One of the grand old names of Rioja, Bodegas Riojanas has produced classically heroic wines since its founding in 1890. And today it remains one of the very few houses committed to the traditional methods that gave us one of the world's most distinctive and long-lived styles of wine.

We can readily attest to this, having for decades experienced consistent brilliance with Riojanas’ two greatest gran reservas, Monte Real and Viña Albina, from the 1940s all the way into the new millennium.

In early 2019, Bodegas Riojanas granted The Rare Wine Co. exclusive rights to the old vintages slumbering in its cellars, in the Rioja village of Cenicero. These include such legendary Monte Reals as 1942, 1955, 1964, 1968 and 1975. But it also includes more recent legends-in-the-making like 2001 and 2004.

The Judgement of New York

We have since hosted a number of tastings of these wines and participants have found them to be consistently breathtaking in condition and quality.

A Monte Real Gran Reserva tasting of New York journalists in April 2019 was particularly eye-opening. Levi Dalton of I’ll Drink to That called them “an incredible lineup of history and life affirming wines.” And The New York Times’ Eric Asimov termed the 1942, 1955 and 1964 “a brilliant trio of gran reservas.” The 1942 was also featured in Asimov’s Great Wine Moments of 2019, noting “This great wine has seen a lot of history. May we all emerge with so much still to offer.”

The stature of these and the other library vintages is due not only to Riojanas’ traditional philosophy, but also the care it takes in cellaring them. Seeing the old vintages as a priceless heritage, they insure their longevity by replacing corks every few decades (without re-topping). This will allow fortunate buyers to be confident that the wines will continue to age gracefully.

A Rich History

While its peers—López de Heredia, CUNE and La Rioja Alta—are located in Haro's Barrio de la Estación to take advantage of the railway line, Riojanas was founded in the very heart of Rioja at Cenicero where its owners, the Artacho family, have had great vineyards for generations.

Cenicero's terroir has long been prized as one of Rioja's finest, yielding complete wines that combine Rioja Alta's elegant structure with the full body of Rioja Alavesa.

In the past, Riojanas used a classic blend of Tempranillo enhanced by Mazuelo, Graciano and Garnacha, fermented in large upright wood tinas and aged in neutral American oak barrels. More recently, the bodega is focusing more on pure Tempranillo, and some French barrels have been introduced. But the more recent wines still have the soul of their predecessors.

The marquee wines of Riojanas are the velvety, rich Monte Real Gran Reserva and the hauntingly perfumed, refined Viña Albina Gran Reserva, each deserving a place among the great wines of Rioja. True to Rioja tradition, Riojanas uses a Burgundy-shaped bottle for the powerful Monte Real and the more slender Bordeaux bottle for the elegant Viña Albina.

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Wine barrels in a cellar

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