Wine of the Week: 2009 Marques De Vargas, Reserva, Rioja

Never appeal to a man's 'better nature.' He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. - Robert Heinlein

It's time for the wine of the week, and for those of you not familiar with the Rioja region of Spain, it's a place guarded by mountains on all three sides, taking its name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja. It's also a region which delivers high quality, perfectly aged and ready to drink wines for amazingly, attractive prices.

Historically speaking, there has been vineyard activity in this region since the times of Roman occupation, talk about your ancient vineyard sites. But it was during the French Phylloxera [vine destroying aphids] crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from fled from France and settled in Spain's yet untouched wine regions, bringing with them many of the similar winemaking practices we see in France today.

For those you traveling outside the comfy confines of let's say California for example, you will find that the Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be used to in California's wine country of Napa or Sonoma. Why, because many of the small growers who sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars instead of vinting and bottling their wines. Secondly, they have barrel aging and bottle aging restrictions, which is not a requirement for California winemakers. Third, Rioja has a wine control board, called the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja, which works to ensure the consistency of style, representative of the region.

The vast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine and is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Graciano, Garnacha, and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, much of the wine you'll find labeled Rioja that you encounter on wine store shelves today will be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.

2009 Marques De Vargas Reserva, Rioja: In the glass, the color depth and appearance are medium to deep, the color is a dusty red to cerise, and at the core, it's nearly opaque. The aromas of this wine, are very pleasing and aromatic. Filling the air, just above the glass, aromas of black cherry, roasted plums, vanilla, toast, wild licorice and trail dust which fill the nostrils on a hot day.

After the first taste or two, I found this wine to be dry; the acidity was balanced, the fruit abundant, but not low hanging. The tannin level was a medium plus, and well integrated. Flavor descriptors closely matched the aromas, dark summer ripe plum, french roasted coffee, wild licorice, and finely ground minerality, just in the background.  The blend, 75% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and the balance were most likely Graciano. 

This wine was fermented in stainless steel, pressed, racked and sent to barrel, American, Russian and French. It spent 23 months in barrel and then finally bottled in 2011, where it spent an additional two years in bottle, before being released. This wine would benefit from a good decant, to fully release its many aromas and flavors. I scored this wine 90 points, it's highly recommended, with great QPR. Being sold at a local wine store in Portland for $23. 


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