Feb 14, 2020
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Rioja Gran Reserva, a Wine Beginning to Be Shaped by Time

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The 2010 Monte Real, the youngest of the three wines, was 100 percent tempranillo. It was medium-bodied and not particularly concentrated, though its spicy, herbal flavors lingered in the mouth, as did its tannins. I liked its grace, and imagine it will develop complexity, but it did not strike me as a wine that would improve for decades.

How long might a Monte Real evolve? At a tasting of many old Monte Reals last year, bottles from 1942, 1955 and 1964 were absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think the 2010 will make it that far.

The 2009 La Rioja Alta 904, 90 percent tempranillo and 10 percent graciano, was likewise spicy and herbal, with a soft fruit flavor, yet it had more concentration, complexity and intensity, with an underlying earthiness. This was a lovely wine now, but I think it will get much more interesting over the next 20 years.

The 2006 Faustino I — 86 percent tempranillo, 9 percent graciano and 5 percent mazuelo — was the oldest of the three. Judging by the color of the wine, just beginning to fade around the edges from ruby to brick, it was, not surprisingly, the most evolved.

Its tannins were still wound up, but the aroma was getting interesting, spicy with dried flowers and balsam. On the palate, it had the mellow fruit-and-oak combination I love, with a tobacco, mineral component as well.

I have to say, the opaque, frosted Faustino I bottle with the Rembrandt label is kind of strange. “Timeless Icon,” the label reads, which seems a little egotistic for an understated wine. Further down is a motto, “Tradition Is Not Inherited, It Is Conquered,” which seems like the sort of nonsense a pro wrestler would scream: “Can you smell what Faustino I is cooking?”

I decanted each of these wines and drank them over the prolonged course of four days, just to see what would happen. They all improved, a further indication that these were still young, sturdy wines. Readers who likewise decanted, even if they did not follow the wines for as long, also saw improvement.

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