Wine Review: 2007 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva

2 10 2013

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

I heart traditional Rioja.

I heart traditional Rioja.

The closest I’ve ever come to having a wine from my birth vintage (1980, by all accounts an absolutely terrible vintage everywhere, which explains why I can’t find any) was a bottle of 1981 Bodegas Montecillo Gran Reserva from Spain’s famed Rioja region, a bottle that I randomly stumbled upon with a friend at Co-op Crowfoot.  His birth year was 1982, so we decided that we’d split the difference and share the wine.  Montecillo is primarily a value-based producer whose wines steer clear from the ultra-expensive, but despite its non-insane price tag the 1981 was still gracefully present 32 years later, a shade past its peak consumption window but still a tremendously enjoyable drinking experience.  This longevity is partly due to Rioja’s traditional winemaking style and lengthy legally mandated aging periods:  for all wines designated as Gran Reservas, minimum 2 years aging in oak barrels and 5 years total aging is required before bottle release, and for Reservas, minimum 1 year oak aging and 3 years total aging is required.  This maturation process leaves the young wines exposed to air and leads to some flavour integration with the barrels themselves, resulting in finished wines that forego primary fruit flavours in favour of oak- and oxygen-induced secondary characteristics and complexity and that often have extraordinary staying power in the bottle.  While almost all wines are not meant to age, and while that maxim usually applies even more broadly to inexpensive wines, some traditional Rioja can be found on the shelves for bargain prices and can last for ages.

Case in point:  this more current release of Bodegas Montecillo’s Rioja, the 2007 Reserva, which can be found locally for less than $20.  Already 6 years old, this 100% Tempranillo could probably go another 5-7 years without too much difficulty, although there’s no particular reason to wait on drinking it — one benefit of Rioja’s pre-aging requirements is that wines tend to be generally in a good drinkable state upon release.  The ’07 Reserva showed a hint of its maturity as soon as it hit the glass, fading from medium ruby to a clear garnet at the rim.  While more modern styles of Tempranillo tend to be fairly dark and inky in colour, this one was translucent throughout, suggestive of a more elegant and restrained winemaking touch.  The nose on the wine was worth the price of admission by itself and was the star of the show, a soft and smoky combination of violets, cinnamon, incense, cedar, raspberry and leather gently caressing the senses, an open and almost feminine take on classic Rioja.  There was something silky and sultry about the mix of aromas that kept luring me back to the mysteries in the glass.

Cork Rating:  5/10 (About the most average cork possible.  Just kind of...there.)

Cork Rating: 5/10 (About the most average cork possible. Just kind of…there.)

I was snapped out of my olfactory reverie and pulled back to my surroundings thanks to the dense earthy notes and a sharp iron streak which grounded an otherwise smooth, velvety set of flavours on the palate.  This starker, muddier, metallic side of the wine lent some needed austerity and backbone to a mellower flavour profile that seamlessly melded fruit (baked cherry, black raspberry, rhubarb) with an array of secondary elements pulled primarily from barrel age (tobacco, mesquite, smoke, peppery spice, even permanent marker).  Despite being fairly rounded, the oak-enhanced tannins felt just a touch too prominent and led to a slight bitterness on the finish, but this may have been the result of my mostly drinking this wine on its own:  when matched with food, both of these minor issues would likely dissipate.

There is not a lot to complain about here for a bottle hovering under the $20 mark, and there are very few wines at this price point offering comparable layers of flavour and complexity.  I have often called Spain the value wine capital of the world, but when I’ve done so I’m usually referring to the deals available on bottles from its lesser known areas like Jumilla or Carinena; the fact that Rioja, the star region of the country, can offer similar bargains is remarkable.  The Montecillo Reserva faithly features everything that makes traditional-style Rioja great, making it an excellent introduction to the delicate majesty of this region’s wines.

88 points

$15 to $20 CDN

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5 responses

26 12 2013
Kemal

Cheers from Turkey ;

I remembered that i couldn’t image the price of a bottle of wines in Spain while i was travelling barcelone. as you mentioned here you are right.. i can simply say that Spain has a best value for your mine wines.

2 years oak barrel aged wines for under 5 Euro 🙂 Spain ! you gotta be kidding with me….

Peter:) i congratulate you for a fantastic review you did here…

Keep reviewing on pursuit of finding the best harmony

Cheers

Kemo

1 01 2014
petervetsch

Thanks Kemo, much appreciated!

1 01 2014
Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward

Now I must find this wine to try. It sounds like it is a great price point for such depth of flavor. I love a traditional Rioja that is made as it should be. 🙂 Best – Shanna

1 01 2014
petervetsch

The best thing about Rioja nowadays is that much of it has somehow become super value-priced. Being able to get more mature versions of traditional wines from a landmark region for less than $20 is a huge treat. Cheers!

1 01 2014
Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward

Oh, I completely agree, Peter. Rioja was the first wine I tried (and it was in Spain!). It has continued to increase in price since, much to my displeasure. Cheers to you! Happy New Year! I should say “Salud,” actually. 😉 – Shanna

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