Remírez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva

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Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 1

While the previous wine review looked at the history and flavor profile of classic Rioja through Bodegas Faustino’s Gran Reserva, it’s time to look at the other side of the coin.

Fernándo Remírez de Ganuza is one of modern Rioja’s most revered names.  Having worked as a vineyard broker in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ganuza gained firsthand knowledge of Rioja’s most sought-after plots.  He would use this expertise to set up his own single estate winery in 1989, quickly making a name for himself through innovative techniques that are now standard practice at many the region’s wineries.

Map of Spanish wine regions - Rioja

A Single Estate Winery in Rioja Alavesa

Ganuza would purchase six different plots, almost exclusively within the sub-region of Rioja Alavesa.  This area is not only the smallest of Rioja’s three sub-regions, it’s also the only one to be found in the Basque Country, rather than in the autonomous community of La Rioja itself.

The landscape is dominated by the rugged Cantabrian mountains, which separate the Rioja winelands from the harshest elements of the Cantabrian sea and the Atlantic Ocean.  Still, the gentler cooling effects from these bodies of water play an important role in maintaining the structure of the region’s wines.

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Fifty Year Old Vines

When choosing each plot, Ganuza made his selection based on local habitat, micro climate and orientation.  The average age of each vineyard was equally important: roughly 50 years across the board.  This is significant when you realize that from 20 years old, the yield of most vines starts to decline, causing many wineries to replace these poor performers with younger and more economically profitable examples.

This practice does indeed bring higher yields, but at a cost.  It’s well known that as a vine gets older, the yields may be lower, but the concentration is higher due to the increased skin-to-pulp ratio, as the berries become smaller over time.  This is matched by a more balanced structure as well, and the end result is a much more harmonious and complete wine.  This is immediately noticeable in Remírez de Ganuza’s Reserva, where the average vine age is even higher, reaching 60 years old.

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Separating Grape Bunches: Tips vs Shoulders

Of the many innovative techniques introduced at Remírez de Ganuza, the separating of grape bunches into tips and shoulders is one of the most well known.  Bunches that have passed the sorting table selection are divided into these two parts.

The shoulders – the upper part – are used for making the upper-tier wines, such as the Reserva reviewed here.  The tips – the lower part – are used for making younger carbonic maceration wines, in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau.  Why the separation?  Ganuza argues that grape maturity varies even between shoulders and tips, and that only the better-exposed, more mature shoulders were worthy of his Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.

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Remírez de Ganuza Reserva 2007 Tasting Notes

The makeup of Remírez de Ganuza’s 2007 Rioja Reserva hasn’t strayed too far from the classic profile: 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano, 5% Viura (the white grape also known as Macabeo).  This blend shows an appreciation for past times, when including the local white variety added acidity (crucial for ageing), and stabilized Tempranillo’s color and tannnins.

To enjoy this wine, you need to decant it.  It starts off quite closed and will disappoint the impatient wine drinker.  Give it time and you’ll be rewarded with ripe red cherries, pungent spice (black pepper), and notes from bottle age such as fresh tobacco, wet leaves, and dry earth.  Its firm tannins add body and grip without being too assertive, while the warming 14% alcohol is kept in check by bright acidity and ripe fruit.

The oak is extremely well-integrated.  It’s almost imperceptible, with just a soft touch of vanilla and toast, accomplished in part by first carrying out malolactic fermentation in new barrels before maturation: 22 months in 80% French and 20% American oak.

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Although the wine is decidedly modern Rioja in style, with the expected added weight and texture, it’s not the full-throttle you might predict from its price point.  What a relief, as so many premium priced wines are often too ambitious in their goal of justifying their price tag.

In short, this is an incredible Rioja Reserva with great concentration and length, to be drunk slowly over a long evening with friends.

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Where to find Remírez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva in Madrid

Remírez de Ganuza’s 2007 Rioja Reserva typically retails 50€ a bottle.

In central Madrid, you can find it at the following shops:

  • Mariano Madrueño – A delectable century-old wine shop convenient for those near Puerta del Sol or Gran Vía. Open 10am-2pm and 5:30pm to 8:30pm Monday to Saturday – Calle Postigo de San Martín 3 – Tel. 917524880 – Metros Callao (Lines #3, #5), Sol (Line #1, #2, #3).
  • Casa Gonzalez – One of my favorite wine bars in Madrid, which also serves as a wine shop.  Found in the heart of Madrid’s literary quarter, Casa Gonzalez offers a small but well-chosen selection of wines, many of which are sold by the glass, allowing you to try before you buy.  Open daily, 9:30am to 12am Monday to Thursday, 9:30am to 1am Friday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm on Sunday – Calle León 12 – Tel. 914295618 – Metros Anton Martin (Line #1), Sol (Lines #1, #2, #3), Sevilla (Line #2).
  • The department store giant El Corte Ingles has a supermarket and gourmet section that makes for one-stop shopping.  The lack of charm is offset by a wide selection and numerous locations, the two most convenient of which are the 9th Floor El Corte Ingles Gourmet Experience (with incredible views) in Plaza Callao 2 – Metro Callao (Lines #3, #5), as well as the basement level Gourmet Club supermarket on Calle Preciados 3 – Metro Sol (Line #1, #2, #3).  Open 10am to 10pm Monday to Sunday.

Last update: April 26, 2016

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Madrid Tours & Tastings

Madrid Tours & Tastings