Fincas de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 2001
This week back to Rioja, and a relatively young wine in the shape of this Reserva from Fernando Remírez de Ganuza. Originally from Navarra, a region which abuts the vineyards of Rioja, Fernando has since settled in Samaniego, a town in the Basque Álava region which lies at the northern edge of Rioja. Here we are in the Rioja Alavesa, the smallest of the three subdivisions of the Rioja vineyard, separated from the majority of Rioja’s vines by the River Ebro which flows through nearby Logroño. To the west of this town, south of the river, are the vines of the Rioja Alta, the region some might consider the heartland of Rioja, as this is where many of the most ancient bodegas have their original offices in the town of Haro. To the east of Logroño is the Rioja Baja, an extensive region with a more Mediterranean climate than Alta and Alavesa, and thus with less rain, putting the wines at an increased risk of summer drought.
Fernando Remírez de Ganuza established his winery in 1989, and today he has about 60 hectares of vineyards around the towns of Samaniego, Leza, Elciego and Laguardia. The vines are dominated by Tempranillo which accounts for 90%, with just 10% Graciano completing the picture. There seems to be some attention to quality in the vineyard and winery, with a manual harvest followed by a hand-sorting. Unusually, the bunches are each divided into two, with the upper portions fermented in the traditional manner, but the lower sections undergoing carbonic maceration. This reflects a belief held by Remírez that the upper grapes have a different level of maturity to the lower parts. The fruit is fermented in conical stainless steel vats with temperature control, and then pressed in a pneumatic fashion, using a water-filled sack, a process known locally as trasnocho. This is followed by malolactic fermentation in oak, using a mix of French and American barrels.
At the end of it all there is some potential for confusion, thanks to slightly spurious labelling. The flagship wine is the Remírez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva (although in the USA the Reserva designation appears to have been dropped), which bears a yellow label, and has been anointed with high points from American critics. But here we have a different wine, also a Rioja Reserva, but distinguished from the estate’s top wine by the Fincas de Ganuza designation. In this case it is the 2001, an excellent vintage for the region and one I have been looking out for recently.
The wine has a deeply coloured although vibrant appearance, with a dark red-black hue. Lots of sweet, honey-tinged new oak on the nose, which at first swamps the blackberry liqueur fruit. Quite cool on entry, although there is plenty of firm, alcohol-fuelled substance here. A huge amount of fruit-sweetness and texture, although dry and with a ripe grip underneath, and also some good acidity. Impressive stuff, painfully youthful at first, rather turbulent and powerful, but this clearly has good potential. Returning to it the following day it showed much more harmony, a better integration of flavour, and best of all some appealing, composed, savoury depth. Nevertheless I think it would be wise to leave these bottles in the cellar for sometime; I find it difficult, however, to predict for how long. 17+/20 (13/10/08)