Yesterday, I wrote an overview of the Rioja Wine & Tapas Festival, which was held in Chicago for the first time this year. In addition to tasting a variety of Rioja wines during the event, I also had the chance to speak to the winemakers, themselves, to learn more about the Rioja region and what makes Rioja wines so unique. One of those winemakers was Alejandro Lopez Garcia of Bodegas Bilbainas.
One of the oldest wineries in Rioja, Bodegas Bilbainas was founded in Rioja in 1901 after moving from the Bordeaux region of France, where it has been since 1859. Bodegas Bilbainas is located along a river in Rioja Alta, which is the highest elevation in Rioja and home to some of the best wines in the entire region of Rioja. The climate is cool which yields grapes with higher acid and more flavor, and also provides the perfect conditions for aging wines.
I learned from Alejandro that acidity preserves wines, so Bodegas Bilbainas wines age very well and can often be stored for long periods of time before drinking. Cosechas can be aged 4-5 years before drinking, Crianzas 5-8 years, Reservas up to 20 years, and Gran Reservas 20+ years, thanks to blending the Tempranillo grape with the Graciano grape, which is high in acid. Alejandro projects that the 2010 vintage of Bodegas Bilbainas Rioja, which comes to market next year, will be some of the best.
Because these wines are made with very soft tannins, they are food friendly and can be paired with most anything. Alejandro recommends pairing Bodegas Bilbainas Riojas with foods such as any type of Spanish tapas, roasted lamb, and cod fish.
Alejandro explained that what sets Rioja wines apart from all others is tradition. Each wine is a time capsule in a bottle and tells a story of the terroir of the wine, including the soil, climate, and condition of the land, and evokes the tradition of wine making in Rioja. What I learned most from Alejandro is that Riojans are extremely passionate about winemaking, and that passion is tasted in every bottle.
To learn more about Bodegas Bilbainas, visit its website.
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