Mature wine offers special pleasures: elegance, complexity, the unique texture of tannins that have started to round with age. There's nothing like it. But what do you do if you don't have the space (or money, or time) to buy a bunch of young wines you love and wait for them to age?
Rioja is one of the last regions in the world that cellars their best wines until they're ready to drink. Not every bodega does it, of course. There are plenty of modern wineries that can't afford to age wine they could be selling.
But La Rioja Alta is one of Spain's great traditionalists and they don't rush their Gran Reserva. The 2014 Viña Arana Gran Reserva matured three years in traditional, old American oak, and then four more in bottle. It has had the time to develop savory, even umami flavors to balance the fresh Tempranillo and Graciano fruit flavors. The structure has hit that special place where it has enough acid and tannin to pair with Riojan meat dishes (fire up your roast suckling pig) but is also smooth and suave enough to sip on its own after dinner.
For all that complexity and depth, it is still a lovely, fresh wine. In fact, believe it or not, the Viña Arana is La Rioja Alta's youngest, freshest Gran Reserva. Their granddaddy of a Gran Reserva, the "890," is only released after 13 years! This is the bottle for you if you're looking to walk that middle path: mature and elegant, but still fresh and vibrant; not a bruiser, but not a lightweight either; absolutely ready to drink but, hey, still with more room to run if you were inclined.
With a classic Rioja nose of strawberries and a hint of vanilla balanced by earthy aromas, and a palate of red fruit, orange zest acidity and umami bass notes, this is an on-point classic.