Wine Spectator: 90 ($17) “This lively red shows a good balance of tart cherry and smoky oak notes with leafy, licorice, and mineral accents. Shows more energy than weight, featuring light tannins and bright acidity. Focused and graceful. Drink now through 2020. 6,000 cases made.”
The red wines of Rioja, Spain are easy to appreciate and are among the better values today. The main grape is Tempranillo (character, backbone, and aging potential) with the frequent addition of small amounts of Garnacha (body), Graciano (aroma), and Mazuelo (seasoning flavors). Oak aging is required for all but the cheapest examples. The crianza designation requires a minimum of 12 months in barrel which adds an attractive oaky character and a velvety texture.
Bodegas Valdelacierva is located in the heart of the Rioja Alta (upper Rioja), the coolest and most prestigious part of the district. Founded in 1988, it draws from 80 hectares of vineyards under long-term contract with independent growers. Most of the vineyards are 25-40 years old on small plots of sandy loam and clay loam soil. The remainder are over 40 years old on larger, non-irrigated plots of alluvial soil close to rivers and full of pebbles. These soil characteristics help control humidity when the vines are under stress due to periodic water deprivation thus producing wines of great vigor, freshness, smoothness, and high quality once they have received some bottle age.
Valdelcierva Crianza is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes and aged in new and one-year American (70%) and French (30%) oak for 12 months. It is deep in color and surprisingly deep in flavor. Although the oak shows on the palate, that is part of the charm of a classic Rioja.