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La Rioja

This week we've got the the spotlight on Spain's most famous wine region: Rioja. Ostatu Rioja Blanco 2017 A blend of Viura (85%) and Malvasia (15%) from vines 30-80 years old, fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts and bottled without further aging, it is surprisingly complex for a wine that puts the emphasis on youthful freshness. Exuberantly fruity, there's an exotic side to this wine but overall it is light and refreshing. Notes of citrus, melon, stone fruits, bitter flowers and herbs are accompanied by a subtle creaminess (but there's no oak!) and minerality. It's almost got the profile of a classy un-oaked Chardonnay, but then it's got something all its own. Always one of the best deals around, it makes a mockery of so many pricey bottles. La Mateo Rioja 2017 Juicy and easy-drinking, this 100% Tempranillo is full of dark berry and plum flavors, with a great balance of sweet and tart fruit. From the Rioja Baja region, the warmest of the three Rioja sub-zones, the vines that provide the fruit for this wine benefit from 385 meters of altitude, where fresh breezes prolong the growing season, encouraging the development of rich flavors in the grapes. In 2017, a rather hot vintage, the vines really needed that relief and the wine shows it with a fresh and vibrant style. Luberri Rioja 'Seis' 2016 Named Seis for the six months it spends in small oak barrels, this wine shows just the right amount of oak spice to accompany its pristine and delectable fruit flavors. Giving hints of the flavors found in longer aged wines, the focus here is really on fruit. Notes of raspberry, blackberry, cherry and plums are intense and rich, while floral and spicy nuances provide counterpoint. Smooth tannins and fresh acids keep the flavors going through a long finish, with notes of minerals and spice lingering beautifully. Ostatu Rioja Reserva 2012 The norm in Rioja has long been American oak, but Ostatu bucks tradition by aging their wines in French oak barrels. We're fine with that. French oak tends to have a tighter grain and the effect on the wine can be much more subtle, imparting more spice than caramel, vanilla and coconut. Ostatu's 2012 Reserva is a dense and structured wine, with lots of dark fruit accompanied by notes of exotic spices, cigar box and leather. Finely grained but firm tannins demand food or aging. It changes a lot in the glass, so decanting or enjoying over several hours would be advised.

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