The grapes are hand harvested but mechanically sorted, then cold soaked for three days before fermentation. Once dry, the wine is racked to a combination of French and American oak barrels for 24 months, with about a third being new. The wine is then bottled and held in the cold caves of the property for an additional 24 months before shipping." - Tim Varan