Pecina: Traveling to Rioja
Drive south of Bilbao, Spain and you will eventually emerge from the green, lush hills of Basque country and descend into what looks at first like a desert.You have arrived in Rioja, and it’s not really a desert but instead the most famous wine region of Spain.
You might start your visit to Rioja in Logrońo, the small capital of the region not really known for much at all except for Calle Laurel, which may be the best area in all of Spain for tapas (actually pintxos in these parts). Each bar has its own especialidad – perhaps a skewer of meat, or some mushrooms on a slice of bread – which you will enjoy with a glass of wine.
Virtually everyone is drinking red wine, served quite cool. It is joven, an unoaked Rioja from the most recent vintage. It is the best bar wine that you will find anywhere.
For more serious wine drinking, you will want to leave Logrono and head to a bodega. Our favorite is Bodegas Hermanos Pecińas. No other producer quite achieves Pecina’s optimal combination of great farming from great terroir, respect for Riojan traditions in the winery (e.g.,, no French oak), a practice of holding back wines until they are ready to drink, and just an all-around attention to detail that results in exquisite wines.
They have their own version of that awesome bar wine, joven. It is delightful: exactly the kind of perfectly fresh, fruity, drinkable wine that seems to cost only about half what it should. Drink it chilled, of course, and not just with Spanish food – these seem to pair well with anything.
The other highlight, no surprise, was the Gran Reserva – a magnificent wine that is just hitting its stride with more than 10 years of age. This is perfect Rioja for the level: full-bodied, complex, redolent of local personality, and just the right balance between La Rioja-like purity and Lopez-like soulfulness. It's a truly great wine, and wildly underpriced compared to similar-level Bordeaux or Barolo.
If you want something in-between, go for the Crianza – a nice midway point between fresh fruitiness and deep seriousness.
One idea: enjoy the Crianza or Gran Reserva with a holiday meal, and grab some jovens for the more liberal wine-drinking that might ensue on New Years’ Eve….
Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Rioja Cosecha Tinto 2022 $14.99
Fruity aromas of plums and blackberries, black fruits. Balsamic notes, good acidity, fresh and pleasant to drink. Lots of fruity nuances.
Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Rioja Crianza 2016 $21.99
Intense aroma of ripe fruit, with hints of vanilla and toasted wood, with jam coming through underneath.
Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 $49.99
Deep, savory and spicy Rioja aged in traditional American Oak barrels and in the bottle for many years before release.
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