The wine world is usually going through one form of a conniption fit or another over the very real yet wonderfully vague differences that separate so-called modern wines from the traditional wines.
Now, much like point scores for wine, the definition of what constitutes modern (manipulated industrial swill or lush fruity gems?) or traditional (complex expressions of terroir or dirty, rustic swill?) tends to vary from person to person. In spite of a virtual completely gray playing field, most people like to view the wine world as terribly black or white!
The truth is, there are producers out there who do manage to take advantage of the best of both sides, producing wines that may be decidedly middle of the road, and thus less sensational in the literal sense of the word. They also may produce wines that are lush and fruity and express their terroir, or any other of the near infinite combination of adjectives one can cobble together for the purposes of illustrating what a successful middle of the road wine might exhibit.
Before you jump to conclusions, let me just say that Bodegas Roda is middle of the road only as it refers to style. This leading modernizer of Rioja, at once admired and loathed, has had the benefit of time on its side. Early wines that were summarily dismissed by the wine cognoscenti have emerged from their time in the cellars and come to resemble great Rioja, to the consternation of many.
Born only in 1987, Bodegas Roda began life with a 150 estate that had no vines. An inauspicious start to what was hoped to be a ground-breaking project. In an effort, and with significant irony, founders Mario Rottlant and Carmen Daurella hoped to create an estate bottled wine that drew on the standards set by the world’s leading benchmark in wine production, Bordeaux.
Not only were they short one grape producing estate, but the origins of Rioja’s current incarnation are found in the depths of the phyloxera infestation of Bordeaux near the close of the 19th century. Rioja as it was then, in effect the modern Rioja of its era, was based on Bordeaux. Bodegas Roda hoped to move Rioja into the 21st century.
Once they resigned themselves to the fact that estate vineyards were a ways off in the future, the owners of Bodegas Roda set out to identify and then contract for the best wines they could find. Drawing on their own observations as well as the history of the region, they identified several parcels, eventually amassing some 17 that stretched across the Rioja Alta and Alavesa at elevations ranging from 1800 to 2100 feet.
These parcels, spread among differing macroclimates and with distinct terroirs, formed the palette with which Bodegas Roda was to create their art.
In the beginning, there were two wines, both Reservas: Roda I and Roda II. These have proved to be a confusing naming convention if there was one. Today, we have Roda and Roda I, which frankly doesn’t help me much. In addition to the Roda Reservas , there is the base wine Sela and the top of the line expression of old vines fruit, known as Cirsion.
Roda II, which has been simply renamed as Roda, remains the Reserva that best expresses the freshness and aromatic of fruit, highlighting early accessibility. It is simply a barrel selection. Roda I remains a similar selection, but in this case the wines are selected for the darker, more muscular and age worthy character.
Taking that character one step further is the Cirsion, a selection of particularly old vines. These vines distinguish themselves by commencing the polymerization of tannins and anthocyanins within the berry towards the final stage of maturation, a process that generally takes place during fermentation. This allows Cirsion to marry power and elegance in a way that young vines simply cannot do. The fruit of those young vines, bright, fruity and fresh, are reserved for Bodegas Roda’s latest addition to their portfolio, Sela.
I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to taste a lineup of their wines recently, including some pre-release bottlings. I have included my notes on the following page. As I have found with most producers, I am preferring the 2007 vintage to the 2006 vintage in Rioja, though both vintages are well represented by these Roda wines.
One surprise of the tasting was the latest project undertaken by the folks behind Roda, the Bodegas La Horra Corimbo Ribera del Duero wines. I really enjoyed the pair of wines I tasted. The two vividly illustrate the difference between the style of the wines of Rioja and the Ribera del Duero. While I have yet to see these wines stateside, the prices I’ve seen abroad for these wines make me think that there may be great value here. Certainly a wine to keep an eye out for!