2011 Lealtanza “Gran Reserva” Rioja, Rioja, Spain (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Vintages $32.95 (750ml bottle)

I grew up on aged Rioja.

Please allow me to clarify that; this wasn’t a nipple-to-the-bottle thing, but growing up as a wine-guzzling twenty-something in late 80s/early 90s Britain, the shores of that sceptered isle were seemingly awash with well-evolved Rioja.

The Brits (and it is with much chagrin that I count myself as being one of those these days) have historically had quite the penchant for Rioja with at least a decade on it, and hence I have an almost fetishistic fascination with such wines.

Most will say that they enjoy aged wines, but the fact of the matter is that most haven’t had the opportunities (plural) to drink much of it, and when presented with a slightly brown-hued wine that more-often-than-not reeks of dusty leather, well-dried prunes/figs, and manky old fox flatulence, will usually outright reject it.

Unless one were part of the über-privileged 1%, or had been (un)fortunate enough to have been raised in the subservient and sycophantic  front-of-house culture of hospitality that caters to said 1%, the chances are that one’s experiences with mature wines would be reasonably limited. I count myself as being very much part of the latter, as there is no freaking way that I’d have had the opportunities to taste the wines I have without having worked as a sommelier since the early 90s.

This not-exactly-for-everyone 100% old-school Tempranillo wine is, quite frankly, blooming delicious.

Whoever made the grand mistake of ever thinking that oxygen was an enemy of wine probably hasn’t experienced the slow-burn oxidation of a wine like this. On the bouquet there’s an abundance of dried fruits (almost Xmas cake steeped in brandy), a whiff of my late grandad’s St. Bruno pipe tobacco, gnarly old leather-bound dusty tomes, nutmeg, roasted chestnuts, star anise, and ever-so-musky memories of frisky woodland creatures rolling about amorously on a well-composted forest floor. Now THAT’S complexity for you.

On the palate it’s medium weight, still maintaining decent acidity and with evolved tannins that still pack a punch, making it a wine that’s certainly best served with dinner. Think braised rabbit… lapin au vin.

Now, while there’s not much of this gorgeously matured beauty left in the Ontario system, I’d strongly recommend you get out to some of these more peripheral LCBO stores to grab what’s left of the now-scant inventory before I get my grubby mitts on the stuff. I’ve actually been holding off on this review as I was hoping to keep it as my little secret…

Simply wonderfully funky juice. Get some if you can.

4.5 apples out of 5
(Four and a half apples out of a possible five)


Lealtanza are represented in Ontario by Profile Wine Group.

Profile Wine Group are a Good Food Fighter.

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