Spanish Wine Review: La Montesa 2009

by mary on April 30, 2013

Spanish wine from the Rioja region

It’s been a while since I’ve had a mellow, perfectly drinkable Rioja and this La Montesa fit the bill nicely. Rioja is still the king of Spanish wine but there are so many faces and styles to the region that it can be really confusing to find a nice bottle at a good price. The traditional Rioja styles remain popular amongst wine geeks but the good ones cost a pretty penny. The bold, modern style comes at all price points, but they are not always as mellow and ready to drink…something to cherish in Rioja. There are lots somewhere in between, embracing both tradition and the modern…the hybrid is maybe the most user-friendly style. La Montesa, from one of the modern masters of Spanish wine, Alvaro Palacios, is one of these and makes for good drinking at a great price in the 2009 vintage.

Alvaro Palacios was born into a wine family in Rioja but made his name making very different wines in the Catalan region of Priorat. His L’Ermita, a Garnacha blend, is one of Spain’s most iconic and expensive wines. He then expanded into Bierzo and soon gained fame for his intense and unique wine based on the local Mencía grape. He returned to his roots after his father died and took over the family winery, Herencia Remondo. He changed the more traditional line of his father a great deal, while still preserving that Rioja feel that is missing from some of the uber-modern wines. He was able to work with a very familiar grape, Garnacha, in the Rioja Baja area of Rioja.

La Montesa by Bodegas Herencia Remondo is composed of 65% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo and aged 12 months in French and American oak, 20% in new oak. The vineyard is in the part of Rioja where rainfall is very scarce, but the rocky soils in the La Montesa vineyard retain water quite well.

Sweet fruit and smoothness are the dominant impressions. Cherry, licorice and a touch of orange peel in the nose. Oh so smooth and ready to drink in the mouth…cherry and plum, a bit of spice. Medium in weight with smooth tannins and good length. The only negative is a slight hotness in the mouth from the alcohol…this is handled when the wine is taken with food. Maybe also lacking a touch of freshness for my liking…but it is a 2009, a very hot year with significant hydric stress. The vintage was saved by some late season rainfall, extending the ripening seasoning, making ultimately for a good year in Rioja, but not the freshest year. But all-round very pleasant drinking, very good with food, as are so many Riojas.

I’ve been tasting quite a few 2009 Riojas in various styles lately and many seem to have this hot alcoholic edge….more experimentation to come! I have to say I’ve loved La Montesa even more in other vintages.

This wine is from the Rioja Baja sub-zone of Rioja, one of three areas and the largest. Rioja Baja often suffers from a negative image compared to it’s neighbors, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. This is partially because it a hotter area where the vines are subjected to a hotter and drier climate and also because Garnacha dominates in the vineyards instead of Tempranillo.

It’s true that Garnacha is the grape behind a lot of bad quality Rioja but I am passionate about this grape variety, especially in Spain, and it could make a lot better wine in Rioja if given more respect. Tempranillo gets all the respect and there is also a lot of bad Rioja made with that grape! Luckily there has been a trend in Rioja to include more of the other traditional varieties in top wines, including Garnacha, but also Graciano and Mazuelo.

It’s lovely to see wine-great Alvaro Palacios respecting Garnacha and it’s place in Rioja here.

With this weight and smoothness in a Rioja wine, all sorts of food matches are possible….pasta, pizza, all sorts of everyday food. It’s great value at 13$ in Costco.

What do you think of Rioja wines? Have you noticed the style differences?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ana May 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Rioja wines are world market leaders by their price at the cost of quality, what happened to them the Rioja call “have been resting on their laurels”.
However, in recent years, some wineries have decided to restore the quality wines that even with very low initial sales to earn the prestige achieved by classic wineries have maintained the quality that always corresponded to the Rioja.


mary May 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

Hi Ana…thanks for your comment. There is plenty to debate about the quality of Rioja at different price points. I certainly agree with you that some wineries have had to struggle financially to maintain standards of quality….something that is unfortunately happening in a lot of wine regions in these tough times!


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