years) located higher altitudes.
Abel Mendoza at work Photo: Miguel Reinares
Yields in these vineyards are often very low, resulting in rich wines of special character. New Wave producers often claim that they make their wine in the vineyard.
In the winery, New Wave producers use a considerably higher proportion of French than American oak as well as a relatively high percentage of new oak. The rich, ripe fruit easily absorbs new oak without acquiring the overtly wood flavors of Classical Rioja. The wines are also aged a shorter time than Classical Rioja. New Wave Rioja producers do not use the DOCa classification, but, if they did, the short aging time would mean some of Rioja’s most highly sought after (and expensive) wines would have to be sold as crianzas. Many of these wines are world class while retaining the authenticity of Rioja.
If young wine drinkers find some Classical Rioja challenging, they would find New Wave Rioja more familiar. The wines are generally fruit forward in character, and reveal
concentrated, pure Tempranillo flavors (raspberry, black cherry,
and other fruit aromas plum, even cranberry)
always found in Classical Rioja use of new French oak, which
wines. can be
wines, in general New Wave wines with round tannins.
Despite the abundant noticeable in younger
The success of the pioneer producers of New Wave Rioja has, of course, led to many more traditional wineries adding New Wave bottlings to their Classical Rioja line. These new wines are distinguished by the absence of the traditional DOC classification. Many of these new wines from traditional wineries also carefully select fruit and use a high percentage of French oak in aging. Several of these wines are reported in the tasting notes that follow.
While white wines are only a small percentage of total wine production in Rioja, their evolution parallels that of red wines. Most Rioja whites are made of Viura, often blended with a small amount of Malvasia Classical whites are given extensive aging in oak and have somewhat oxidized flavors of dried fruit. The Viña Tondonia of Lopez de Heredia is an excellent example of the Classical White of Rioja. This delicious wine may not be to everyone’s taste, but few would question its quality and authenticity.
New Wave whites differ from Classical whites in their freshness and dominance of fruit over oak flavors. However, some New Wave producers like to craft oak-aged Viura. In addition, a few producers are experimenting with new
varietals. Abel Mendoza leads this effort with his varietal offerings of Garnacha Blanc, Malvasia and
Another example of Blanco, an exotic blend
a New Wave white is Remelluri’s of Viognier, Chardonnay, Roussane,
Regulador, but its success both that perhaps relaxing DOCa greater commercial success for
in quality and sales regulations could Rioja whites.
suggests lead to
Pairing Rioja Wine with Food : A Tasting at Jaleo Restaurant
Photo: Jaleo Chef Ramon Martinez
Traditionally, wine was produced in Rioja as a beverage to accompany meals, and that tradition continues today. The dry minerality of Rioja’s whites and the complex earthiness of its reds beg to be combined with the traditional cuisine of Spain. Rioja wines also combine well with the modern dishes coming from the Rioja kitchen. The International Wine Review recently joined the management and staff of one of Washington’s premier Spanish restaurants, Jaleo, to match Rioja wines to Chef Ramon Martinez’ innovative cuisine.
The first dish of our tasting was a wonderful summer salad combining watermelon slices, with diced tomato, crumbled goat cheese and pistachios topped with fresh thyme and a PX reduction. We paired that dish with two rosados: a 2007 Conde Valdemar and a 2007 Coto Rosado. The consensus of the group was that the Conde Valdemar with its up front fruitiness was the better of the two wines for this dish. However, everyone liked the Coto Rosado for its salmon color, perfumed nose, and dry minerality. For our second dish, which consisted of raw thinly-sliced scallops (Vieras crudas) with almonds, oranges and thin shreds of green onion, we had the opportunity to assess which of two vintages of a Cune Monopole, a lovely white Viura, went best with the dish. After trying the 2006 and 2007 vintages, we again were in complete agreement that the most current vintage with its bright crispy character went best with the sweetness and acidity of this dish. But we also learned that a year of aging can bring out interesting flavors and richness in a Viura and, by itself, the 2006 was a more appealing wine.
We shifted our attention to red wines with the third dish, a magnificent monkfish with tomato, piquillo pepper, tomato confit, and black olive paste. This dish is an adaptation of the Catalan monkfish stew, a hearty winter dish, usually cooked for a long time in the oven. Our dish was a lighter version of the classic. The fish was very briefly cooked and even left a bit raw in the middle. The potato, a fingerling, was gently fried in oil. And the piquillo provided a wonderful