The Noble Writ Wants Rioja...But Knows When to Fold 'Em

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At one shop, I was able to pick up a white Rioja from a producer I have enjoyed in the past, though I knew this producer had "modern" tendencies. I'd heard it had moderated its practices some, but this wasn't borne out by the wine I tasted. I simply couldn't recommend this wine and was unable to find another white Rioja in the market to sample.

My second store visit was a complete bust; there were only a couple of Riojas in the store. I thought I'd hit paydirt at the third as it sported a healthy selection of red Riojas, but both wines I picked up simply didn't make the cut. The first was essentially characterless, despite being imported by a good company. It did have hints of Rioja about it but really could have come from just about anywhere.

The second was an absolute nightmare, with every "modern" winemaking technique employed in excess: overripe to the point of being candied, deeply colored, thick mouthfeel and new-oak city. Blargh. I'd known this could be a possible result: The importer brings in a lot of "modern" Spanish wine, though he also brings in some real gems. But given the price point of the wine (about $15), I'd thought it more likely that this might be one of the good ones. Boy, was I wrong.

So I'm folding. Though I'm not yet ready to walk away. My research into the history and tradition of Rioja is saved for a future week, one in which I find a wine worthy of being labeled a Rioja. But I thought it worth sharing that even when you try to shop well -- hitting good stores, making wise choices (or at least well-calculated gambles) based on importers -- you can still lose. And sometimes you lose three times in a row.

Dave Nelson is the author of the blog Beer, Wine and Whisky. He writes about wine every Tuesday.
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