Marques de Tomares' Rioja Blanco — The Perfect Winter White Wines
When one of us visited Rioja a few years ago, it was mystifying how little the winemakers spoke of vine age. In most wine regions, the top growers pride themselves on working the vines planted by their grandparents, or even great-grandparents. But when yields are prioritized over flavor concentration, old vines are ripped out regularly and replaced with young, highly vigorous vines.
Marques de Tomares, with holdings in prime Rioja Alta, isn’t concerned so much with high yields. Take the vines from which their Gran Reserva blanco originates. They range between 40 and a whopping 100 years of age, at elevations between 400 and 750m. It's difficult to overstate how precious the combination of old vines and high elevation is (not to mention skilled winemaking and sustainable farming).
Rioja Blanco is tragically under appreciated — it’s easily one of Spain’s most compelling styles of wine, regardless of color. Tomares offers two versions: one a crisp, easy drinking, lightly floral quaffer, and the other, a sophisticated, rich and earthy drink akin to white Burgundy or southern Italian whites like Falanghina or Fiano.
They’re both mostly Viura with a splash of Garnacha blanca. The Reserva is aged for 36 months in mostly French oak, then another 2 and a half years in bottle. Like most Gran Reservas, it's only made in the best of vintages (2016 is regarded as outstanding). It's a long, complex wine that holds its own against Rioja's most well known, age worthy whites, from powerhouses like López de Heredia. The straight Blanco is aged in a combination of stainless steel and oak barrels — 6 months in stainless steel, then 6 months in barrel.
Rioja Blanco is evergreen, but it’s a particularly delightful winter white, hearty and savory, and undeniably elegant. Whether you enjoy these wines with a warming winter meal (braised chicken, or a pot pie, perhaps), a simple cheese plate, or in a few years' time, you'll be glad you snapped up a bottle (or three).
Marques de Tomares, Rioja Blanco, 2018 $22.99
Very fresh with beautiful notes of lemon and flint, soft lactic qualities and smoke come through on the notes. Herbaceous and clean with delicate lees and oxidative qualities on the palate.
Marques de Tomares, Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco, 2016 $44.99
Apple and peach meet with a luxurious oak and vanilla richness in a wine that still shows off exquisite energy and brightness. We shy away from comparing this wine to other oak-aged wines (like white Burgundy), due in part to the Viura's unique herbal and savory qualities, and in part to the loooong aging, but the effect of the wood is similar — it imparts richness, longevity and a smooth, cohesive quality.
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