Rioja Gran Reserva Top Picks

A showcase of the 2001 vintage


2001 Rioja Gran Reservas are in the marketplace today and they deserve your attention. These great wines, a product of a difficult growing season that saw torrid heat waves, torrential rains, all followed up by a perfect, consistently warm and sunny harvest season, come from relatively small crops of intensely flavored and structured grapes.

The wines, the Gran Reservas in particular, are marked by rich yet ripe tannins, intense yet elegant fruit, and a fullness that Rioja rarely achieves. Part of that fullness could simply be due to the few potential weaknesses of the vintage: high alcohol and lower acids.

The ripeness of 2001 and the enduring warmth of the harvest season did allow for much of Rioja to enjoy a level of maturity that is exceptional. Though great, that maturity can be accompanied by elevated sugar levels, which yield higher alcohol wines and lower acids and can impact a wine’s ageing potential. This can leave it a bit flaccid after a few years, even though it appears appealingly lush in its youth.

From what I can taste, most producers managed to avoid these pitfalls. The following wines are simply exceptional and deserving of a place in every wine lover’s cellar.

Photo courtesy Alex Porta i Tallant via Flickr/CC

2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Gran Reserva

Light and elegant on the nose. Vanilla oak topped layers of leather, medicinal, minty, chalky and teriyaki dried beef elements accent a bright core of wild cherry. Smooth and rich in the mouth, this is powerful yet not that large. The berry fruit, both fresh and dried, is accented by earth and spice notes. A fine bitter cherry element drives the moderately long finish. This is brilliant, layered, structured, faceted and transparent. It’s about as good as it gets. 94pts

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2001 Lopez de Heredia Bosconia Gran Reserva

Earthy and funky at first with eggshell and soil notes, this blossoms slowly with raspberry and wild strawberry tones accented with dried citron peel. Light and fresh in the mouth, this shows some nutty oak up front before laying down a pure, crisp mid-palate replete with crystal clear raspberry fruit. This is high acid without being acidic and displays rare elegance and finesse with its soft and rich yet bright mouthfeel. 93pts

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2001 Marques de Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva

Sweet and intensely fruity on the nose. The jammy full red fruit recalls gummy bears! There’s integrate oak spice here that lends a rather cinnamon tone to the nose, but ultimately reveals a very deep and complex array of aromatics. A touch soft in the mouth, this exhibits lovely richness. The framing spices of the nose help to delineate the rich, powerful dark fruits on the palate. Shows a touch of dried plummy richness and remains a bit chunky and chewy through the modest finish. This is a wine of power and should improve with additional cellaring. 92pts

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2001 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva

Tight and reticent on the nose, this opens slowly to reveal a super fine shale and vanilla accented small cherry fruit. On the palate, this is tight but shows great richness and depth. The fruit is a wonderfully pure mix of raspberry and cherry pit, accented with touches of wood spice and asphalt. The finish shows building tannins that obscure a bit of detail, but this remains quite pure and elegant. Another wine that could use a few more years in the cellar to show its full potential, though this will be classically elegant and pure. 92pts

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2001 Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva

Lots of oak here at first but it’s a balanced note of French spice and American milkiness and dill that starts off appealingly. This has a fine mineral note on the nose over smoky wild strawberry fruit. Bright and smooth on entry this has a fine sweet leading edge followed by intense citrus fruit notes and layered red currant and raspberry fruit. Rather light and elegant this is an austere, sinewy wine with good inner mouth energy. The wood shows through a bit on the back end and through the finish, which shows of fine balance to the red and citrus fruit notes. Not a big wine, and in light of the vintage a bit lean and high acid for many palates but I rather like this. 91pts

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2001 Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Gran Reserva

A bit heavy on the nose with sweet tea and cigar ash accenting the very ripe, slightly jammy black cherry fruit that shows a nice streak of vanilla. Bright and lean in the mouth, this shows off a refreshing sour cherry core of fruit. Nice earth tones build on the back end and through the long finish. The flavors here, leather and tobacco inflected, remain very clear and light with orange peel accents to light red fruit. Texturally, this is rather soft yet bright, with gentle tannins offering subtle support. 90pts

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