Remember the dark days for Spanish wine when, not too long ago, the wine lists of even top quality restaurants often had perhaps 30-40 Rioja wines listed, plus a few others to make up the numbers? A sad reflection on the proprietors’ woeful lack of wine knowledge and respect for their clients, as well as for the talented winemakers from other parts of Spain.

 Thankfully most of these restaurant dinosaurs have either become extinct or have mended their ways to arrive, at last, in the 21st Century where Spanish wine making can be as good as it gets! There will still be a selection of Rioja wines on their lists of course and rightly so. They would be foolish to deny a public desperate to drink offerings from this, Spain’s most famous fine wine zone.                                    

But which one to choose? Well, like myself, you too may have had this quandary. Price can be a guide. Up to a point (and this point varies according to the depth your pocket) the more expensive the better the wine. However if there are several priced similarly which one should you select?

 Well if one of them is Roda – don’t waste further time, go for it! Bodegas Roda, established in 1987, makes consistently top Rioja wines. All of them earn 90+ points in the guides, their best (and scarily expensive) Cirsion, was given 96 for the 2007 vintage! They are the epitome of smooth. Full bodied and sensuous but wonderfully elegant with layers of flavour pleasure as you lazily get through the bottle. If you are looking for a Valentine’s wine for next year, this is the one!

 So, having set such high standards you’d expect Bodegas Roda’s venture into rival DO, Ribera Del Duero to produce similarly excellent wines. Corimbo 2008 is their first from the La Horra vineyards and I’m pleased to report that it does not let the side down!

 Recognising the fact that Tempranillo grows perfectly well in Ribera del Duero as well as in it’s spiritual home, La Rioja. Bodegas Roda set about establishing a new sister bodega, in an area they considered to be best for this noble grape variety. Bodegas La Horra was born and its first wine was sent to your correspondent to elicit my comment and of course to spread the word.

 I’m happy to do so as this is lovely fragrant wine which captures the depth and richness of taste is another fine ambassador for the mother company, as well as for the new bodega, of whom I’m certain we’ll be hearing more.

 The label is quite striking, the petals of a thistle stand out in blues, greys and lavender. It’s a deeply coloured wine with purple notes on the edge when held against a white background, indicating its youth. However the tannins are mature, nothing harsh in there at all, and the acidity and fruit levels along with an abv of 13·5% will ensure longevity of probably three – five years.

 It’s had a year in a mixture of French and American oak, the majority being in the more subtle French. Dark fruits are in the majority but there are lighter red fruit flavours too, perhaps cherry and loganberry. There’s a refreshing black pepper flavour as well as grown-up aromas of minerality and autumn leaves, with maybe a faint herbaceous note too.

 At present there are just two wines planned, Corimbo and an older brother as yet to face its curtain call. Clearly the Roda people know how to craft top red wines, so you can now refer to the Ribera del Dueros on the restaurant wines lists as well. I wonder if they’ve considered white wine, after all Rueda is just round the corner, and over the page!

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