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Wines from the Basque area of Rioja Alavesa

Tasting Basque wines from the Rioja Alavesa region of Spain

Tasting Basque wines from the Rioja Alavesa region of Spain

Last week, Kathy and I attended a wine tasting of six wines from the Basque region of Spain. The wines were from producers in the Rioja Alavesa area. Paul Wagner led the discussion. The tasting was a sit down tasting, which we appreciated after walking for a few hours on the Mall viewing the Folklife Festival in Washington DC. The focus on the 2016 Folklife Festival was the Basque region.

During the dignitary welcoming, we learned that the Rioja Alavesa region has 13,000 hectares (over 32,000 acres) of grapes. Many of the producers have small cellars. The United States is the second largest market for wines from Rioja Alavesa. We were invited to visit the Basque area in the future, and assured that wine tourism is on the rise.

Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications and an instructor in the Department of Viticulture and Winery Technology at Napa Valley College, slipped into teacher mode occasionally during the tasting. He asked the group why the area was called Rioja. Later we learned that a river, Rio Oja, runs through the region. The Rioja region was at the crossroads of north/south and east/west foot traffic through Spain. During the presentation we learned a few Euskara words. Euskara is the language of the Basque people. Wine is called ardoa. We tasted six ardo beltza or red wines.

Often in wine tastings I forgo traditional wine notes for haikus. This was a good idea during our tasting since Paul poked a little fun at wine writers that use terms that others do not understand or can not associate. One of those terms is cassis. When was the last time you had a bowl of cassis? I never used or understood this wine term until I had a cassis wine in Bordeaux. Now I can pick out the taste on some Cabernet Sauvignons.

070616bRioja Alavesa Haikus

CVNE Viña Real Crianza 2011

Darker fruits abound
Tempranillo Crianza
Crispness needed lamb.

Marqués de Riscal Reserva 2009

Velvet black cherries
This reserva shows aging
Have another glass.

Remelluri Reserva 2009

Nice bolder tannins
Remelluri Reserva
Come back to this wine.

Baigorri de Garage Rioja 2007

Velvet in a glass
Layers of fruits and olives
Old crispy finish.

Ramirez de Ganuza Reserva 2006

Classic black cherry
With almost kissing tannins
Forget the pairing.

DSL Viñedos y Bodegas DSG Phinca Lali 2010

Layers of flavors
Bigger wine could show aging
Crisp acidity.

My favorite was the Ramirez de Ganuza Reserva 2006. I like tannins and this wine delivered.I also liked the black cherries and spice notes. Like the haiku mentions, I like this wine enough to forget pairing it with food. Just drink it.


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