First Published in Costa News Group, July 2010



 Readers will perhaps recall an article I wrote about the new-wave La Rioja Bodega Luis Alegre some months ago. The eponymous Luis Alegre decided to take on partners about 8 years ago so that the bodega he created in the 60’s could expand and change direction. He, and the new partners, wanted to up the ante and start to bottle wine of higher quality, in the new-wave Rioja style.

 Over the last two decades there has been a market-led gradual change in the style of Rioja red wines. Once the bastion of long oak-ageing there has been a slow swing to more fruit expressive wine with less time in oak and more in bottle. Bodegas Luis Alegre has been in the vanguard of the bandwagon managing to retain classic Rioja flavours and aromas with a modern more fruit driven element.

 It works well. Sales here and abroad are increasing year on year. The marketing men (and women) have become heavily involved with large advertising budgets being established, seats booked on the wine tasting road-show and attention being paid to packaging too.

 They also know the value of an article in the Costa News Group and were happy to provide wines for a recent tasting at Restaurante Vall de Cavall, in the campo just outside Gata de Gorgos! Recently this elegant restaurant opened its doors to us whilst closing them to passers-by as this event, typically, took over the whole restaurant. Some sixty people sat down to a super five-course dinner, with a Luis Alegre wine served with each course and throughout the evening beautiful classical and romantic music from the delectable duo Dolce Divas was performed live.

 We started with Luis Alegre Blanco 2009, this from their more economic range. Made with 100% Viura (aka Macabeo) the wine has a slight floral element, white rose petals perhaps, with a touch of apple. It’s a crisp, aperitif wine that slips down rather easily!

 Luis Alegre Rosado 2009 is made exclusively from Tempranillo grapes. This bodega takes use of the sorting table a little further than most others. Rather than harvesting the grapes, transporting them to the bodega and then employing the selection table to sort the best bunches from those with damaged or possible diseased grapes, Bodegas Luis Alegre takes the table to the vineyard!

 The cynic might think it a touch gimmicky, just another way of promoting your wines over the bodega down the road, and I’m sure that the marketing men have had a hand in the idea. However the theory is sound and, well, taste the wines and see for yourselves.

 Using the mobile selection table allows the staff to sort out the best bunches as above, but the difference here is that it’s only the healthy, undamaged grapes that are transported together to the bodega to begin their metamorphosis into wine. The discarded grapes are sold off or are made into bulk wine for selling. Elitist it may me, but hey, it works!

 The 2009 Rosado is the first of the wines we tasted to benefit from this philosophy. It’s only the best grapes that are used for this wine and it shows. This is lovely melange of strawberry and raspberry flavours with red rose aromas and a touch of body to make it a super paella, starter and light meat accompaniment.

 Koden 2008 is one of the new releases they asked me to showcase and its popularity on the night showed that it is likely to be a winner for a bodega, which like all others in these difficult economic times needs a regular cash-flow.

 Bodegas Luis Alegre wanted to make a wine that was economical to buy, easily accessible to drinkers who have neither the time nor the inclination to spend hours discussing its benefits and yet a wine of pedigree that still reflects the bodega’s philosophy. Now that’s a tall order. But they felt that if they can use grapes picked from very young vines whose output is prolific (6-8 years old vines) and yet treat the must (juice) in the same way as they do for the higher end wines made from old vines, they woud be able to achieve these goals.

 Again, it works! It’s a very juicy wine, super as aperitif, for light meat dishes and just for drinking with friends. I predict that this wine will be all over the bars of La Rioja, like a rash!

 Parcela No.5 2006 (another new release) is a stylish wine that bridges the gap between the modern style Rioja and the older style. A single vineyard wine, this Parcela is always likely to give grapes of top quality. The 45 years old vines have the perfect aspect to the sun, the soils are well drained and limited in nutrients and the climate and altitude of the vineyard allow sun for ripening but a dramatic night/day difference in temperatures. Tis was the best wine for me and it seemed that there was probably a 50/50 split between this and the final wine.

 Bodegas Luis Alegre Crianza has one foot firmly placed in the traditional camp where oak has played a significant part and it will thus appeal to those Spanish wine enthusiasts who cut their tasting teeth on old Rioja. However hold the wine in the mouth a little and the integrated oak makes way for full on fruit, from bottle age and grapes picked at their optimum ripeness!

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