Around about Christmas I go back to one of my favourite styles; that which is made in the fruitful valleys of the River Ebro in the northern part of the plains of Central Spain. My choice, curiously limited this month to a temporary inability to get out from my local neck of the woods, is Rioja from the Bodegas Bagordi vineyard situated on the banks of the river Ega, a tributary of the Ebro within the locality of Andosilla in the region of Navarre.
Places are important for wine-growers, just the right amount of alluvium, soil moisture retention, aspect to the sun, prevailing weather, these attributes of the land allow the expressive palate of Vitis vinifera to coax its fragrances, flavours and forcefulness from each grape. Rioja of course is well known to pack a punch for the red wine stable. The blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano grapes makes for variation as does the choice of American to French oak barrels and how long the wines mature; the wonderfully lazy sojourning of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva until final release, is embedded in the culture of Spanish wine-making. One could argue in agreement with the Consejo Regulador that oak influence fits beautifully with the Tempranillo grape so imparting the sweet spicy, cinnamon, vanilla flavour for which Rioja is recognizable.
My choice from Bodegas Bagordi is Navardia Crianza obtainable for £13.74 from Portland Wine. This organically raised wine has a sustainable farming certificate which states “a healthy way of life and sustainable ecological vineyard” was achieved in raising the wine. These bland meanings I find amusing and of course are meant to cover a multitude of situations and occurrences. I find myself thinking maybe that the local Navarrean wild-life have gorged on a small percentage of the ripe grapes! A tithe for the needy I say.
The wine label is effusive describing wine that offers an “intense red cherry colour, abundant red tears, luscious and intense nose, a powerful mouth, and lively tannins”, all which reminds me of the fiery and flamboyant flamenco dancers of that country. One positively lyrical description says about the wine “fleshy palate with cherry fruit giving way to dark chocolate”. Here you can recognize the suggestive power of wine marketing, promising more than what one would usually expect with a quiet and sensible Sunday Roast.
Making wine is a difficult and skilful task. I think to make an organic wine under sustainable farming conditions and distribute it globally reaches a higher level, which has been achieved with Navardia Crianza. It is far better than straight-forward Rioja at the price with a successful balance of fruit and oak and well -integrated tannins suitable for sipping alone or with any meaty provision. Another small triumph of the wine-makers art for everyone to enjoy – and to colour our thoughts with Spanish exuberance in the cold months ahead.
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