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Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1978

Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Rioja Gran Reserva 1978

Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva 1978With my Bordeaux wine guide soon to be completed I will have to think about which similar pages are next to be overhauled. One that I have often thought in need of an update, from perhaps the moment I wrote it, is my guide to Spanish wine. It presents a very traditional view of Spain, looking at the wines of Rioja and Jerez in most (although still limited) detail, with an appropriate nod towards Ribera del Duero. Other regions receive little more than a passing mention.

This leaves the guide looking quite sorry, because although it was perhaps appropriate to concentrate on Rioja when discussing Spanish wine one or two decades ago, today this is not the case. A number of other regions with less immediately recognisable names such as Toro, Jumilla, Priorat and Rias Baixas are now reportedly producing excellent wines which are worthy of our attention. This message crystallised a little more with last year’s review by Jay Miller, Robert Parker’s sidekick at The Wine Advocate, when he bestowed high scores on many of these wines, dishing out four 100-point scores and a wealth of 99s, 98s, 97s and 96s. It is easy to criticise such a seemingly liberal allocation of scores, and indeed many members of the Parker bulletin board did so. Nevertheless, whilst acknowledging that, it was clear that Miller found a large number of wines that really impressed him, and more pointedly many of these wines came from outside Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva 1978In the meantime the Spanish section of my cellar still features, rather like my wine guide, mainly Rioja and Sherry. This is unlikely to change even if my wine guide has to. And so, with Spain on my mind (and with a leg of lamb roasting over some hot coals in the garden), this week I pulled another bottle of Rioja from the cellar, the wine in question being the 1978 Monte Real Gran Reserva from Bodegas Riojanas. It has a surprisingly good colour once in the glass, showing some maturity, but with plenty of depth still. This would not appear to be a wine on the way down. This thought is supported by the findings on the nose, which still holds plenty of maturing and rather roasted fruit, with smoky, treacly notes on the side. Similarly there is good flesh on the palate, through the midpalate and towards the finish, accompanied by plenty of meat, good substance, even a little ripe tannin towards the end and a nice seam of acidity. There is a little length, spiced with that lingering, meaty fruit. Overall this is good, and it puts on an impressive show for a wine looking towards its 30th birthday. To be critical it perhaps lacks finesse, although it does have balance, and in addition I think for its age it seems short on complexity, holding little more than meaty fruit, nevertheless it has a venerable freshness and presence. Overall, this is good, not at all dried out, and the structure implies there is no rush to drink up. It will be interesting to see, in thirty years from now, how many of the wines of Toro and Priorat have performed over a similar stretch of time. 16.5+/20 (26/5/08)

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