It’s autumn and that’s when Rioja comes back out to play.  With that in mind, I have been revisiting Rioja lately and I wanted to check in on one of Rioja’s classics, Bodegeas Riojanas Monte Real.  I have had the Monte Real 1998 before but I was curious about the 2001, a much touted vintage in Rioja, and the labeling and bottle update left me wondering if there had been a style update as well on one of Rioja’s classic wines.  As the sloped shoulder bottle denotes, it is the more powerful style of Rioja for the bodega; Viña Albina in the Bordeaux style bottle being the more elegant style.  Though there have been some apparent updates with the Monte Real, it is now all Tempranillo for example, I  am happy to report that the structured age worthy style seems fairly in tact.  I like both of these wines, and they were both fairly well built wines along Rioja lines, that will repay long cellaring.  I found them approachable now, but I know they are only going to be better in 5-10 years and perhaps even a great deal beyond that.  They reminded me of classic structured Barolo in fact.  Not yielding much in youth, or even middle age for that matter, but destined for greatness down the line.  The 1998, due to vintage and/or age was a bit more approachable at first and the 2001 was much better the second night than the first.  The acidity was nice on both wines, and they will pair well with meats, game, or hard cheeses no doubt.  Need to get my hands on some more older Monte Reals to really see where they can go.  I have had a 1970 Monte Real Gran Reserva, but it was leaky and perhaps not what it could have been, but it held strong and was very drinkable despite having sprung a leak!

Bodegas Riojanas 2001 Monte Real Gran Reserva

At first the Bodegas Riojanas 2001 Monte Real Gran Reserva is a bit closed, but it begins to open with notes of baked cherry and some savory notes begin to emerge.  There is a plush texture at first but seems to be holding back something.  Still seems like a baby really.  On the second night the wine has become more streamlined and classic, hinting at a bright future ahead with notes of menthol and the acidity emerging more over the initial plushness.  There is a great classic bottle of Rioja in waiting here, but the 2001 Monte Real Gran Reserva will need at least another decade to get there.  Monte Real is built for the cellar.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Bodegas Riojanas 1998 Monte Real Gran Reserva

The 1998 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva seems youthful for it’s age.  It is not really giving up any tertiary aromas, but instead has nice tart red berry meets menthol on the palate.  It is lean and mean with good acidity and good tannins.  Lacking the plushness of 2001 but perhaps reflects vintage and additional years in bottle?  This one is another cellar candidate, give it 5-10 to really show its stuff, though it is approachable now.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED