If asked for my favourite wine, I respond cautiously knowing that the next bottle might open up another taste experience. This will then become ‘a favourite’ – that is, until the next one. However, there are wines which I return to – some perennials – which I really enjoy. One of these is white Rioja. I love the old fashioned style, made predominantly with the Viura grape, full flavoured, oaky and possibly slightly oxidised rather than lemony acidic. Unfortunately, in my opinion, these are not flavours that are in favour – the modern preference being for a younger, lighter taste that is termed more refreshing. Fashions change and it’s to be expected that wine tastes will do likewise, the last thing anyone wants is a stagnation of styles. There’d be nothing to talk about if they didn’t.
The wine which we tried recently was a fruitful marriage of the traditional and newer styles of white Rioja. It was recommended by Richard Worth of Worth Brothers Wines of Lichfield. He and his brother certainly know their wines as their retail selection is really – and I mean really – interesting. Richard claims to buy only 1% of all the wine they taste and I can believe that, judging by some of the wines they sell.
The wine is Luis Canas 2010 white Rioja. The colour was a very pale yellow – green (youth) which suggested some acidity quickly confirmed by the nose. However, there was an underlying vanilla aroma, which came from the oak casks in which the wine had been stored. It was still refreshing to smell and had a very slight almond bouquet; certainly it was an intriguing, layered nose. The palate was tightly, rather than broadly structured (which can be the case with some traditional Riojas), the acidity keeping it on the lean side. Although definitely dry, it had some attractive sweetness but finished on a granite edge and would be a wonderful food wine. It was, as Richard Worth suggested, halfway between the old and new styles. In summary, great value at around £12, a well-made, balanced wine with definite character – a pleasure to drink.