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Roda from Rioja 23/03/2004 TNB

Roda are very much new-wave Rioja: ageing in new French oak; fruit-driven style; maximum freshness and not the least interest in the lengthy ageing in barrel demanded by the time-honoured Reserva and Gran Reserva styles. They are not (I am glad to say) making over-extracted blockbusters and their new oak use is very moderate. They are currently buying in grapes (on long-term contracts) while their own vineyards mature. Their main wines are the Roda I and Roda II, both made in the same way and then the best barrels for making a more structured, ageworthy wine are selected for Roda I and others for the earlier-drinking, easier-going, less tannic Roda II. The grapes are all Tempranillo except that a small proportion of other local varieties appear in the Roda II.

The style of the wines is pure, fruity but dry, silkily-textured and medium-weight. Pretty classy on the whole and drinking wines rather than tasting wines, which suits me. We sampled both wines from 1999 (a cool Summer - what the locals call an "Atlantic vintage") which led to elegant, lifted wines of less density than the more-fancied, hotter, "Mediterranean vintage", 2000. All just fine, top ** to *** wines with the Roda I in 2000 objectively the best although I have to admit the wine I remember most affectionately in some respects is the 1999 Roda II which had a fine fragrant nose and nice acidity. Finally, we tasted the 100-pound-a-bottle Cirsion, a curious wine with a thick glycerol texture that would probably coat a spoon. There is a lot of concentration here and it is serious wine although I am not sure it is so much to my taste.

One can't help comparing the wines with that other exponent of the new wave, Artadi. I feel Roda's wines are a bit lighter than Artadi's and ultimately I am afraid a bit less interesting too. Roda's export manager Ibone Candida said quite a lot about terroir, but I think the winemaking style tends more to emphasise the lovely mulberry varietal character of Tempranillo. Added to that, Roda's policy of blending from diverse sites (for consistent quality) also heads a bit in that direction. In the end I felt that good those these wines are they are missing a sense of real individuality. The Cirsion is certainly a head-turner, but I think Ibone gave the game away a bit in describing it as emerging from an interesting experiment in polymerisation (a fashionable topic in scientific winemaking). I feel a bit unkind picking up on this throwaway remark but it does illustrate my main problem with the estate: that despite the philosophy being minimum intervention, elegance, pure expression of fruit and so on, they seem to be so obsessed with it that it is nevertheless coming between the terroir and the drinker.

All in all, while I happily recommend these wines as worth trying, I feel Roda need to switch their attention from technical winemaking to finding some more individual character. They will say, I guess, that they already have a policy of minimum intervention that allows the fruit to speak for itself, but great wine is not just about fruit.

added to Fine Wine Diary 23/03/2004   Return to top