Rioja is one of two wine regions with Spain's highest qualification level, DOC or DoCa
, the other region being Priorat. There is so much Rioja on the UK market and much of it over-priced, overly sweet and over-oaked because that became the trend from the turn of the century. But there is a danger of the DOC qualification being devalued.
There is now a new wave of winemakers fighting back against the commercial style of Rioja and Telmo Rodriguez is at the forefront; I had the good fortune to meet him in February 2016 and he told me that Rioja should not be a "recipe", that there is fortunately no longer one style of Rioja as modern winemakers like him focus on the fruit, the 'terroir' and more traditional methods. Telmo has been described by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate as "Rioja's number one Terroirist". In this Lanzaga wine Telmo chooses to blend the Tempranillo grape with some Graciano and Garnacha (Grenache); he grows the grapes bio-dynamically on traditional bush vines, hand picks the grapes, uses indigenous yeast and no chemicals.
The result is a lovely complex Rioja - a fruity wine with structure, elegance and a minerally freshness. It does need to breathe so decant and swirl in the glass to release the redcurrant, cherry and herbaceous nose with just a hint of oak. As Robert Parker's Wine Advocate describe it "...aromas that exude Burgundy-like purity". The flavours evolve as the wine opens up in the glass and include cherries, cranberries, blackcurrants, dark chocolate and spices. The body is medium to full but as the wine is not over-oaked and the tannins are not too drying there is a lovely lightness to it. There is a long, velvety finish. Whilst drinking very nicely now, this wine has the body, fruit and tannins to evolve further in the next few years. This is a top class Rioja.
Recommended to drink with game, duck, goose, steak and other red meats, poultry, cheese, charcuterie and paella
91 points Robert Parker Aug 2012
"The 2009 Lanzaga possesses outstanding clarity on the nose with mineral-rich red currant and Morello aromas that exude Burgundy-like purity. The bouquet is underpinned by a very focused, animated bouquet with a subtle herbaceous tincture that evolves with time. The palate is medium-bodied with fine, taut tannins lending it a rigid backbone. There is a slight chalkiness to the texture and it leads to a composed, stony, laconic finish that is very precise."
18 points Jancis Robinson Jul 2015
"Intensely dark crimson with black core. Smells immediately sweeter and riper and more intense than the LZ, with some oak sweetness. Very dark fruited and more spice too. Even with that extra fruit intensity there is still a graphite/mineral dimension. On the palate, the tannins are dense but somehow silky at the same time, giving a wonderfully dry finish, the same effect as 70% dark chocolate but with a different flavour. Still pretty closed up on the palate, dark and savoury and firmly mineral. Super-dry, long finish. So much more to come. Stunning wine. A little more luscious than the 2010 Alto Lanzaga."
“Spain is probably the most dynamic wine country in Europe right now, thanks to people like Rodriguez and Eguzkiza and a younger generation that is following their example. They want to prove that Spain is not just a source for value, but a land with incredible terroirs.”
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
“The current Telmo Rodriguez collection includes wine produced in eight different DOs, all of them fermented with native yeasts. The fact that quality ranges from excellent to outstanding is a tribute to his talent and attention to detail.”