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La Rioja Alta is one of the grand old Rioja houses of Haro. Founded (and still owned) by four wine growing families in 1890, this is both a bastion of traditional Rioja and a benchmark against which other wineries in the region are measured.
Long aged in bottle and American oak, and treated to regular, careful hand racking between barrels, La Rioja Alta wines are classically styled: medium bodied, slightly oxidative and full of secondary characteristics.
The new wave of talented young winemakers in Rioja may be pushing site-specific, modern wines and labelling the more traditionally styled as industrially made. At La Rioja Alta however, nothing could be further from the truth. Every step in the process is handled in-house, with the utmost care and dedication. All the wines are made from estate-owned vineyards, which have been converted to organic viticulture. All the barrels used for ageing are made by in-house coopers. And all the winemaking, blending, sorting and ageing are done with the sole aim of producing the finest possible wine.
The result is a striking reminder – despite changing times – of just how good traditional Rioja can be.
They used the words subtlety, elegance, finesse, delicacy and silk to define the 2015 Gran Reserva 904 Selección Especial, a blend of 90% Tempranillo from their vineyards in Villalba, Briñas and Rodezno with 10% Graciano from the Montecillo vineyard in Fuenmayor that was picked 23 days later than the Tempranillo. The grapes were sorted optically for the first time, and they fermented in stainless steel where the wine went through malolactic too. The wine was put in barrel in January 2016—used American oak barrels built by their own coopers—where it matured for four years, during which time it was racked every six months.
2015 was a healthy vintage with balanced ripeness that delivered wines with good aging potential. They thought the wine needed a little more time in bottle to polish those tannins and have decided to hold it and release the wine around March 2023; it will be marked Selección Especial, the first 904 to do so, as they have very high hopes for this year and believe it's one of the finest vintages. They think it will develop the sophistication in the palate with a little more time and that is should achieve the silkiness that is the signature of 904. This is very 2015; I saw quite strong tannins in all the 2015 wines I tasted from Rioja Alta. There are some 150,000 bottles of this.