Carlos Serres Crianza Rioja 2020
Carlos Serres is a bit of an OG - one of the few Rioja producers with a century of winemaking behind them. Carlos was actually named Charles, a French Winemaker who left Bordeaux, fed up with dealing with phylloxera riddled vineyards, landing in Spain. He founded the first winery in Rioja with export certification and applied French winemaking techniques to Rioja fruit. Pretty soon, there was a demand for Rioja in the rest of Europe and the US.
Carlos Serres Crianza is 100% Tempranillo and spends 14 months in a combo of French and American oak. Being 'Crianza', the wine has spent a year in barrel, and another on bottle prior to release. Typically aged in older oak, Crianza can have quite assertive tannins and fruit which is intense whilst retaining great freshness. This is a particularly good example, packed with red fruits, cherries, spice, oak and nervy acidity.
Charles Serres aka Carlos Serres was a French winemaker and consultant from Bordeaux. Fed up with the phylloxera’s impact on fruit quality he struck out for Rioja in the 1890’s with the intention of making high quality, expressive wines, and finding an international market for them at a time where most of the vino was consumed within Spain. His winery was the first in the region to have an export focused registration. His application of French winemaking techniques to Rioja fruit assisted his to find ready palates for his wine in overseas markets and led to the creation of the Rioja Wine Exporters Syndicate in 1907 which precursed todays Rioja Designation Origin Control Board. The vineyard, ‘Finca El Estanque’, produces high quality Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo, Maturana Tinta and Viura. We’ve opted initially to import the classics, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. So whassa difference?
First up there is Joven, or young wine, simply called Rioja. It can be exceptional but we’ve focused on the 3 top tiers. For the sake of completeness, Joven or vin Joven means young wine, with little or no oak and minimal tannins. When good the fruit is zippy and the wines, fantastic but not generally age worthy.
Crianza must be released at 2 years of age, with at least one of those spent in barrel. Typically aged in older oak, Crianza can have quite assertive tannins and fruit which is intense whilst retaining great freshness.
Reserva Rioja is typically a selection of the better fruit and or barrels from a given vintage, released at 3 years of age, with at least one year of barrel age. Here you get a wonderful crossover between high quality oak and exceptionally intense fruit flavours - a wine which is delicious in its youth and undeniably ageworthy as well.
Gran Reserva Rioja spends 2 years in oak as a minimum and is released at 4 years of age. Winemakers use their best fruit here, generally age in oak for only 2 years, but then release the wine when it is ready, which can be at 5, 6,7 or more years of age. Whilst these wines will cellar, if you buy and drink immediately, you’ll be tasting them exactly as the winemaker intended. Only 2% of Rioja wines are released as Gran Reserva.
The governing body for Rioja is pretty strict- wineries producing Rioja must only produce Rioja and are required to botte at source. Vine density and number of buds per vine is regulated, and tonnes per acre for red wines is capped at a maximum of 2.7 tones per acre.
Tempranillo, indigenous to Spain, is the key red variety in the region, forms the backbone of Rioja red wines, with smaller quantities of Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano and Mazuelo also acceptable.
Carlos Serres Crianza is 100% Tempranillo and spends 14 months in a combo of French and American oak
Carlo Serres Reserva is made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano grapes grown exclusively in their Finca El Estanque vineyard. The wine is aged for 2 years in French and American oak
Carlos Serres Gran Reserva is produced from Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes grown in the estates Finca El Estanque vineyard. It is aged 24 months in French and American oak and released at 5-6 years of age.