Arguably Spain's most famous wine region, located in the North end of the country. The Cantabrian mountains shelter the region from cool and wet weather from the Atlantic making the area quite warm and dry. The region is a predominantly red region. In addition to Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) are also used in red wines. All top-end red Rioja is matured in new oak barrels; American oak is the preference, but many wineries use a mix of American and French oak. This contact with new oak is what gives Rioja wines their distinctive notes of coconut, vanilla and sweet spices. The region itself is divided into three sub-regions based on climate and soil types. Rioja Alavesa is the furthest North, has the highest rainfall and has mostly clay soils. Wines from this area are considered to be the lightest and most elegant. Rioja Alto is warmer and drier with iron-rich clay soils, and produces Tempranillo with more body and structure than Alavesa. Further down the Ebro river is the Rioja Baja, which is the hottest and driest of the subregions and which has more alluvial soils. Garnacha is able to ripen well in this region, and the grape tends to dominate plantings here.
Viña Pomal Crianza is the flagship wine of Bodegas Bilbaínas, one of Rioja’s oldest estates, and has now been produced for over 100 years. The winery had a bottling plant near London’s Charing Cross in the 1940’s, and Viña Pomal was reputed to be a favourite of Winston Churchill. The wine is ruby with violet hues, while the nose is intense, dominated by floral and fruity aromas (black fruit) with notes of liquorice, vanilla and toasted flavours. The palate is balanced, soft and fresh. Shows good structure and soft tannins.
In the glass the wine is a deep cherry red with bricky hues at the rim. The bouquet displays rich and complex aromas of black cherry, plum, coffee, dark chocolate and vanilla, interwoven with a mellow earthiness. The impression in the mouth is soft and velvety as the extended aging of this Rioja Reserva presents a well matured tannic structure that leads to a long and lingering finish. A delicious wine for a cold winter’s evening.
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