The label of this Rioja from Spain tells you everything you need to know about the quality of this wine. First of all, it displays the designation “Denominación de Origen Calificada”, the most prestigious category in the Spanish wine system and only one of two in the country. Secondly, it is a Gran Reserva which indicates a minimum aging time of 60 months for refined flavors. I could stop there as these two features are enough, but I will go on because there is more. Thirdly, it is the 1998 vintage which means the decades of bottle aging have matured this Rioja to perfection and finally, it is a Monte Real from Bodegas Riojanas, one of the most highly regarded Rioja producers. What’s not to like?
Dig a little deeper, and you find that this Rioja is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown on select old vines for intense, sophisticated flavors. Bodejas Riojanas is in Rioja Alta where the soil is composed of iron, clay and alluvial and along with cool temperatures, is ideal for Tempranillo growth.
Produced in a limited edition of 23, 000 bottles, Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998 is admired in wine critic circles. Wine Enthusiast gives it 94 points and Meininger places it among the Rioja top 100. Both Guía Peñín and Wine Advocate score it at 92.
Whether you are a die-hard Rioja fan or new to the wine, this vintage ticks all the right boxes.
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Tasting notes of Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998
Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998 is a clean, ruby hue and a little viscous with syrupy legs.
Displays classic primary Tempranillo aromas of bright ripe black cherry with licorice undertones and leathery hints. Secondary aromas of vanilla, toasty oak and spice are also evident.
The palate opens out with flavors detected on the nose and deeper, richer fruity notes. This wine has matured perfectly in the bottle and shows it in a smooth and complex mouth. Sumptuous dried dark fruit lead with plum jam lined with hints of cocoa. Aging in American oak comes through with tell-tale vanilla and woody tobacco. Spicy, elegant, and deep with beautifully balanced tannins, this full-bodied wine is one to enjoy slowly. The finish is long, big, and rich.
Lamb dishes are amongst the top matches for Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998 so try it with lamb shanks or moussaka. Its spicy nature makes it great for pairing with cuisine featuring red peppers and paprika or a chili con carne (the veggie version of this dish is also ideal). Of course, a good meat, veggie, or seafood paella goes in hand in glove with Rioja as does chorizo and game. If you are a cheese lover, try this wine with hard Spanish cheeses like Manchego. This Rioja is so rich and interesting it is also worthy of solo drinking. The ideal serving temperature is 17 to 19 C.
Monte Real Gran Reserva 1998 is in its prime and ready to drink now but you are safe to leave it for a couple of more years.