The first ever Seleccion Especial — generally used as a top-tier designate above Rioja’s Gran Reserva classification — from La Rioja Alta has arrived. Produced in 2015, the operation felt that 2023 was finally the time for this wine to be released, marking a first in the 120 years of the winery’s history.
Crafted from 90% tempranillo and 10% graciano — produced from grapes that were optically sorted one at a time — the wine is a doozy that spent four years in American oak barrels before bottling. Today, the wine is incredibly youthful and tight, and decanting is the smart move if you’re not going to leave this in the cellar for another 10 to 20 years. Aggressive notes of black cherry, anise, and dark chocolate start the show, with ample, vanilla-soaked notes from the barrel adding a touch of sweetness. Time in glass percolates some of the more expected notes of turned earth on the nose — almost smoky at times. On the palate, the wine eventually gives a little way to showcase notes of blood orange peel, earthy gentian, and mixed, toasted baking spices. This gives the finish a bittersweet lift, though we end things on a brooding, smoldering note.
It’s hard to imagine what this wine may turn into come the mid-2030s, but connoisseurs of Spain’s crown jewels would be smart to pick up a few bottles just to find out.
A- / $99 / riojalta.com