La Rioja Alta is one of my favorite bodegas in all of Rioja.  They are one of the classic Rioja producers, located in the seat of classic Rioja in Haro, Spain.  Viña Alberdi is their entry level wine.  Sold in the U.S. as a Reserva and as a Crianza in Spain, it is their Crianza equivalent either way you look at it.  It is typically priced around $20 in the U.S. and represents good value.  The 2003 vintage was what was on the market here for some time and the 2005 hit the streets recently (no 2004 was produced?).  The 2003 and 2005 vintages were very different.  One of the hottest and driest summers on record in Europe, 2003 was seen by many to be a challenging vintage.  Many wines throughout Europe were overly ripe and overly alcoholic.  None the less, La Rioja Alta managed to produce an excellent Viña Alberdi that is remarkably lite on its feet for a 2003.  It comes in at 13% ABV and is classic and balanced and a pleasure to drink.  Now that it is gone from the market, I wish I had bought a bit more.  As for 2005, it is regarded as an excellent vintage all around.  It produced a more refined and typical Rioja, but I strangely found it lacking the La Rioja Alta signature (at least for the moment).  That is to say, there is something in the flavor profile of La Rioja Alta wines that makes it unique to their house style.  I have felt that maybe the winds of change and modernization might have swept through La Rioja Alta, as it has done with many classic Rioja producers, a bit too much.  The 2003 retains the La Rioja Alta signature, the 2005 I found myself searching for it.  The wine is excellent though, and perhaps it just needs a couple more years to develop and show its true colors.  I am not going to go into a huge rant about Traditional vs. Modern in Rioja here, but you can see some deeper thoughts and more insight from our visit last year to La Rioja Alta.

La Rioja Alta 2003 Viña Alberdi Reserva ~$20.00

Bright cherry red fruit mingles with cedar wood and cinnamon spice.  Hints of earth and mushroom are there too reflecting the La Rioja Alta style.  Drinking now.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

La Rioja Alta 2005 Viña Alberdi Reserva ~$20.00

Tart cherry red fruit, cedar wood and spice notes mix in this taut and balanced Rioja.  Nice extraction for 12.5% ABV.  A good go to Rioja now, I think I would like to see it in 2-5 years and would not doubt it will be even better then (and hopefully it will have found a bit more of it’s La Rioja Alta soul).  RECOMMENDED

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