La Tercera Rioja Reserva

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From Spain’s most prestigious wine region comes the latest addition to our Direct-to-You portfolio. I’m pleased to introduce La Tercera Rioja Reserva ($25), a blend of ninety percent Tempranillo with five percent Garnacha and Graciano added for color, complexity and bouquet. The wine spends thirty months maturing in French oak and then another six months in bottle. Thirty-six months is the requisite aging time for a Rioja Tinto to be officially classified a “Reserva.”

While I’m on the topic, ever wonder what the words “Reserve”, “Reserva” or “Riserva” refer to on a wine label?  Well, for the majority of wines indicated as such world-wide, the term is simply a marketing tactic, and one that’s greatly overused in my opinion. What’s the distinction between a “Grand Reserve” or “Winemaker’s Reserve” and the same producers regular bottling?  The short answer is…maybe very little. To be fair, in many cases the reserve wine may be a better selection, a different cuvee or perhaps sourced from a specific vineyard etc. But to put a fine point on it, there isn’t a universal standard for the use of “reserve” in the industry, so its application varies greatly.

Now in some European countries it’s a little different. For example, in Spain the terms Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva stipulate a specific aging regimen, determined by the official governing body of each region, the Consejo Regulador.  Generally in Rioja, the Consejo mandates twenty-four months of required aging for any wine labelled as Crianza, thirty-six months for Reserva and a full five years for Gran Reserva bottlings.

It’s a similar practice in Italy’s as well, where the use of the word Riserva indicates additional aging of the wine.

Oddly, in South America, where both Reserva and Gran Reserva are seen on wine labels from producers in Chile and Argentina, there isn’t any aging requirement, which just adds to the confusion.

Anyway, I digress; back to our newest Rioja Reserva! La Tercera is not only comprised of Rioja’s three most important red grape varieties, the blend also features parcels from all three of Rioja’s designated sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  The current release now available is the 2010 vintage and it’s garnered a very respectable 93 point rating from the Wine Advocate.

In Rioja, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to see it paired it with succulent baby lamb chops, grilled over grapevine coals and served alongside a plate of roasted Piquillo peppers.

Jim Greeley, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine and spirits supervisor

Follow me on Twitter @ABCWineJimG

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