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A Drink From The Porron

Gran Reserva: The "Slow Wine" of Spain

This year will herald the release of a new era of Gran Reserva wines from the two leading regions with such classifications: Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

The grandness of Spanish wines has always been due to their incredible aging possibilities. In fact, to support and promote this virtue, these two aforementioned denominations have rules for classifying the best wines based on aging potential. These rules came to be abused by many large houses who cared more about profits than quality and turned the focus from wines worthy of great aging to any wines that have been aged. Small wineries who began focusing on quality saw the old system as an outdated vestige of a bygone era that no longer defined the greatness of Spain. They instead focused on site specificity as opposed to the amount of time that the wine spent aging in the cellars.

As time passed I began to realize that a wine could be site-specific and also be qualified as a Gran Reserva. In fact, it was Sastre who had begun their career as a winery capable of making a world class Gran Reserva from a single site known as Pago de Santa Cruz. This 10-hectare parcel of old vine Tempranillo was used to make Gran Reservas up until 1999 when the family abandoned the Gran Reserva program in favor of single vineyard wines with no designation of aging process. It was a very successful approach that dovetailed with critics' obsession with powerful, muscular red wines that could be released much earlier with no cellaring requirements. For years I bought all of Sastre's Gran Reservas and attempted to convince Jesus Sastre to go back to making these more restrained "slow wines". In 2009 I convinced him to buy a larger vessel to make a small experiment of a Gran Reserva just for the US market. The results were so compelling that they led to a rebirth of Sastre's Gran Reserva program. I bought the 2009 last year but made the decision that the wine was still not ready for release and held it in our own cellars in the US to age another year. The 2010 that followed was from a more precocious vintage that was immediately ready upon release. Today we are proud to release these new wines simultaneously.

As for Remelluri, we released a small amount of 2009 Gran Reserva last year but held back a portion so we could also release a vertical of the wines. This year we will release the spectacular 2010 alongside the 2009. The story of the return of the prodigal son to Remelluri is well known. Telmo landed in 2009 but did not officially oversee production of the wines until 2010. This vintage marks a departure towards a new era. In the same way that the Sastre Gran Reservas are from a specific site, the Gran Reserva comes from the heart of that valley that the winery calls the Granja Remelluri. The Granja refers to the original site known as the Val de Remelluri whose origins date back to the 10th century before the concept of Rioja even existed.

I hope that these amazing wines will reaffirm Spain's place as one of the great wine producing countries of the world.

- André Tamers