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by Fred McMillin
for October 26, 2000

 

Better and Better


Prologue

"Spain's best red wines come from the hills of the Rioja district in the north...Many take half a dozen years to develop and continue to be remarkable twenty years after the vintage."

...William Massee Wines and Spirits

"Rioja winemakers gave the 1994 their highest praise. Some claim it to be the best Rioja vintage in twenty years."

...Frank Prial, New York Times

"A word that sums up the new generation of Rioja wines, including the 1994, is 'consistency'. If, like us, you are eager to avoid clunkers, it is comforting to know [there are producers like] Domecq's Marques de Arienzo."

...Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast

Madrid's Casa Boutin

Madrid's Casa Boutin menu cover.


The Rest of the Story

My lucky tasters have checked both the $10 Crianza and the $15 Reserva 1994 Arienzo Riojas. (The Reservas are more expensive; Spanish wine law requires longer aging.)


The Crianza

"Crianza" means aged in oak. For years, for the American palate, it meant TOO MUCH OAK. So, to increase exports, not so long ago oak (American, not French) contact was reduced. That's what Michael Schachner meant by the "new generation" of Rioja wines.

We've seen the taming of the oak, My old columns go back to the 1980, 1981 and 1983. Arienzo vintages. They did not score nearly as well as the '94 Crianza, as reported in the May 5, 1999 WineDay.

The 1994 Reserva

This is our Wine of the Day, which I held in my cellar until it was wrapped (to conceal the identity) and poured in my latest tasting.

1994 Rioja Reserva by Marques de Arienzo
The Grape—Tempranillo (tem-prah-NEE-yoh) is a native Spanish variety that dominates Rioja (ree-oh-hah) red wines.
Aging—Two years in small American oak barrels plus two years in the bottle before release.
Availability—Phone Pulitzer photographer George Rose, who handles Arienzo as well as a sensational camera. The 1994 may be gone, but as Mr. Schachner says, Arienzo is very consistent, so don't hesitate to buy a more recent vintage. (707) 473-2349, Fx (707) 433-3538
Tasting Notes— If you know Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, Tempranillo is in between. My favorite meat with it is pork, because of what you'll see in the Postscript. For those who enjoy their reds with a bit of age, this is a fine value. (Age reduces those cherry-berry flavors, and increases the background tastes.)
Rating—Highly recommended
Owner—The grand Spanish House of Pedro Domecq
Importer—Allied Domecq
Price—$15 range


Postscript

When I was in Old Madrid, a Rioja was poured with their celebrated roast suckling pig at the Casa Botin restaurant. What has the Casa Botin got to do with the illustrious Spanish House of Domecq? Both were founded in 1725! (Menu cover with suckling pig pictured.)

 

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.

 
 


 
 

This page created October 2000

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