By Mary Ewing-MulliganAug 14, 2007
Bodegas Roda, Rioja Reserva (Spain), 'Roda' 2003 (Kobrand, $38)
When I first got involved in wine, Rioja was fairly easy. The wines of only a few major producers, all tradition-minded, were available in the U.S. Some of them made two styles -- their soft, full-bodied 'Burgundian' style, and their leaner 'Bordeaux' style -- and of course some wines were reservas or gran reservas. But the complexities of the Rioja region in terms of terroir, grape blend and modern versus traditional styling were not yet hot issues.
Roda, a fairly new Rioja winery whose first wine was released only in 1996, in some way simplifies the complexities of Rioja today. It makes only three wines, for example -- two different styles of Rioja Reserva plus a richer limited-production wine that's released earlier -- and uses only native grape varieties, from vines that are more than 30 years old. But Roda is in some ways an enigma, just like Rioja itself.
The owners of Roda, who are Spanish importers, originally set out to make a single vineyard wine, but they realized that in a region whose climate varies so much from one end to another, such a specific-terroir wine would not be consistent from year to year. Instead, they identified the 17 best of their 28 vineyard plots, and each year they blend the grapes from those plots. Depending on their characteristics, the grapes make either a wine called Roda, or one called Roda 1 ($70).
'Roda' is, they say, more immediately attractive, easier to appreciate, and has red fruit character; Roda 1 is a more meditative wine, longer in oak, with black fruit character. (The color of the capsules on the bottles echoes the fruit character.) The third wine, Cirsion ($300), comes from selected vines whose grapes ripen their tannins unusually well on the vine; although the winery's most elite and powerful wine, it ages for a shorter period and is not bottled as a Reserva.
Of the three wines, I chose to review the wine called Roda because it is the lightest and least imposing of the three and the most affordable. In this vintage, the wine is 85 percent Tempranillo with 11 percent Graciano and 4 percent Garnacha.
One of its virtues is that for a 2003, from the infamous vintage that scorched Europe, it actually has freshness. The wine's salient characteristic, which you notice immediately when you meet the wine, is its softness. It is almost fleshy, but far less so than Roda 1: the soft texture here is fluid rather than dense. The wine's aromas and flavors suggest freshly tanned leather, a bit of tobacco, ripe red cherry, hints of blackberry, vanilla perfume and just a touch of spiciness - complex, for sure, but gracefully sedate. Fairly full-bodied, it has depth, concentration of flavor and fabulous length of expression across the palate. It is particularly captivating in a large Bordeaux-type glass.
For loyalists of traditional Rioja, these descriptors (especially 'fleshy') might smack of an overly modern style. However, this is not an 'international' wine with bright fruity flavors clothed in oak, but a subtle, complex wine. Roda's export director, Gonzalo Lainez, tackles the style issue by explaining: 'Some people say that we are the most traditional of the modern Rioja producers, and others say that we are the most modern of the traditional producers.'
Have it your way.
Origin: Wine Review Online