Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wine Review: Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” (2004)

Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” (2004) Review:
Price: £30 per bottle
Availability: Independent merchants (limited)

Bodegas Valdemar is a family-run winery that has been making wine in the Rioja region of Northern Spain since 1889. With over 100 years of experience to build upon, Jesús Martínez Bujanda, the current owner, started construction of a new state of the art winery for Bodegas Valdemar in 1982 and it is from this winery that every one of Bodegas Valdemar’s wines hail today. With a fierce dedication to innovation, technology and quality, Bodegas Valdemar has become a well known name in the region. Unlike some larger wineries, Bodegas Valdemar has resisted the temptation to increase production by purchasing grapes from vineyards not owned by the Bodega, instead preferring to control every step of it’s wines gestation from soil to glass.

This level of control and dedication directly led to the creation of the Valdemar “Inspiración” range of wines. Created only from the grapes harvested from the very best blocks in Bodegas Valdemar’s vineyards (blocks that could only have been identified by years of study and recognition of quality) the wines within the Valdemar “Inspiración” range are Bodegas Valdemar’s signature offerings, the ultimate expression of what the Bodegas Valdemar vineyards can offer.

Located on something of a plateau (mostly around 450 metres above sea level), sheltered from the harsh winds that often whip across Northern Spain by the Cantabrian Mountains, Rioja experiences a continental climate. Generally hot throughout the summer (although with a significant drop in temperature at night) there are nevertheless significant difference in microclimates across the region. Those wineries situated closest to the Cantabrian Mountains see a cooler climate, with moderately more precipitation, whilst vineyards situated towards the south-east of Rioja see warmer and drier conditions. This is why the experience of more than 100 years of winemaking is so crucial in this part of the world.

Traditionally at least 60% Tempranillo, with Garnacha and Mazuelo common blending components in Rioja, this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes are hand harvested, before being refrigerated for a short period prior to crushing. After fermentation this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” receives 16 months in new French oak barrels prior to bottling and release.

The bottle itself is a weighty monolith of a thing, being as it is taller than average, thicker than average and significantly heavier. Tall-shouldered, the bottle is adorned with an elegant front label and a rear label written solely in Spanish. Production of this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is limited - in 2004 just 12,645 bottles were produced. This bottle was number 3280 of that production run. The foil is very thick and inscribed “Inspiración – Valdemar”. The cork is real and of exceptional quality. Tightly grained, there is no doubt that this is a bottle that could withstand a substantial period of cellaring should one choose to set a few bottles aside. The overall impression is one of quality and that no expense has been spared (certainly on the packaging).

In the glass, this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is a deep garnet with a hint of tawny at the rim. A modern style of Rioja, with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon included in the blend and 16 months aging in new oak, this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is a little more intense than much Rioja in glass, likely a result of the dark skinned Cabernet’s influence. This richness also makes it easy to see the legs of the wine when swirled, something which reveals an alcohol content of 14% abv.

On the nose, restrained but ripe dark berry fruits lead. Evolving with further exposure to air, a slightly smoky whiff of cherry wafts from the glass along with hints of tar and also vanilla. Tasting notes of this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” when younger indicate a pronounced spice to the aromas, drinking now this has become a slight, but lifted note of white pepper amongst the tar and vanilla at most.

In the mouth, this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is medium to full-bodied, soft and long lasting. A smooth conveyor of darker fruit notes (blackberry, a hint of mulberry, a little plum) glide past your tastebuds carried on layer of smooth and ripe dark cherry. A note of tar persists, along with a sense of cedar and vanilla. Whereas the Graciano component of this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” perhaps held most influence on the nose, in the mouth it is certainly the Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to the fore. Neither as overt nor overpowering as when it is used in some other Spanish wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon adds body and a depth of fruit to the palate of this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” without taking over or drowning out the other components.

In summary, this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is an excellent wine. Those who love richer, more alcoholic and thoroughly less subtle offerings from Spain such as Monastrell from Yecla, or Priorat from Catalonia may feel a little underwhelmed, however the level of refinement and class in this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” is second to none. Often high quality Spanish wine translates to high levels of oak aging, here by stepping outside the traditional grading of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, Bodegas Valdemar have produced a wine which is perhaps less traditionally Spanish in flavour, but one that allows the quality and flavours of the Bodegas Valdemar fruit to shine through.

Old vines, fantastic vineyard locations and an extensive history of winemaking in Rioja make this Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” a must taste for aficionados.

Valdemar “Inspiración” Rioja “Edición Limitada” (2004)

Score: 91/100 – An exercise in elegance and class

Value for Money: 7/10 – It is hard to obtain this quality at any price