Saturday, 25 December 2010

White Rioja, red Navarra, foie gras de canard and Wensleydale cheese

I know, I know - it's Christmas Day, and I should be doing other things, rather than blogging. Then again, the bulk of this was written last night, so publishing it is really just a five-minute job - and these wines (together with some amazing foie gras given to us by my cousin Fabrice and his lovely wife Sandrine) deserve mention, as they provided us with a wonderfully hedonistic Christmas Eve supper................

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia S.A. Viña Gravonia Crianza Blanco 1999 Rioja
Yes, it's a long name, but well worth the effort in typing it out in full - respect, where it is due, say I. Experience has told me that Lopez de Heredia is almost certainly the greatest jewel in the Rioja crown, not to mention the last bastion of what I like to call "traditional" Rioja. Because whatever the colour (red, white or rosé - honestly, I mean it!) or whatever the style (from Crianza to Gran Reserva) the wines are uniformly brilliant - and usually released only when they are considered ready to drink, or at least approachable. And this little beauty, a mere slip of a youngster at just 11 years of age, is a fine example of the Lopez de Heredia style. A wonderfully deep gold colour, with orange glints, and a gloriously complex nose of cider apples/Calvados mingled with lemon and orange peel, aromatic herbs and spices, polished old shoe leather, tobacco and oak vanillin - at a guess, older American oak barrel vanillin. The style is very definitely oxidative, but in a mellow citrus and apple skin way - almost like a fino sherry, but without the saltiness and with far more fruit. And the palate too is full of tangy, herby, secondary fruit flavours, which manage to both caress and refresh the palate, with just a touch of richness, allied to mouth-watering, zesty-fruity acidity and a finish that is both fresh and long. The more I sip it, the more complex it seems. It may not be profound, but it certainly has many facets, and really does press all the right buttons for me at this moment in time. Actually, in its own way, it is profound, because it will probably turn out to be one of those bottles that lingers in the memory for a long time - a classic case of the right wine, at the right time and in the right place.

Emilio Valerio Laderas de Montejurra 2009 Navarra
This was a recent "wine of the week" on, so I was keen to give it a try and see what I thought for myself. Unlike the white Gravonia, this is all about young, vibrant, crunchy fruit. The colour is a deep, dark, virtually opaque blood red, with a tiny rim. The nose offers a huge waft of just-fermented bramble and plum skin fruit aromas - tarry, almost yeasty, with a rasp of fresh acidity and a vitality which fairly leaps out of the glass. I'm not sure what the grape mix is (I'll need to  look it up) but if I were tasting this blind, I would swear it was a youthful Cotes du Rhone, or even something more serious (i.e. seriously fruity) and substantial from the Languedoc. In fact, it bears a striking similarity to the Les Vignes de l'Arque Vin de Pays Duché d'Uzes that I wrote about a couple of weeks back, with its intense core of fruit and subtle savouriness. Although very young, and with a coating of slightly grainy tannins, it is is already dangerously drinkable, even on its own, although I suspect it may go nicely with the cheese and foie gras we plan to have for supper. Lovely stuff!

Later......... Both of these wines performed admirably with the foie gras and Wensleydale cheese. Although it has to be said that the Gravonia won hands-down. In fact, I'd go as far as saying it was the perfect match - utterly wonderful stuff.


Vinogirl said...

I need a cousin like Fabrice!
A belated Happy Christmas to you.

Leon Stolarski said...

Thanks, Vinogirl - and a happy Christmas to you, too. I love reading your blog, and look forward to lots more great posts in 2011.

By the way, Fabrice is a Gendarme, currently based in Antibes. We visited them in June, and he Sandrine served some foie gras whilst we were there. I remarked that it was (by far) the best tinned foie gras I had ever tasted. She said it was made by a friend of hers in Saint Girons, just north of the Pyrenées, where Fabrice was previously posted. Not for commercial purposes, though - just enough for family and friends. I was thrilled when Sandrine presented us with a tin, as we left. A wonderful gesture. :-)

Warren EDWARDES said...

The white Rioja looks stunning. I am not keen on the modern white Riojas.