Who could not love a Rioja? It really is something special. And unique. More than just its flavors, its style and attitude are all its own. Even its feel on the palate is unique; no other red does dry quite like a Rioja. It is more like another dimension than simple dryness. It is palpable yet not overbearing; distinct yet not distracting; layered yet not uneven; sophisticated yet not cumbersome. The dryness may hint at spice or at texture, and it may be added among other notes or enhance each of them in their own rights. It supports the Rioja, augments it, makes it what it is, makes it special. What it never does is take away from the sweet fruits in the tasting notes - yes, there is sweetness, too - which thrive in leisurely prosperity, mellowly lavishing epicurean luxury upon the palate. This sweetness is also unique; have you ever noticed that Riojas rarely, if ever, offer specific one- or two- fruit analogies in their profiles? The notes appear as medleys of reds with at least five or six fruits vaguely hinted at and exactly zero fruits identified with any semblance of precision, even relative to the subjective art of wine tasting. The brilliant marriage of this fruity sweetness, at once mellow and dynamic, with a dryness that actually sparkles and shines, is what makes a Rioja unique and so keenly delectable. At its best, it is really hard to beat.
The 2004 Reserva by Fernández de Piérola is an excellent example of all of that, and a wonderfully aged one at that. Interestingly, its color is a light garnet hue, so that while the aroma and taste betray the wine's age, the color does not quite do so. It looks a tad younger than it is; not spunky or inexperienced or oblivious, but simply stronger and livelier, as though rounding out its prime. But in the aroma, it becomes clear that the wine is appropriately mature. The notes are light red fruits such as strawberry, redcurrant, cranberry, and others. A vague hint of pear wafts gently around the periphery. The aroma is light, perfumy but not strong. It has the same "oomph" as a spring flower (without any floral notes).
The wine sports a great dryness on the palate. It is a bit tannic and betrays a sense of oak (the wine has aged in both American and French oak barrels). But for the most part the tasting notes are of such red fruits as strawberry, redcurrant, cranberry, red table grapes, and a few vague others. The wine is full-bodied, but not bold or strong. In fact, it is mellow. It just is not fragile or airy, is all. The finish is not dissimilar from the palate, being mostly strawberry and cranberry.
After aerating for twenty minutes, the Reserva is a smidgen more on the ripe side of things (naturally). In the aroma, the hint of pear has given way to a hint of McIntosh apple, but the reds still form the hegemony: strawberry, redcurrant, cranberry, etc. It is more pungent now, but not boisterous, just less shy. Curiously, it has acquired a bit of plum on the nose. On the palate, the body is lighter (by exactly one notch), and so are the reds in the tasting notes. The fruits are the same as before - strawberry, redcurrant, cranberry, red table grapes, and all that - and it is still a bit tannic and oaky. The palate has acquired a slight kick to it, a sort of cedar-like spice which is the dryness evolved. The finish, very nicely performed about the throat and palate, is of strawberry and balsamic.
The Fernández de Piérola 2004 Reserva is a cool, calm wine. It is no slouch, but really what it enjoys more than anything is hanging out and relaxing. The fruits glide gently, suavely, carefree, about the mouth; the dryness offers a depth of character and sophistication of manner; and the body, from the background, holds it all together brilliantly. It is everything a wine should be, and every bit a Rioja. Get some today, and enjoy.