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Wines From Rioja Alta

I've been a fan of the wines of Rioja for several decades now. A few years ago, I was turned on to a wine I'm told is from the Rioja Alta, Viña Alberdi Reserva. First vintage was 2010 and now I have been able to get a case of the 2014. While I know that the Rioja region is divided into Rioja Baja, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta, I can't remember ever seeing those designations on a label. I understand many wines will be blended from vineyards in more than 1 of those districts, but can you point me towards some good selections entirely from the Rioja Alta or Rioja Alevesa? I'd just like to try a few and learn more about the regional differences between them.
Answer From Expert Roger Bohmrich MW

You've touched on an area of personal interest as I have long appreciated Rioja wines and was involved for years with importing and marketing several well-known labels. You are right in saying that Rioja has been known as a blended wine, meaning both grape varieties and, typically, zones within the denomination. A bodega has a great deal of freedom to source grapes and, when using fruit from multiple zones, could not legitimately claim that a wine is entirely from Alta, Alavesa or Oriental (the new name for Baja). Still, there are wineries who utilize only their own estate or even single vineyards (vinedos singulares), more than 80 of which have recently been recognized. To do a comparative tasting, you might search out Baron de Ley Reserva from their Mendavia vineyard in Oriental or Real Agrado's Canterabuey (Rioja's first single vineyard, pure Garnacha); Cata de Consejero or San Vicente from Alta; Remelluri, Ysios or Conde de Hervias from Alavesa. It may not be easy to find all these wines, and I think you may discover that they express a desired style as much, if not more, than a zone of origin, provided that you can be sure of exact sourcing. That will take some careful research. But a selection of these wines should make for an enjoyable and very interesting tasting!

About Our Expert

Roger has enjoyed a lengthy career in the wine trade as an importer and retailer, and at present he is an educator, speaker and consultant. He set up and managed Millesima USA, a New York merchant affiliated with a leading European company. Previously, he served as senior executive of importers Frederick Wildman & Sons. In recent years, Roger has judged wine competitions in Argentina, Turkey, Portugal, China and the U.S. Roger is one of America's first Masters of Wine.

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