By Celia Strong
Good news, for sure. Over the years, we’ve all had wines that we liked to drink just go away. One day they’re on the shelf, next day they’re gone. For some reason, that makes no sense to us, a wine is not available anymore? Really? One of the great traumas for us wine drinkers. Sometimes, though, some of these wines reappear. Through the logistics of the wine business, we can get another chance to enjoy them. This week we get one of these wines back.
Our “returned” wine is a red Rioja. A region we have just recently had a rosé from. Remember? It is their red wines, though, that make Rioja one of the great wine regions of the world. (Maybe, this week’s wine will prove that?) This region is located in northern Spain, and, basically, runs 60 miles along the Ebro River, between the towns of Haro and Alfaro. The region has more than 150,000 acres growing vines, and produces over 66 million gallons of wine every year. The soil is clay based with high levels of chalk and iron. Eighty-five percent of Rioja wines are red, made mostly from Tempranillo and small amounts of Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo. (Some estates have special permission to use small percentages of Cabernet also.) Red Riojas are sold in several “levels,” based on the aging of the wine before it is sold. “Joven” are young wines, get little or no barrel aging and are meant to be drunk within two years. Rioja Crianza wines are aged one year in a barrel and one year in their bottle. Before they can be released from the winery. Rioja Reserva are aged one year in barrels and at least two years in bottles. Rioja Gran Reserva gets two years in barrels and three in their bottles. Of course, as a wine gets more aging, the cost to us increases.
The barrel aging is an important part of what makes a Rioja what it is. American oak is more popular. But, many wineries use a combination of American and French. The higher the level of the wine, the more the producers are likely to use new oak. It is the new, “virgin,” oak that gives the wines some of their distinctive flavors. Coconut, vanilla and sweet spices. Yum!
A few more pieces of information about Rioja? The wines from this region date back to the time of the Roman Empire, like in many other areas of Europe. At the end of the 19th century, when phylloxera infected the vineyards of France, wine producers and merchants went south, into Spain, to find more vineyards and wines. They brought with them, especially from Bordeaux, the idea of using wine barrels to age the wines. And to add flavors and textures to the wines. All at the same time. Now, the barrel is an integral part of Rioja production. The region was the first to be awarded DO status under Spanish wine laws. And, the first to receive the higher DOCa.
On to our wine now. El Coto de Rioja Coto de Imaz Reserva. Phew! What a mouth full. But, our wine deserves it. And lives up to it. El Coto (Officially, the full name of our winery is El Coto de Rioja.) was founded in 1970, by a group of experienced winemakers. They wanted to produce a new type of Rioja. Today, they are considered one of the very top producers in the region. El Coto owns about 1,200 acres of vineyards. The vineyards face northwest and the soils are ferric clay with sand and limestone. Soils types that give the wines structure, power and an elegant minerality. They also purchase some grapes that are grown on limestone, clay and stony soils. These grapes add aromatics and finesse to the wines. The Coto de Imaz is made from one hundred percent Tempranillo. It is a bright, ruby-red color. It has red berry and cherry aromas and smoky vanilla. The flavors are red cherry, raspberries, cassis, pipe tobacco, rose oil, green olives, vanilla and toasted coconut. The texture of this wine is the best part, though. It’s supple and juicy in your mouth. It spreads across your tongue, and lingers with its flavors. All the flavors and textures come together with a great concentration. A good example of what Tempranillo can be. So, aren’t we really lucky it’s come back to us? Returned to the fold. At a lower price, too. For $19.99. Enjoy.