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Bodegas Izadi Rioja Reserva 2008
Located in Rioja Alavesa, Izadi aims to produce wines that express the character of the varieties indigenous to Rioja: Viura, Malvasía, Garnacha, Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo. They own 72 hectares and have access to another 108 hectares through long term contracts. All are located in a triangle, hence this familiar shape on their labels, formed by the towns of Villabuena, Samaniego and Ábalos. Farming is sustainable with many organic practices. The average age of the vines is greater than fifty years old and the soils are a mix of sandy clays and clay limestone.
Stylistically they adhere to a middle ground between tradition and modernism in Rioja valuing the elegance of the former married to the fruit-forward qualities of the later. The Anton Family founded Izadi in 1987 after years of running vineyards in Villabuena de Alaba. The Antons also own a one star Michelin Restaurant (Zaldiaran) in the hamlet of Vitoria. Transformation of the winery happened in 1997, when Don Gonzalo Anton hired Mariano Garcia (wine maker for 30 years at Vega Sicilia). Together with Angel Ortega (winemaker for Izadi), they created what we now recognize as the Izadi style: robust yet refined, modern and elegant.
Highly regarded for distinctive and age-worthy red wines, Rioja is Spain’s most celebrated wine region. Made up of three different sub-regions of varying elevation: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Wines are typically a blend of fruit from all three, although single-zone wines are beginning to gain in popularity. Rioja Alta, at the highest elevation, is considered to be the source of the brightest, most elegant fruit, while grapes from the warmer and drier Rioja Baja produce wines with deep color and higher alcohol, which can add great body and richness to a blend.
Fresh and fruity Riojas labeled, Joven, (meaning young) see minimal aging before release, but more serious Rioja wines undergo multiple years in oak. Crianza and Reserva styles are aged around six months to one year in oak, and Gran Reserva at least two (plus three years in bottle), but in practice this maturation period is often quite a bit longer—up to about fifteen years.
Tempranillo provides the backbone of Rioja red wines, adding complex notes of red and black fruit, leather, toast and tobacco, while Garnacha supplies body. In smaller percentages, Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) often serve as “seasoning” with additional flavors and aromas. These same varieties are responsible for flavorful dry rosés.
White wines, typically balancing freshness with complexity, are made mostly from crisp, fresh Viura. Some whites are blends of Viura with aromatic Malvasia, and then barrel fermented and aged to make a more ample, richer style of white.
Notoriously food-friendly with soft tannins, modest alcohol, and bright acidity, Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is important throughout Spain as well as in Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz and is an important component of Port wines and the table wines of the Douro region that Port calls home. California, Washington, and Oregon have all had moderate success with Tempranillo, producing a riper, more fruit-forward style of wine.
In the Glass
Tempranillo is often aged in new oak for the integration of spicy, woodsy, and herbal flavors, often with hints of vanilla, coconut, and dill. The grape itself produces medium-weight reds with bright red and black fruit aromas and hints of spice, leather, and tobacco, with no shortage of flavor.
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity make it extremely food friendly, pairing with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew, or paella.
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a system is in place to indicate on the label how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release, which is helpful to the consumer trying to determine the style of an unfamiliar wine. Rioja can range from Joven (fresh, fruity, and unoaked) to Gran Reserva (complex and oxidized from extended barrel aging), with Crianza and Reserva in between.