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touch

of

flavor,

color

and

acidity.

For

this

dish

we

tried

two Tempranillo wines, a 2005 Cantos de Valpiedra and a 2004 Palacios Remondo La Montesa Crianza. Here again the group was unanimous in its verdict that the Cantos de Valpiedra worked best with the dish because of its light and

fruity

character.

One

taster

felt

that

“the

wine

brought

all

the

flavors

of

the

dish

together.”

The

fruit

also

combined

well with the saltiness of the of good balance and depth

dish. The La Montesa is a wine but lacked the overt fruitiness

required by the dish.

Our fourth dish was also fish, a

spectacular and creative cod with smoked Idiazabal sauce, dried fruits and Pedro Ximenez reduction. Cooked briefly and combined with a cream of spinach, Idiazabal sauce, pine nuts and a PX reduction, this smooth and buttery

dish was truly paired with it:

decadent.

And so was the wonderful wine

a 2001 Montecillo Gran Reserva.

The tasters

couldn’t have been more this humble Gran Reserva

surprised and elated at how paired with the rich Bacalao.

well

Pairing Rioja wines with two meat dishes was our next

challenge. Cune 2001 Cañas 2004

We had three terrific Reservas to marry: a

Viña

Real, a Lan

Hiru

3 Racimos.

2004 Reserva and a Luis The first dish consisted of

tender lamb chops with a (grated cauliflower lightly appearance) and rosemary pork cheeks with oranges. for 7 hours in orange juice rosemary, roast onion and

wonderful cauliflower couscous sautéed and like couscous in sauce. The second was braised The cheeks were cooked initially with orange zest, chicken broth, leeks. They were then cooked

for

another

3

hours

without

the

juice

and

ended

up

being

simply

spectacular—with

melt

in

your

mouth

and rich flavor.

Of the three wines we tasted,

were essentially in agreement on the following:

tenderness our tasters the Hiru 3

Racimos

is a

ripe fruit

and

phenomenal wine, international in style with expensive oak, served up in an elegant style.

However,

it

was

most

impressive

on

its

own,

rather

than

as

a

food

wine.

The

Lan

Reserva

with

its

pure

ripe

fruit

and

earthy

qualities complemented Reserva with its soft very feel was a close second.

both dishes the best, but the Cune ripe sweet flavors and round mouth

We concluded our tasting with a palate cleansing fresh Loriñon Rioja sorbet which hit the spot and prepared us for the final cheese course with a very special treat—a

preview of on Sherry.

the upcoming International Wine Review report For this course we combined two cheeses: a

pungent Picon blue cheese and a soft an Alvear Pedro Ximenz “Solera 1927”

nutty

La Serena with

Our

tasters claimed

this dark amber colored sherry was “liquid raisins” outstanding nose of honey and sweet molasses and a

with an viscous

mouth feel perfectly balanced extraordinary tasting!!!!

and

a

fitting

conclusion

to

an

Let us know about your experiences pairing Rioja wines with food. Email us at info@i-winereview.com or post your comments on our blog.

11

The Market for Rioja

Ever since the French produced wine in Rioja to replace that lost in the phylloxera-infested vineyards of Bordeaux, exports have been important to Rioja but never more so than today. In 2007 Rioja exported 31 percent of its production [i.e., bottled wine of all types supplied to the market]. Rioja’s dependence on the export market has grown over time as per capita wine consumption in Spain has declined, although the share of total production exported has remained essentially unchanged over the past decade. The export market is particularly important when it comes to premium wines [reserva and gran reserva] which represent 31 percent of exports but only 14 percent of domestic consumption.

Two countries dominate the export market—the UK with a 37 percent share of total Rioja exports and Germany with a 17 percent share. The US has a minor share [8%] of the market, especially given its population. The devaluation of the dollar relative to the Euro poses a special challenge to marketing Rioja in the US. According to data generously provided to us by the Rioja Wine Exporters Association, Rioja exporters have on average adjusted to this to some extent by reducing their export prices [in Euros] to the US, but the rising US dollar price of a popular Rioja crianza like El Coto puts it at a new price point forcing it to compete with premium wines from elsewhere in the world. This, in turn, puts pressure on Rioja exporters to improve the quality of their products. But it also means that Rioja wines are unlikely to be competitive at the lower end of the market, where wines from Argentina, Chile, and other parts of Spain may offer better value.

Rioja exporters have adjusted to the weakness of the dollar in part by moving up-market. A recent American survey by the Rioja Wine Exporters Association shows, for example, that in New York 37 percent of the Rioja wine found on the shelves of major wine stores is priced above $40 per bottle. The hitherto small size of the American market also helps. Most Rioja wineries have had a limited presence in the US market, so there’s upside potential as more wineries begin aggressive marketing.

Aside from the falling dollar, another challenge facing producers wishing to increase US sales is the reputation of Rioja as being old-fashioned, light-bodied, and over- oaked. In the US market where consumers appear to prefer fruit forward, richly concentrated wines that reputation, however false it may be, is damaging. In this respect, the industry-wide promotion efforts like that of the VibrantRioja campaign targeted on changing the consumer’s impression

of Rioja would appear successful in their efforts

to to

be

spot

on.

However,

to

increase market share in the

be US,

Rioja producers need to in addition showcasing their wines in person.

be

more

assertive

about

In sum, despite the rising dollar price of Rioja wines in the US, the future in terms of both sales volume and quality appears bright, especially if the wineries and their industry associations, including the Consejo Regulador, continue and expand their ambitious marketing efforts.

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