Northern Spain’s polished reds

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Remove yourself from the present and reacquaint yourself with the aged reds from the Rioja region of northern Spain.

As time has passed, the American palate has become accustomed to some overdone and sometimes overripe examples of wines that require a decade of time in the bottle to become accessible. The Reserva and Gran Reservas from Rioja can offer balance, purity and are alluring examples of the compatibility of wine and food.

Rioja is situated in the north central region of Spain where the Tempranillo grape reigns supreme. This region is separated into the cooler Rioja Alta and Rioja Alvasea areas along with the warmer Rioja Baja. The catagories of wine are Rioja, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Riserva. While simple Riojas and Crianzas are more modernistic and fruity in expression, it is the extended barrel aging of the Riservas and Gran Reservas that makes them intriguing.

Reserva bottlings are aged for three years with a minimum of one year in barrel and Gran Reservas are aged for five years with two years in oak. Some producers even extend this period of time before release. Typically these wines are approachable with dynamic aged overtones allowing you to appreciate the secondary characteristics that wine develops with age. What’s more amazing is that the cost of these wines are nominal and typically cost between $15 to $30 per bottle.

Bodegas Beronia is one of those estates in Rioja that continue to craft well-tapered and finely elegant wines that prove this theory. It is located in Rioja Alta and was established in 1973 by a group of local businessmen who were part of a gastronomic society. They were dedicated to producing their own wine while offering a traditional style of Rioja Riserva and Gran Reserva wines. This vision has been expanded, but there remains an emphasis on barrel aging and the influence of mixed oaks barrels in crafting a polished style that has long been synonymous with their expression.

The 2007 Beronia Reserva is a blend of mostly Tempranillo with some Graciano and Mazuelo. It has been aged for 18 months in French and American oak and aged for an additional 20 months in the bottle. There is a mature opaque color with aromas of smoke and vanilla bean. The dried black plum undertones are silky, ripe and integrated with some leather, cardamom and toasted allspice elements. The mouth-feel of this wine is lengthy and appealing at every level. What a perfect complement for a hearty winter lamb stew.

Suggested retail: $18.99.

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits.