The Reserva classification on a Rioja wine label (and other Spanish wines) indicates that the wine has spent at least three years maturing; at least one year is spent in oak barrels and at least one year spent in bottle. That oak is usually American which imparts the traditional ‘leathery’ flavours to the wine as well as a brick-coloured hue. The more modern style Riojas, which can be drunk younger, are cherry red and more fruitier on the nose and may not have spent the three years maturing. The Baron de Chirel we tasted belonged to the traditional style of wine.
It looked opaque, almost black, in colour but the rim of the wine had a definite brown tinge; there was plenty of viscosity left clinging to the glass. The nose had a wonderful spicy bouquet overlaid on vanilla with some refreshing acidity present – an intriguing mixture. The bottle had been opened for 48 hours but had lost none of its fullness but Richard observed that the fruit sweetness had been lost. It had a drying, tarry finish. It was throwing a small sediment.
We drank two glasses without food but food (a lamb dish, hard cheese?) would have improved, and been improved, by the match.