Marques de Caceres Rioja!


A few weeks ago,  I enjoyed a little fete with some girlfriends an an apartment in Fenway.  It was a fabulous evening chock full of Basil Martinis, spicy soup, apps and of course, VINO!  There were several wines tried that evening, but I’m going to stick with one in particular.  It’s a Rioja that I’ve seen around quite a bit.

Rioja wine is Spanish– it is made from grapes grown not only in the ‘Autonomous Community of La Rioja,’ but it can also be grown in parts of Navarre and the Basque province of Álava.  Rioja is further subdivided into three zones: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja.  The wine in that region actually has much in common with a smooth Italian Chianti.  Both wines are blend relying heavily on one grape, in this case Tempranillo. Like Chianti’s Sangiovese, Tempranillo usually produces a relatively high acid wine of medium to medium-full body.  I couldn’t tell you what effect this has precisely on what you taste, but I can say it might be part of the reason that Rioja wines tend to vary a lot, even outside of vineyard and vintage.  Vintage references a year in which the grapes were harvested.  There is often consensus about different grapes and their respective “good years.”  Apparently the Rioja wines were quite good in 2005.  One more thing to note on this bottle, the word “Crianza”.  “Crianza,” (pronounced “Cree-ahn-zah,”) comes from the Spanish word for “nursing” or “bringing up.”  Its definition is a bit fuzzy, as the specifics change among different Spanish wine regions. But it’s safe to say that “Crianza” on the label guarantees that the wine has been aged (“brought up”) for a legally defined time before it can be sold; and that a significant part of that aging occurred in oak casks.  Crianzas are not released until two years after the vintage, of which at least six months must have been spent in 225-liter oak casks (“barricas” in Spanish, a relative of the more familiar “barriques” in French). In Rioja and Ribera del Duero, the rule is 12 full months in oak, plus at least 12 more in bottles.  This may seem like a long time in barrels, but in Spain, where oak aging is traditional, Crianzas are actually in the least-oaked category – you’ll need to look for “Riserva” or “Gran Riserva” if you want still more.

The Marques de Caceres Rioja 2005 was pretty good.  I would give it a 6.5/10.  Let me preface this by saying, I think I paired it with the wrong style of meal.  At the outset (breathing in the glass deeeeply), you can smell berries and a little spice.  But once you take a sip, aerate it a bit with your tongue (add oxygen) and drink it down, you get only a glimpse of those flavors and then the wine disappears once it’s passed the front of your tongue.  Let’s not knock the wine completely– that first taste is really quite good.  There is an instant rush of cherry, blackberry and just a hint of cinnamon.  It’s also got a fun texture, too.  By “fun” I mean, you can really feel the wine’s velvetty flow.  It’s soft and muy smooth.   There was no harsh or bitter tannin taste whatsoever, which according to my last post, might be part of the reason the taste disappears so quickly.  That smooth, richness, however, is another way that tannins come out in wine and if a wine is “full bodied” that texture enables a nice lingering finish, too.   In this case, the taste falls off instead.  I haven’t nailed down “tannin science” obviously, but I’m working on it. The velvet feel could also be described as creamy– it’s a rich texture which you might say is the opposite of the feel you’d get from a fresh, crisp Sauvignon, for example.  That texture is something I would look for in the dead of winter (which it was in boston!) but would not be so satisfying in the middle of July.   You;ll definitely notice that there is no oakiness in this wine– good for some, but I like some wood… flavor.

I think the best way to enjoy this wine is actually not as a standalone but instead with some rich grub.  I think it would pair nicely with lamb, beef stew or rich cheese (think smelly, soft stuff).  It did not pair particularly well with our broth-based spicy soup– it didn’t have enough texture to balance and instead it paled severely in comparison to the spice of the soup.  I think serving this with something rich is the way to bring out those flavors and help the flavor last a little longer.

Overall, it’s got some great, bold flavors which makes it similar to other Spanish wines which are known for their spice.  This one is quite smooth, however, which is something I think tends to be lacking in many Spanish wines.  It is certainly worth it price point, which is around $14.  But make sure to serve it with something that brings OUT its flavors instead of muting them.

And for some fun:

Referenced vocab: Rioja, Tempranillo, Velvet, Body, Smooth, Texture, Sauvignon Blanc, Chianti

2 Responses to “Marques de Caceres Rioja!”

  1. SaintStephen2 Says:

    I drink this wine all the time because it’s a pretty solid bottle considering the price. I also love Rioja in general. Agree with you on the velvety texture, but I think it finishes a bit stronger than you say.

  2. I agree, this wine is available everywhere but is the gold standard for Rioja. I think this winery likes French oak vs. the American oak most Spanish wineries use. Caceres is always subtle and sophisticated.

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