Tasting some Old School Riojas in Bilbao

By Filippo BartolottaOla a todo el mundo:)Not to bad to be over in the north of Spain for a few days of "Old School" Riojas.Getting here was a bit of a disaster as Iberia didn't check me in for the Bilbao flight from Bologna, but only to Madrid.The Iberia help desk worked out only at the third person I have "bugged" with my problems. They managed to put me in the next flight and I got to Bilbao on time to have some Gazpacho and Pil-Pil Cod before taking a long nap.Morning after ready for my run I went to the Guggenheim to check the architecture out and the big flower puppy by Anish Kapoor.I would have loved to spend a little more time in this little city which sounded very friendly, not too touristy and on the contrary with a nice energy spiced up by the contemporary art twist. But I do not want to complain as right the same day, after a big tasting of old Riojas I headed towards the Resort of Marques de Riscal where I am going to spend three days checking the region out.The wines we tastes in Bilbao were:1 Muga Reserva Seleccin Especial 2004dark cherry and cinammon tobacco with coff and rhubarb2 Marques de Murrieta Reserva (Finca Ygay) 2002floral red berry, licorice anice, quite sweet on the palate with a little of alcohol wiff. In the end the wine got to flashy though.3 Campillo reserva special 2001Pity as this wine was corked, but on the palate had a great texture and minerality.4 Prado Enea (Muga) Gran Reserva 2001This was a leathery, earthy Rioja with a little too much funk for me. In fact at the end of the morning I was certain the wine was corked.5 Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial 2001anisette, very ripe, very hot, very watermelon with more red berries towards the end. I liked the acidity, but not quite the balance I was expecting.6 Ribera del Duero: Alenza Gran Reserva 2001 (Condado de Haza)very different tannic structure, tar and very hot palate. This was the only non Rioja and it was easy to spot.7 La Granja Remelluri Gran Reserva 1999funky and old and dirty floral oak dry and finished.8 Campillo Gran Reserva 1995violets cherries, sweet and balanced, but too quiet9 Lopez de Hheredia Via Tondonia Gran Reserva 1987ice tea! the best in town. Very smooth, light touch with a pleasant red berry crush and extremely drinkable. Without doubts it was the best of the battery.Tomorrow I'll update you more about the disappearing Old School Rioja that nobody seems to want anymore here in Spain. There is a risk that everyone is going towards late '90s new-world concentration forgetting all about drinkability. This is a pity as some of these wines have got an amazing potential and pleasant palate if only they weren't to become over structured monsters. In the two restaurants I went I was not recommended to go for the old Vega Sicilia and classic Riojas: you are not going to go for the cemetery wines, are you? The owner of Marixa in Laguardia commented right before dinner!Instead we made to open a Rioja Alta 904 Reserva 1994 and a Vega Sicilia Valbuena 1995.The first one showing a very earthy, mushrooms and cherry style with some tight tannins, very balanced and smokey; the Valbuena 1995 more red currants, red berries and a ton of juicy medicinal herbs sweetness. More to come...
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