Wine Review: Arienzo de Marques de Riscal 2016 Crianza
Wine Review: Arienzo de Marques de Riscal 2016 – Crianza
Producer: Marques de Riscal
Grape: 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano
Marques de Riscal’s Arienzo was the bottle that made me fall in love with Spanish wine and showed me what tempranillo’s could do. With tempranillo being Spain’s most widely produced and most popular grape, you can typically expect great things from Spanish tempranillo. This great quality usually comes at a great, affordable price as well, due to Spanish wine historically being overlooked for its more prestigious neighbors, France and Italy. Arienzo serves as a great introduction to Spanish wine as well as an adventurous, complex bottle for those already familiar with the country’s wine.
The Crianza label is part of Rioja’s classification system. It essentially means that the wine was aged in fresh oak barrels for at least one year then aged in the bottle for another year. Like other regions’ classification systems, Rioja’s is meant to guarantee the quality of the region’s wines by requiring certain standards to be met. Something to consider is that the aging requirements are only a minimum, and some Spanish wine producers age them significantly beyond the aging requirements. This considered with the great quality and affordable prices of Spanish wine provides another reason to check out Spanish wine and this one in particular.
Marques de Riscal’s Arienzo comes from the Rioja subregion of Rioja Alavesa. The wine comes from vineyards situated around Elciego, which is found in the northernmost region of Rioja and northern Spain. Depending on who you ask, you may not even say this is Spanish wine, as it is in Basque Country, only about 72 miles (116km) south of Bilbao.
Rioja produces a wide variety of grapes with more than 90% of them being red. Popular wines produced here are tempranillo, Garnacha, Rioja blends, and lesser-known grapes such as Graciano, Mencia, and more. Rioja Alavesa is known more for its tempranillo, garnacha, and graciano. This subregion is at a relatively high altitude, ranging between 1,300 – 3,930ft (400-1,200m), and provides for a cooler, dryer climate. This provides for deeper flavors and higher acidity and tannins.
Tempranillo is known as being a full-bodied grape with high acidity and tannins. Like any other varietal, there is a whole spectrum of possibilities in terms of the physical characteristics of the grape. The differences can depend on different factors such as the altitude, temperature, and soils which all vary depending on the region. Tempranillo grapes are also known for producing interesting, tasty wines with differing notes of dark and red fruits, pepper, earth, and oak. Arienzo is no exception to this adventurous, beautiful variety of notes and flavors.
Tempranillo still mostly comes from its homeland, Spain, but is also grown in Portugal. There are also a handful of new world countries that grow the grape and produce tempranillo wine such as Argentina and certain parts of the United States.
Deep, rich cherry notes and peppery spices jump out as soon as the bottle is opened. After the initial aromas, there is a balanced, complex undertone of dark fruits, oak, and earth. These notes only deepen and become better as the wine aerates. It eventually leads to some welcoming notes of mushroom-forest earthiness.
The tongue leads off with dark cherry and pepper with a vague, earthy undertone. While these are the prominent notes and carry the wine most of its way, there are mild dark fruits and oak present in a subtle, but pleasant way. As the wine aerates, the oak becomes more apparent, and a hidden smokiness starts to show. While even more subtle and less present than the dark fruits, there are quick, short notes of mint and some vague floral-mineral notes. The sneaky minty floral-mineral notes leave just a spark of mystery and intrigue to further explore.
Depending on your preferences and experience with wine, this could either be a fun, new adventure for you or the perfect reminder of the wonders of Spanish tempranillo. Either way, you are in for a treat. Its fuller body and heavier tannins and acidity make it great for pairing with a variety of foods. It has enough acidity and body for a juicy steak while being great for something lighter such as chicken. If you want a red wine with a variety of aromas and notes ranging from dark cherry and dark fruits to mushroom and smokey earth, then this is it.