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Bodegas Montecillo, Gran Reserva 22 Barricas 2010
Mercedes Garcia Rup�rez
2010 was a cooler 'Atlantic' vintage and 22 barricas is comprised of 4 grapes with an average age of 40 years from the best 4 sites the family manage. What is astonishing is that 32 months of French oak ageing is in perfect balance with bright red fruit. Fairly subtle toasty oak, clove and black tea give a doff of the hat to the regions oak ageing heritage. The palate is super-seductive, acidity gives it drive and persistence and the tannins are perfectly polished. One of Rioja's very best Gran Reservas and limited to just over 6,000 bottles.
This complex blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo emulates his traditional winemaking style. After spending 32 months in new French oak, followed by a minimum of 4 years ageing in bottle, the resulting wine is robust and deliciously smooth with a very long finish.
The history goes back to 1874 when the old winery (still standing and now home to a swish visitor centre / tasting room) was first established in the village of Fuenmayor by the Navajas family. Today's large, modern, ultra-clean winery is situated some 10 minutes away within site of the spectacular Cantabrian mountains. Now owned by the famous Osborne family company, a decision was taken 10 years ago to put the winery back on the map and key to this was the appointment of brilliant winemaker Mercedes Garcia Ruperez. High on Mercedes's list of priorities was to eradicate as quickly as possible the dreaded Brett (Brettanomyces), a strain of wild yeast that produces large amounts of acetic acid and can give wines a distinctly not right aroma. For some, this taint is part of the charm of old school Rioja, and it is still remarkably common, but it's not for us. Every single one of the 20,000 barrels in the underground cellars of Montecillo was replaced. Bravo! One of Mercedes' key colleagues in the vineyard team is the talented young Carmelo Espinosa Muga. This guy is amazing. He is in charge of managing over 1,100 hectares of vines owned by no fewer than 118 separate growers in a manner that ensures everything from pruning to harvesting is carried out to the most exacting standards, thanks to a sophisticated online system developed by the winery. His lab is in the boot of his 4 x 4 and he appears to spend every waking minute running around in the vines observing, amending, improving. The growers themselves are not paid purely in terms of the volume of fruit, but its quality. In fact, a bonus of 30% is paid if the winery's high standards are met and this encourages only the most conscientious to join the scheme. Very clever.
Wine Advocate 91pts(2010) - Produced in a more modern and concentrated style with some aromas reminiscent of smoked bacon and toasted sesame seeds, the 2010 Gran Reserva Seleccion Especial 22 Barricas now comes with a waxed bottle in a retro style. The wine is very good indeed, with some smoke and spices over a core of ripe berries and some balsamic hints. The palate is medium-bodied with power and balance. 6,600 bottles were filled in September 2013.