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Rioja’s top wines take the spotlight in London

Published:  26 June, 2023

A selection of age-worthy styles from recent to older decades were on full show at the recent Rioja Residency – a new, unbeatable showing of the region’s best wines.

Taking place in London’s Bermondsey last week (21 June), over 200 guests made their way to The Ned hotel in order to take an immersive, educational journey through the region.

Drawing on some of the 133 Viñedos Singulares wines currently registered in Rioja, a total of 100 Rioja’s pre-eminent wines from 33 different wineries were on show, alongside masterclasses hosted by some of the region’s top experts.

This included an exploration of the region’s diversity via Sarah Jane Evans MW, who led a tasting through the ‘essentials’ of Rioja, mainly for an on-trade crowd. Meanwhile, sommelier Gonzalo Rodriguez Diaz displayed the region’s versatility by matching an eclectic line up of Rioja wines with a number of innovative and top end pairings, prepared by The Ned’s resident chef.

It was the Secrets of the Cellar session, however, which put the astonishing longevity of the wines to the test by showcasing exceptional vintages from three of Pedro Ballesteros MW’s favourite Rioja producers: Marqués de Riscal (2020 and 1956), Martínez Lacuesta (2010 and 1964) and Señorío de San Vicente (2019 and 1994).

With each offering a wine over 100 years old, the three wineries displayed the breadth of the old and the new Rioja.

“The focus on aging wine, and selling according to age, is deep in Rioja’s history; and it has been preserved,” Ballesteros said.

“That’s the difference with Rioja. Plenty of regions make wine for longevity, but Rioja has been very lucky, because there has been no war in this territory for more than 200 years, which means no disruption. Marqués de Riscal has been ageing wine in barrels since 1862. It is the only winery in the world, that I know of, which has wine from every year that it has been making wine.”

“Made with the science of today, but with the vision for the future,” Ballesteros’s selection showed how the more recent wines in the line-up also display the same longevity, with some differences.

Modern winemaking techniques, along with varying uses of oak, were all very much on show, with concentration, purity and texture to the fore.

Such wines include the San Vincente 2019 from Señorío de San Vicente – one of Alavesa’s classic wineries and a leading quality pioneer. In particular, Ballesteros emphasised the wine’s ability to showcase the purity of the sub-region.

“The 1998s are now really ready to drink and just get smother. Every five to ten years adds another layer of complexity,” he said.

For more on the event, refer to this month’s upcoming edition of Harpers, out in print and online from Thursday 29 June.